Your life doesn’t freeze in time when you submit an asylum application, and the U.S. government knows this. If your circumstances change while you are applying for asylum in the U.S.—for example, a civil war comes to an end, a regime changes, or the laws change, improving conditions for people like you in your home country—the U.S. government can take this into account in deciding whether to approve or deny your case.
The U.S. government may consider changed country conditions at any point in the process, whether it’s when you first submit an application for asylum or later, when you have applied to become a permanent resident based on a year of living in the U.S. as an asylee.
If the Asylum Officer deciding on your case; or, if you are in removal proceedings, the IJ or the government’s attorney hearing your case; is aware of these political changes in the country from which you are claiming asylum, he or she might conclude that you would now be safe from persecution if you returned there.
This is particularly true if the news is full of reports of a peace treaty being signed, a dictator being deposed, and so on. From afar, it might look like everything has improved overnight. You, however, may know that the changes won't actually take place so quickly.
This is why it is always important to stay up to date on the news in your home country and to come to an interview or hearing prepared with evidence to show that you still fear persecution despite any such changed circumstances.
It’s not uncommon for the political landscape in an asylum applicant’s home country to change after his or her departure, either for better or for worse. Such changes may affect eligibility for asylum.
Some examples of country-specific changed circumstances might include a new ruling party or a peace treaty or other end to government political turmoil such as revolution, rebellion, riots, or gang or guerilla warfare.
Here is a common type of example: You are applying for asylum based on a fear of persecution from the government because you are a religious minority. While awaiting your interview or hearing date, national elections are held and there is a change in the ruling party in your home country. This new government enacts laws and a constitution establishing religious freedom and pledges to protect all religious minorities in the country.
Or perhaps a law has been passed in your country allowing same-sex couples the right to marry. If you are basing your claim for asylum on fear of persecution based on sexual orientation, you may have more difficulty convincing an asylum officer or IJ that your claim has merit.
These sorts of changed circumstance may negatively impact your case because the U.S. government may conclude that your fear of persecution is no longer justified. Nevertheless, you could potentially argue that the new government has not yet brought about any real change, and that you would face the same or similar persecution upon your return.
Having an experienced immigration attorney offers a huge advantage in asylum cases, because it is your attorney’s job to be aware of these changed circumstances and adjust his or her arguments accordingly.