People fleeing persecution in their home country may qualify for refugee or asylee status. This status permits the person to enter and stay in the country, with the opportunity to gain legal resident status. The primary difference between refugee and asylee status is where the person has applied for admission. An asylee enters the United States and files his or her application within a year of arrival; or later, if the situation in their home country developed after their arrival. A refugee, on the other hand, applies for status outside of the United States. Apart from this distinction they are quite similar. An applicant for refugee or asylee status must establish that they reasonably fear persecution in their home country and that the persecution was due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or because of their political opinion.
The "Nexus" Issue
Some people have suffered greatly or have a very real concern for their safety but are, regardless, ineligible for asylum. This is because asylum is given only to people whose reasonable fear of persecution is related (has a nexus) to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. This issue can arise in a number of different contexts.
For example, following a natural disaster or coup d'etat the conditions in a country may be very poor. An intending immigrant may be able to prove that they have been the victim of a horrible act of violence, or they may be able to show that they are virtually certain to suffer if they are forced to return home. Unfortunately, the very real persecution they fear is unrelated to politics, race, religion or the other grounds for asylum. As a result, victims of crime or natural disaster are often ineligible for asylum.
Bars to Asylum
Some applicants cannot receive asylum status even if they can establish their credible fear of persecution on account of one of the enumerated grounds. Those who have persecuted others; been convicted of serious crimes either in or outside of the United States; pose a danger to U.S. security; or have firmly resettled in another safe country prior to arriving in the U.S. may be barred from receiving asylum.
Those who previously applied for asylum and were denied are barred unless there are significantly changed circumstances that materially affect the application.
Types of Asylum Decisions
Once an application has been submitted and an interview has taken place there are a number of possible outcomes to an asylum claim, including:
- Grant of Asylum: An approved application is granted and an I-94 document is issued indicating that the person has lawful status in the United States.
- Recommended Approval: An asylum officer who has examined the case and found it eligible for approval but is still waiting the results of the necessary background investigation may provide a recommended approval until the checks are complete. A recommended approval provides some, but not all of the benefits of a grant of asylum.
- Referral to Immigration Court: If the asylum officer cannot approve an application and the applicant is out of status the case may be referred to an immigration judge. This is not a denial and the asylum application will be considered by the judge anew.
- Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID): An applicant who is in status and found eligible for denial may receive an NOID offering an opportunity to rebut any negative evidence.
- Final Denial: A final denial provides the reasons for denying an asylum claim.
Learn more about asylum and refugee status; eligibility for Lawful Permanent Residency; the chronology of the asylum process; the process of refugee resettlement; and other asylum and refugee related topics by clicking on a link below.