Who is a refugee?

It is a person who left his or her homeland, as the person was persecuted there and is very likely to be persecuted in future.

The reason may include the affiliation with a certain social group, race, nationality or religion. Political beliefs are also one of the key reasons.

A refugee status and asylum program are different things: political asylum in the U.S. is granted to those who are already in the United States and who cannot return home.

How to obtain asylum in the U.S.?

  • You should submit an application within a year after your last entrance to the U.S., excluding exceptions.
  • Provide full information about who is persecuting you and why. The applicant’s evidence is a serious argument, but it is not always enough: it makes sense to collect documents to easily receive a U.S. refugee status.
  • You must be persecuted either by the government of your country or by a group that it cannot control.
  • Not all hostile behavior against you will be regarded by USCIS as persecution. In some cases, even if you had to spend several days under arrest, the officer can view it ambiguously and take it as an insignificant evidence of persecution.

What is the basis for receiving asylum?

Every case is considered on an individual basis — everyone has different circumstances. It is not easy to prove that you are being really persecuted. Even a war in your country is not always an argument.

Of course, the political situation in the country is an important factor. Internal tension, armed conflicts or war are the reasons intensifying the risk of fear of returning to your native land. The Government will take it into account when considering your application. In this case, you may be granted humanitarian asylum. It is granted if in your country you are going to face persecution different from that you had before.

Important : the rule to apply within one year does not apply to under-age children: they have the right to apply for asylum anytime. If a child does not have grounds, parents may have such grounds. The interview appointment procedure for under-age children also differs by a shorter period. It is much easier for them to receive refuge in the U.S.
Before submitting documents for political asylum in the U.S., make sure you cannot receive it in another part of your country: if it is possible, the U.S. Government will refuse you.

Who has the right of asylum?

Any person who came to the U.S. and lived there for no more than one year, and who is being persecuted for one of the below reasons

  • affiliation with a certain race;
  • affiliation with a certain nationality;
  • religious beliefs;
  • political convictions;
  • affiliation with a social group, including sexual minorities.

What may be the reason for refusal?

  • Unreasonable petition. Moreover, it may entail deportation, if the Government charges you of false asylum claims.
  • Changes in the situation in your country. If it is possible to prove that nothing threatens you any longer, you may be denied asylum. Moreover, if the government of your country changes, it may seem that the country is facing changes that will have a positive effect, in which case you will no longer need a refugee status in the U.S..
  • Before applying for asylum, you have lived in the U.S. for over a year and have not applied without any valid reason.
  • You have strong ties (close relatives) in another country and it can be confirmed. In this case, the U.S. Government might think you can move there.
  • You have committed a grave crime outside the U.S., so you pose a threat to the U.S. society.
  • Earlier, you have persecuted people yourself because of their beliefs, race or nationality. If this fact can be proved, you can forget about political asylum.
  • You pose a threat to the U.S. security, as you are accused of terrorism.


Does the approval of your petition depend on the state you choose?

Yes. The highest percent of approved applications is recorded in San Francisco, and the lowest is in New York.

As to the time, the waiting period for the interview is about three years on average for the country. The interviews are appointed the quickest in New York, and the longest in California.

Important: during the waiting period, the applicant and his or her family may freely move inside the U.S., study and work. The only thing they are not entitled to is state benefits.

Asylum procedure

You should take the matter seriously and carefully. The most important thing is to collect all necessary documents. They are quite numerous:

  • Form I-589;
  • identification documents;
  • if you apply for political asylum not alone, but with your family members, you need to provide documents confirming your kinship;
  • Your story and its evidence.

How to fill in FormI-589?

Section A

contains the main information: here you specify your address outside the U.S., and the last address in the country where you were persecuted. You should also provide information about your blood relatives (brothers or sisters), education and place of employment for the last 5 years.

Section B

requires a short answer to the question why you should be granted political asylum.

Section C

contains questions whether you have tried to receive asylum in the U.S. or another country before. The same also applies to your relatives. It is better if the answers are negative — thus you have more chances that your application will be approved. If there is at least one positive answer, you should explain it in detail.

Section D

it is your signature, photo and your name written in your native language. Here you should also specify whether you have resorted to lawyer’s services: if yes, the lawyer has to sign here.

Section F

is to be filled out in the last turn: either during the interview or before the immigration judge. Here you should confirm that all the information contained in the form and all the evidence attached is true.

Your story: how to write it correctly?

  • Tell about your life situation, the facts of persecution and their impact on you and your family. Write down everything in detail: Who exactly persecuted you? What for? Where? Was it aggressive? How many times?
  • The facts must not contradict each other. No sketchy episodes, only a very clear narrative with as many details as possible.
  • It is fair evidence, and not a piece of art: provide as many dates, addresses, names and surnames as possible. For example, do not write how often you were beaten for religious beliefs, but tell when exactly and how it happened.
  • The story must be plausible, do not exaggerate, if you are really persecuted and you are telling the truth, it will be obvious.
  • Don’t forget to tell about the situation in your home country: if there is a military conflict going on, this circumstance may be the reason for the approval of your application. Not the main reason, but the scale may tip in the right direction.

What shouldn’t you write?

Don’t write that after moving to the U.S. you will have new opportunities to earn much: it sounds like «I was not demanded in my country, but I hope I can work here».

If you were sexually abused during persecution, do not write about it in every detail. Use clear, yet general phrases, and focus on the physical and emotional consequences of such abuse.

Use as few legal terms as possible: if you insert them every time, it might seem that you are versed for a reason and decided to study the law only to move abroad. It is better to describe everything in simple words.

Before sending your story, have one of your friends, who did not work on the text, read it: it will be clearer how plausible it is.

How to behave at the interview?

  • Be very calm, don’t fuss. The interviewers are good psychologists, while nervousness is often a sign of deception. Your task is to tell your story honestly. Help the officer to believe you!
  • Get ready for a long and detailed conversation. Asylum is not granted for nothing, so you will be asked about everything in detail.
  • Mind that any detail may attract the officer’s attention: if a specific fact caught his attention, he may ask you to tell more about it. It may be an important detail or some fact seemed suspicious to the officer.
  • Of course, you can add facts that you omitted in your story, just make sure they don’t contradict each other.
  • Questions vary from case to case, but there are certain things that you will be asked for sure: for example, whether you are going to return home after the situation changes, or why you chose the U.S. to ask for asylum.

Are there other ways to move to the U.S.?

Of course. Such options are available to business persons and CEOs, outstanding figures in science, business or art, professional sportsmen, and people who have relatives in the U.S.

Every case is individual, that is why the best thing you can do is to seek help of a competent immigration lawyer, who can assess your chances of success in applying for political asylum or find other immigration options suitable for your specific situation. If you don’t have enough funds for such a service — apply to a non-profit organization approved by the U.S. Government.