Chances of Winning a Grant of Asylum

Whether you will be granted asylum in the U.S. depends on many factors, and your chances of obtaining asylum are difficult to predict.

Whether or not your U.S. asylum case is successful depends on many factors, and your chances of obtaining asylum are difficult to predict. Your asylum application will be decided based on your unique facts, evidence, and witness statements. Moreover, asylum officers and Immigration Judges have a certain amount of discretion, and your chances might vary depending on who gets assigned to your case.

However, there are things you can do to increase the likelihood that you will obtain asylum. In addition to providing detailed and truthful information about why you are entitled to asylum, you must show that no “bars” (factors preventing your eligibility for asylum) apply to you. Focus on preparing your application as best as you can to maximize your chances of obtaining asylum.

Also realize that your credibility is critical to succeeding on your asylum claim. Not only will the government official deciding your case need to rely on your word in order to grant your case, but if you are found to have lied or submitted a frivolous asylum application, you will be forever barred from any U.S. visa or green card. To increase the chances that you will be found credible, make sure all of your statements are: true, detailed, complete (to the best of your memory), and consistent (with your other statements, with any other evidence you submitted, and with reports about your country).

How to Improve Your Chances of Qualifying for Asylum

In order to demonstrate that you are entitled to asylum, you must first show that you meet the definition of a “refugee”—that is, that you cannot return to your home country because you were persecuted there or because you fear persecution there in the future.

You must show that this persecution was (or would be) inflicted on you because of one or more “protected grounds”: your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Finally, you must show that you were persecuted by your country’s government (for example, police, army, or government officials) or by a nongovernmental group that your government is unwilling or unable to control.

To qualify for asylum, you must prove every element of your asylum claim.

To increase your chances of demonstrating that you meet these factors, provide detailed, honest, and consistent information about yourself. You may need to clean up past lies—for instance, if you entered the U.S. with a false passport, come clean about it, and prove who you really are.

Make sure to include sufficient information about your race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, tribal and clan membership, or political affiliations—explaining how you were (or would be) hurt or threatened because of a “protected ground.” Include names of people and places, as well as dates when relevant. If you cannot remember specific dates, try to include the month and the year (if you can remember them accurately). Make sure that all of the information you provide is accurate to the best of your ability. Do not try to guess any details if you cannot remember them.

In explaining why you are seeking asylum, you must include detailed information about yourself: how you personally were harmed in the past, why you are afraid to return, why you were harmed, and what you believe would happen to you if you had to return to your home country. Do not simply write general statements.

Although you should also include some information about your friends and family members who have also been persecuted, your application must focus on you. Also, explain how the person(s) persecuting you did so because of one or more of the “protected grounds.” You will not qualify for asylum if you were being hurt for personal reasons only, or were just a random victim. (A protected ground does not have to be the only reason why you were persecuted, as long as it was one of the reasons you were—or would be—hurt.)

You should attach your written declaration to your asylum application. That way, you can provide many more details than you can include on Form I-589 alone. This will help the asylum officer or an Immigration Judge better understand why you are applying for asylum.

Attaching documents will greatly increase your chances of obtaining asylum. U.S. law requires that you produce all reasonably available evidence helping to explain what had happened to you or what would happen to you if you returned. Such evidence might include, depending on your specific case: student identification cards; union membership cards; political or religious group membership cards; pictures of your injuries; newspaper articles about you (or about your family or friends or others in situations similar to yours); hospital records; and any complaints you had made about your persecution. If you cannot produce such documents, you should explain why not.

Your claim will also be evaluated against evidence of human rights conditions in your home country. Therefore, you should include reports about your country from sources such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or the U.S. State Department. Make sure that your personal application details are consistent with those reports.

How to Show That No “Bars” Apply to You

In addition to proving that you meet every element of an asylum claim, you must show that nothing prevents you from obtaining asylum. You will not be able to obtain asylum if any of the following “bars” apply to you:

  • You ordered, helped, or participated in persecuting another person because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.
  • You had been convicted of a particularly serious crime.
  • You were arrested or charged with a serious non-political crime outside the United States.
  • You pose a danger to the security of the United States.
  • You “firmly resettled” in another safe country before arriving in the United States.
  • You are a member of or have helped a terrorist group.
  • You filed for asylum more than one year after entering the U.S. (unless you meet one of the exceptions).

Make sure to answer the applicable questions about bars to asylum eligibility on Form I-589 (in Parts B and C) honestly and consistently with the rest of your application. If you think that an asylum officer or an Immigration Judge might think that a bar applies to you, explain in detail why it does not. Rules about some of these bars are controversial and complicated, so consult an attorney to help you if you think that a bar might apply to you.

Discretionary Factors Asylum Officers and Immigration Judges Consider When Deciding an Asylum Case

Even if you meet all the factors of the “refugee” definition and no bars prevent you from obtaining asylum, asylum officers and Immigration Judges can consider discretionary factors when deciding your asylum claim. Such factors might include: whether you entered the U.S using false documents; whether you can return to another safe country; how old and healthy you are, and whether you have family here; whether you have committed minor crimes, whether you have good character; and how extreme your persecution was.

If you think that some positive discretionary factors apply to you, make sure to mention them in your application. As a backup, it's also a good idea to apply for alternative forms of relief, such as Withholding of Removal, and Convention Against Torture Protection.

Statistical Data on Rates of Obtaining Asylum

Rates of asylum grants differ between different asylum offices and various Immigration Courts. In 2016, for example, the average asylum approval rate was 47% for affirmative asylum petitions heard by asylum officers and 48% for defensive asylum cases in the Immigration Courts.

Your chances will depend on:

  1. the strength of your asylum claim
  2. applicability of any bars
  3. presence of negative and positive discretionary factors, and
  4. the specific asylum officer or Immigration Judge who decides your case.

There is a lot of criticism and controversy about the degree to which asylum approval rates differ among different asylum officers and Immigration Judges. See, for example, the statistics kept by TRAC Immigration. These rates depend on some factors that are beyond your control, such as: what country you are from, your location, and the gender and prior professional background of your asylum officer or Immigration Judge.

Also, a good attorney might improve your chances of obtaining asylum. The attorney can help you highlight the most compelling portions of your claim, overcome any negative information, and prepare the paperwork and supporting documents.

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