After a peace treaty in my country, can I still get asylum in the U.S.?

If the persecution you suffered was so severe that you should not have to return home, you may be able to claim asylum even after the war in your country has ended.

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Question

I am Albanian and was born in Kosovo, which was then part of Serbia-Montenegro. I was a child during the war. Serbs came to our house one night and shot my uncle before raping my mother and then me. We fled to the mountains where we lived in hiding. I often thought about killing myself. I entered the U.S. and began therapy with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Kosovo is now independent and there is peace. I don’t want to return home and want to apply for asylum in the United States.

Answer

Rape and other serious sexual harm should always be considered severe enough to constitute persecution, an important part of anyone’s claim to asylum. Once you demonstrate that you have suffered persecution in the past, there is a presumption that you have a well-founded fear of future persecution and that you are a refugee.

At this point, the U.S. government can argue that there has been a fundamental change in your country so that you no longer fear persecution and should not be protected with a grant of asylum. As you point out, Kosovo is now independent. The war is over. It is reasonable that the U.S. government might establish by a “preponderance of evidence” that you no longer have a well founded fear of persecution.

You can still win asylum if you prove that the persecution you suffered was so severe that you should not have to return home. (See 8 C.F.R. Section 208.13(b)(1)(iii) and Matter of Chen, 20 I&N Dec. 6 (B.I.A. 1989).) Since the persecution you suffered was extreme (the rapes of you and your mother, your watching your uncle get shot, the loss of your childhood) and since it still affects you (your diagnosis of post traumatic stress) you should be able to successfully demonstrate that you deserve a grant of asylum even in the absence of a well founded fear of future persecution.

When completing your asylum application, obtain and submit a copy report from your therapist stating your diagnosis. Also submit copies of any documents you might have corroborating the events you suffered in Kosovo. Bring all the originals to your asylum interview or hearing.

An experienced immigration attorney can help you put together your claim.

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