Massachusetts Asylum Lawyer
Under U.S. immigration law, foreign nationals who come to the United States and claim that they fear being persecuted or tortured due to a protected characteristic may apply for asylum in the United States. When an immigrant is granted asylum, that means that he or she is granted sanctuary in the U.S. and does not have to return to his or her home country to face the possibility of persecution and torture.
Asylum is not lightly granted by the U.S. immigration system. Immigration officers apply strict standards in determining whether an immigrant has a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her home country. If you have applied for asylum or are considering applying for asylum, you need to speak with an experienced, dedicated Massachusetts asylum attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Brooks Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable immigration and asylum attorneys to discuss your legal rights and options and to learn more about how our firm can help you with your asylum application.
What Does Asylum Mean?
Asylum is a status granted to foreign nationals to permit them to stay in the United States when they have established that they have been subjected to persecution in their home country in the past and they have a well-founded fear of persecution if they are returned to their home country.
An immigrant may be granted asylum for persecution based on his or her race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or social group (including family). Immigrants may also seek asylum in the United States pursuant to the Convention Against Torture if they can prove that they have a well-founded belief that if they are returned to their home country they will be subjected to torture.
You do not automatically gain legal status when you apply for asylum. For example, if you wish to work while your application is pending, you must wait at least 150 days with no decision on your asylum application until you can apply for permission to work in the U.S.
If your asylum application is granted, you may immediately begin working in the U.S.; you are not required to obtain an Employment Authorization Document, but you may choose to do so for convenience.
You may also bring eligible family members into the U.S. within two years of being granted asylum.
An immigrant who is granted asylum may apply for lawful permanent residency (green card) one year after being granted asylum. Any family members who were granted asylum on a primary applicant’s application must file their own applications for green cards.
Who Qualifies for Asylum?
Immigrants can qualify for asylum so long as they are not already in removal proceedings and provided they can prove, through testimony and/or through documentary evidence, that they have been subjected to persecution in the past in their home country and/or they have a well-founded fear of future persecution, if returned to their home country, on account of their:
- Political opinion
- Membership in a particular social group
An immigrant may apply for asylum regardless of his or her immigration status and even if he or she has been convicted of a crime. However, certain criminal convictions can result in an immigrant being denied asylum.
How to Seek Asylum
An immigrant must be physically present in the U.S. to seek asylum. The immigrant may immediately present themselves to an immigration officer upon entry to the U.S. and declare that he or she is seeking asylum. Even if an immigrant has entered the U.S. without inspection, he or she can still seek asylum within one year of entering the U.S.
An individual eligible to apply for asylum must file a Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, within one year of his or her arrival in the U.S. There is no fee to apply for asylum.
An immigrant applying for asylum may also include his or her spouse and children who are physically present in the U.S. at the time of filing the application or who enter the U.S. at any time prior to a decision on the application. Children must be under the age of 21 and unmarried to be included on a parent’s application.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Asylum?
Although you are not required to have legal representation or assistance to apply for asylum, you have a far better chance at having your asylum application granted if you do have legal representation during the application process. An asylum attorney can help you with the process in several important ways:
- An immigration attorney can help you prepare your asylum application, particularly by helping you collect and submit evidence and other documentation to show that you have a well-founded fear of past or future persecution.
- A knowledgeable lawyer can prepare you for your asylum interview, including helping you to clearly and persuasively explain why you have a well-founded fear of persecution.
- An attorney can request a hearing before an immigration judge if the asylum officer denies your application. A lawyer can also appeal an adverse ruling by an immigration judge to the courts.
What Happens During an Asylum Interview?
A foreign national who applies for asylum will first have to attend a hearing before an asylum officer, who will determine whether you meet the definition of a refugee under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Under the law, a refugee is “a person who is unable or unwilling to return to and avail himself or herself of the protection of his or her country of nationality, or if stateless, country of last habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
During the interview, the asylum officer will review the information you provide with your application and will ask you questions to determine whether your fear of persecution is well-founded, typically if you can point to past incidents of persecution or threats of persecution that you were subjected to.
The asylum officer will also review your case to ensure that you are not legally precluded from being granted asylum, such as if you engaged in persecution yourself, were convicted of a particularly serious crime, were firmly resettled in another country prior to entering the U.S., or if you pose a danger to national security.
Talk to an Asylum Lawyer Now
If you are seeking asylum here in the United States, don’t try to navigate the complex system alone. Contact the Massachusetts asylum lawyers of Brooks Law today to schedule a consultation. We can discuss the details of your case, explain your legal rights, and go over your options for seeking asylum.