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Exclusive Information on Humanitarian Asylum: How to Qualify and Apply for Asylum

Discover how to qualify for humanitarian asylum with expert tips. Secure your safety and future in the U.S. with our comprehensive guide.

Author: Massiel Silva Tadeo, Founder, Tadeo & Silva

Attorney Massiel Silva Tadeo is a partner and owner at The Tadeo & Silva Law Firm. She specializes in removal (deportation) defense, family immigration, and hardship waivers. Updated on: July 27, 2022.

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What Is Humanitarian Asylum?

Humanitarian asylum permits an asylum applicant to receive asylum even if the threat toward the applicant has ended, and there will be no future persecution. In this case, the applicant should give compelling reasons why they cannot return to their country, such as the gravity of past persecution.

Applications for asylum should be treated seriously since they carry grave consequences for your safety. You face the threat of deportation to your country and risk persecution if you cannot adequately support your claim.

To increase your chance of getting asylum, seek the help of a deportation defense attorney.

What Is the Difference Between a Refugee and an Asylum Seeker?

Refugee and asylum status are international protection granted to individuals who need humanitarian protection. The two terms are often interchangeable but do not mean the same thing.

Asylum seekers are individuals who have suffered persecution or are facing a risk of persecution in their own country and are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim. Asylum seekers are not legally recognized as refugees.

Refugees are individuals who have been recognized as refugees in terms of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. According to the Convention, a refugee is an individual who flees their country of nationality and is unable or unwilling to return owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Individuals who leave their countries voluntarily for a better life are not considered refugees.

Refugees have rights to international humanitarian protection. Every refugee was once an asylum seeker but not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee.

What Qualifies an Individual for Asylum?

In the US, an individual is granted asylum once they display well-founded fear of persecution on any of the five protected grounds.

The five protected grounds are :

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Social group
  • Political opinion

What Are Humanitarian Reasons for Asylum?

Several humanitarian reasons warrant an individual to be granted asylum.


When an Individual Has Experienced Severe Past Persecution

An individual can qualify for humanitarian asylum because of past persecution. The evidence presented must demonstrate that you cannot return home despite having any reasonable fear of future persecution.

To present a strong case for humanitarian asylum, the applicant needs to prove that past persecution caused serious harm and long-lasting effects.

The process of proving an asylum case is unique for every individual. The immigration court maintains that humanitarian asylum is reserved for the rarest cases. Individuals who have been tortured have been denied humanitarian asylum in the past.

Due to the strong need to present a compelling case, hiring a trustworthy asylum lawyer to help you prove your case is highly recommended.


Other Serious Harm Upon Return to Home Country

An individual can be granted asylum if there is a reasonable possibility that they may suffer serious harm if they return to their own country. The harm doesn’t have to be part of the five protected grounds, but the seriousness of the harm must equate to persecution.

To consider serious harm, the court looks at extreme economic hardship, civil strife, and any other threats the asylum applicant may face if they return to their county.

How to Apply for Humanitarian Asylum

You can make humanitarian asylum claims within one year of your arrival in the US. Individuals can only make asylum applications if they are present in the US and are non-citizens of the US.

There are three processes for obtaining asylum in the US:

  1. The defensive process with the Executive Office for Immigration Review
  2. The affirmative process
  3. Through an asylum merits interview


The Affirmative Asylum Process

To obtain asylum through the affirmative process, you should submit an Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal form (Form I-589) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). File Form I-589 within one year of your arrival in the US.

Once USCIS receives your asylum application, you will receive an acknowledgment receipt for your application and a notice to visit the nearest application support center to provide your fingerprints. You will receive a notice for your interview with the date, location, and time.

During your interview, you are allowed to have your lawyer present. You can bring your spouse and children, who may benefit from the interview. After the interview, an asylum officer will establish your eligibility and make a decision. A supervisory asylum officer then reviews this decision. You will receive a decision two weeks after the interview.


Defensive Asylum Process

You can make a defensive application for asylum when you request asylum as a defense against your removal from the US. To be eligible for this process, you must currently be involved in removal proceedings in immigration court with the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

You can be placed into a defensive asylum pathway if the immigration judges refer you to the USCIS, after determining that you are unqualified for asylum at the end of the affirmative process.

You can also qualify for defensive asylum processing if the reasons for your placement in the removal proceedings include:

  • Apprehension in the US or at a US port of entry without legal documents or if you were violating your immigration status
  • You were apprehended by US Customs and Border Control while trying to enter the US without legal documents. You were subsequently placed in the expedited removal process and found to have a viable fear of persecution by an asylum officer.

Immigration judges will hear arguments from you, your attorney, and the US government’s attorney.

Obtaining representation from a green card attorney who can explain the law to you and communicate well in court will be helpful to your application.

If the immigration judge finds you eligible for asylum, they will grant asylum. If you are ineligible for asylum or other forms of relief, the judge orders your removal from the US.


Asylum Merits Interview

If your removal proceedings are ongoing and you intend to apply for asylum for fear of persecution or fear to return to your country, the asylum officer will refer you to USCIS for a credible fear interview. The interview will establish if you have a credible fear of persecution. Once the asylum officer determines your fear as credible, they will retain your application for asylum and schedule an asylum merits interview.

You will receive a notice to appear before an immigration judge for consideration of asylum. If you file a Form I-589 with the court, you will be placed on the defensive asylum process.

If the asylum officer establishes that you don’t have a credible fear of persecution and they have not requested a review of their decision, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement will remove you from the country.


Can Humanitarian Asylum Be Revoked?

Humanitarian asylum can be revoked under exceptional circumstances, such as if the asylum seeker no longer fears persecution due to a change in their home country’s conditions or if they obtained protection elsewhere.

Revocation might occur if the individual misrepresented their fear of persecution based on political opinion, membership in a particular social group, or faced severe harm.

Additionally, if asylum was granted due to extraordinary circumstances causing fear of degrading treatment or severe harm, and these conditions change, affecting the individual or their family members, their refugee status and path to permanent residency might be reassessed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Would Asylum Be Denied?

Asylum applicants may fail to get humanitarian asylum for various reasons:

  • Late submission of the asylum application

  • Filing after the one-year deadline without a valid reason

  • Incorrect details on the asylum application

  • Failure to produce valid evidence

  • Lack of preparation for the interview

  • Inconsistency between what you say on your application and at the interview.


Does Asylum Expire?

Once asylum is granted in the US, it does not expire. However, the USCIS can terminate asylum if an individual no longer has a well-founded fear of persecution or they have got protection from another country.

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