A position no one chooses but many are forced into, asylum is the legal process of seeking safety in another country after an individual’s home country becomes unsafe or dangerous to live in. Asylum seekers flee their home countries for a number of reasons including their politics, their race, or their religion. Leaving behind everything they knew, these individuals throw themselves at the mercy of a foreign government in order to secure a safer life.
Asylum is a form of legal protection available to individuals who are found to be at risk of serious harm in their home country who leave in search of safety in another country. Individuals who may require asylum may be facing persecution based on a number of factors including their membership in a particular social group, political opinion, nationality, race, or religion.
An asylum seeker is any individual seeking to claim asylum status in another country. Just because an individual is an asylum seeker does not mean they will receive asylum or refugee status in the country they are fleeing to.
In the United States there are three pathways to seek asylum. First there is affirmative asylum in which the asylum seeker affirmatively submits Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services. There is also the Asylum Merit Interview process which can occur if the asylum seeker can demonstrate a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country. Finally there is defensive asylum, where asylum is used as a defense against being removed from the United States.
In all cases of asylum seeking, there will be administrative and security hurdles to clear. During the process, an interpreter may be needed to answer questions or translate for interviews. Additionally, an immigration attorney may be a useful resource for asylum seekers who can get one.