Asyum laws are in place throughout the world to provide protections to people who are being, or fear being, harmed. In legal language, we refer to this harm as "persecution."
If you fear being persecuted in your home country or believe you have been persecuted in the past, you may be eligible to apply for political asylum. Although it is commonly referred to as “Political Asylum,” in fact you can be granted asylum relief if you fear you would be persecuted because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. You can also be granted asylum relief if you would face persecution because some one or some entity mistakenly believes that you have a particular opinion or wrongly claims that you have that opinion, even if they are wrong!
Now, what exactly is persecution? Well, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees defines persecution as a “threat to life or freedom or other serious rights on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. But some courts take a broader view and include in their definition “the infliction of suffering or harm upon those who differ ... in a way regarded as offensive.”
What does this all mean? Most courts agree that “regular” harassment does not amount to persecution. But you do not have to have your life threatened to qualify as a victim of persecution. Courts have found that violations of human rights such as physical abuse, beatings, kidnappings, and even threats of grave harm are persecution. These are but a few examples. Remember, though, the persecution MUST be on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
A common misconception is that only the government can persecute someone. That is wrong! You can be granted asylum if you can show that you would be persecuted by a group that the government is unwilling or unable to control.
There are certain time restrictions on when you can apply for asylum. Generally, you must apply for asylum within one year of your last entry into the US. There are exceptions to this rule, but whether an exception applies truly varies from case to case, so you should speak with an immigration attorney if you think that the time restriction is an issue for you.
If you fear returning to your home country – or country of last residence – you may be eligible to apply for asylum relief. If you believe you qualify, schedule a consultation with a competent immigration attorney immediately.