Asylum requires that applicants prove they suffered or fear suffering extreme harm in their home country. However, applicants must also demonstrate that the fear is based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Particular Social Group
Membership in a particular social group is the category that is constantly being redefined by the courts. In recent years, the courts determined that to qualify as a member of a particular social group, the applicant must establish the "social visibility" of the group. This led to inconsistent results because courts were in disagreement about what this required.
Change in the Law
On February 7, 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals in Matter of M-E-V-G, redefined "social visibility" as "social distinction." The group does NOT need to be different from other members of society in a way that can be seen.
Victory for Asylum Applicants
In order to obtain asylum, foreign nationals must be perceived as a distinct group by the society. For example, in underdeveloped societies where power is controlled by few families, landowners would be members of a particular social group. Applicants will need to prove this to the courts or immigration officers. By redefining PSG, the Board helped individuals who must hide their membership in a group to avoid being killed.