Can I apply for asylum if I lived in a third country before entering the U.S.?
Avoiding a "firm resettlement" bar to asylum in the U.S.
I am from Tibet and left my country by walking into Nepal. I lived in a Tibetan settlement in Nepal for five years while I worked in a carpet factory. I then entered India and lived there for three years in a refugee camp. I have no documents except for a fraudulently obtained Nepalese passport that I used to enter the United States. Can I apply for asylum?
You are eligible for asylum if you demonstrate that you were not firmly resettled in Nepal or India before arriving in the United States. (See I.N.A. Section 208(b)(2)(vi).) To do this you must explain that you did not receive an offer of permanent resident status, citizenship, or another type of permanent resettlement in either country.
You must also explain that you lived in refugee camps in Nepal and India and describe the conditions in both places. You can compare your life in Nepal and India to the lives of citizens in those countries, focusing on things like the ability to buy property, obtain employment, ease of travel, and accessibility of education. If you demonstrate that your living conditions were substantially restricted compared to the living conditions of the citizens in those countries, you should be able to overcome the firm resettlement bar.
Bars to asylum are complex. Speak to an experienced immigration attorney for help in developing your case. Also see the "Asylum & Refugee Status" page of Nolo's website for additional helpful information.