Asylum & Protection from Harm


A refugee, according to international law, is a person outside of his or her country of nationality that is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country due to a "well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."  Someone that meets the international definition of refugee, is present in the U.S. or at a U.S. point of entry, and merits relief from the Department of Homeland Security is an asylee under the U.S. immigration laws. 

Employment eligibility - An applicant is eligible for an employment authorization document 180 days after filing for asylum, whether or not there has been a final adjudication on the asylum application.

One-year filing rule - To be eligible for a grant of asylum, an applicant must apply for asylum within one year after arriving in the United States. Exceptions exist where an applicant can show "changed conditions" or "extraordinary circumstances" related to the failure to file the application within one year.

Withholding of Removal

If a person cannot receive a grant of asylum because of the one-year filing rule or due to an unfavorable exercise of discretion, withholding of removal may still be available. The standard of proof for withholding of removal is higher than the standard set for asylum. To be granted withholding of removal, the applicant must show a "clear probability" that he or she would be subject to harm because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

The Convention  Against Torture

The Convention Against Torture  (CAT) prohibits a nation from ordering a person to another nation "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." An applicant for CAT relief must prove that it is more likely than not that he or she would be tortured in another nation.

Temporary Protected Status

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) provides short-term protection for nationals of countries with catastrophic economic or environmental problems. Situations such as civil war and earthquakes have merited grants of TPS. USCIS lists the countries that are designated for TPS. The countries most recently designated are Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria. 

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