Can I Apply for U.S. Asylum If I Am From Russia?

Applicants from Russia successfully gain asylum on various grounds.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russians have sought and obtained  asylum  in the United States for a variety of reasons. The fall of communism brought out nationalists who began persecuting people on account of race, nationality, and religion. Many people fled to the United States where they applied for asylum, creating large Russian communities throughout the country.

Gender claims from Russia include women fleeing domestic violence or rape. Women from the Caucuses region flee to escape honor killings, bride kidnapping, or forced marriage.

According to the Department of Homeland Security  Annual Flow Report, May 2012, asylum applications from Russian nationals increased from 2009 to 2011.

In addition, after Russia passed a law in June 2013 “banning gay propaganda”, an increasing number of LGBT Russians have been applying for asylum in the United States. (See “A gay Russian gets asylum and a new life in the US,” by Emma Jacobs,  PRITheWorld  February 17. 2014, and “Updated News: Russian Homosexuals Turn to US For Help,”  Immigration Equality, April 15, 2014.)  Claims from Russian nationals who experienced or fear persecution on account of their sexual orientation are often heard at the New York Asylum Office.

Do Many People Gain Asylum From Russia?

Attacks from nationalists, gender issues and homophobia are well documented. Since Immigration Judges and Asylum Officers are aware of the conditions in Russia, credible testimony that is detailed, consistent, and plausible, is necessary to prove that you were targeted or fear being targeted.

What Type of Asylum Claims Are Typical From Russia?

There are three common types of claims made by asylum applicants from Russia. Russian nationals from the Caucuasus and Roma, who are darker skinned, are often targeted by skinheads and other nationalists on account of nationality or race. Attacks on homosexuals by nationalist groups have increased, and homosexuals have also become the target of arrests based on the new law. Women who are victims of domestic violence, forced marriage or rape, also file asylum claims. See the State Department  Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  for 2013.

What Are Common Reasons for Denial of Asylum Claims from Russia?

The most common reason for denying an asylum claim from Russia is because the judge or officer does not believe the applicant's story. Asylum claims must be detailed, consistent, and plausible in order for the judge or officer to find the applicant credible. This means that you must convince the judge or officer who you are, what happened to you, and what you fear.

Another reason why Russian claims are denied is because the applicant could not prove he or she could not live safely in a different part of Russia. (See, "Can I get asylum if I could live safely somewhere else in my country?".)

What Can Russian Asylum Seekers Do to Increase Their Chances of Success?

If your asylum claim is based on persecution or fear of persecution on account of your nationality or race, it is important that you explain why you would not be safe anywhere else in the Russian Federation. If you were targeted in Moscow, for example, why couldn’t you live in Chechnya? St. Petersburg? If there is another place where you could live safely, you must convince the judge or officer that it would be unreasonable for you to live anywhere else in your country.

If you are a victim of domestic violence or any other persecution on account of your gender, you must detail your attempts to obtain protection from the government. (See "Can woman get asylum based on persecution for leaving abusive husband?".)

If you reported your abuser, explain what happened. If you didn’t report your abuser, explain why. You should also submit evidence to support your reasons. You can find resources to submit with your claim at various organizations that works on immigration and gender issues, such as the  UC Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

If your  asylum claim is based on your sexual orientation, be prepared to prove that you are homosexual. You may be questioned about your sexuality, although judges and officers should be respectful. As with any other part of the claim, it is important that you testify credibly. For example, if you were targeted at a LGBT demonstration, try to find proof that you were there. There are many LGBT legal organizations, such as  Immigration Equality, that work on immigration issues where you can find articles and laws to help your claim.

Consider consulting with an experienced immigration attorney. If your asylum claim is based on membership in a particular social group because you are a woman or homosexual, an attorney can provide relevant case law and international law supporting your claim that you are entitled to asylum.

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