Beware: Dual Citizens Filing for Asylum
Foreign nationals who are citizens of two countries are commonly referred to as dual citizens. According to the existing immigration laws, dual citizens cannot obtain asylum unless they will be harmed in BOTH countries of which they are citizens.
In the past, foreign nationals who did not have an allegiance to a second country, and could prove harm in their home country, were granted asylum. In other words, someone who derived Italian citizenship from a spouse or parent may never have set foot in that country. Blandon Law helped several of these clients obtain asylum by working with their U.S. consulates to obtain “no allegiance" letters.
Unfortunately, asylum is now almost impossible for dual citizens. Immigration laws are interpreted by the Board of Immigration Appeals. The BIA is an appellate body and immigration judges must follow the reasoning in accordance with BIA decisions. Recently, in this author’s humble opinion, the BIA got it wrong.
In the 2013 case, Matter of B-R-, the BIA held that a foreign national was NOT eligible for asylum because hid parent was a citizen of that second country. Specifically, the applicant was suffering harm in Venezuela and his father was born in Spain.
As a result of this case, potential dual citizens must demonstrate fear of persecution in each country if they want to be successful in a claim for asylum in the U.S. So, the applicant in B-R- had to demonstrate that he would be harmed in both Venezuela and Spain.
Importantly, the BIA is not the last word. If they misinterpret immigration laws, foreign nationals can appeal their cases to the federal court of appeals or even the Supreme Court. Until Matter of B-R- is overturned, however, dual citizens should be aware of how this change may negatively impact their case.
Although the author is a Board-certified immigration attorney, this communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consultation with an experienced and competent immigration professional is the best way to address individual concerns.