Which Countries Do Most People Granted Asylum in the U.S. Come From?

Check out which nations are on the top ten list.

Over the years, both the mix of people applying for asylum (protection from overseas persecution) in the U.S. and the people whose applications are granted has varied a great deal. In some ways, this is as it should be. As circumstances change around the world—war and civil unrest starts or eases, governments rise and fall, tribal and other groups become the oppressors or the oppressed—changes naturally occur in who is granted asylum status and allowed to stay in the United States.

Before turning to the actual statistics, it's worth remembering that every person's claim for asylum is unique. True, the U.S. government has demonstrated some bias toward and against various countries' asylum applicants over the years. Nevertheless, it does not issue any blanket statements like, "Everyone from X country probably deserves asylum."

Individual applicants must present a convincing claim showing that they themselves were the victims of persecution, or fear future persecution. Therefore, looking at lists of which countries end up with the greatest number of its citizens granted asylum in the U.S. should not be viewed as an indicator of whether any one person's claim is likely to succeed.

U.S. Government-Issued Asylum Statistics

With these thoughts and cautions in mind, it is possible to get government-issued statistics on the countries of origin of asylum grantees.

The Annual Flow Report tracks both applications filed affirmatively with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and those that received approval after a hearing in immigration court, either because affirmative applications were referred there or because the person landed in deportation proceedings (such as after an arrest or a failed application for some other immigration benefit) and raised asylum as a defense.

For 2019, the Flow Report showed that the top ten countries whose citizens who received grants of asylum from USCIS included (from most to least):

  1. Venezuela
  2. China (PRC)
  3. Egypt
  4. Turkey
  5. Russia
  6. Guatemala
  7. El Salvador
  8. Mexico
  9. Nigeria
  10. Honduras.

The Flow Report also provides figures for the top ten countries whose citizens who received grants of asylum in immigration court proceedings, including (from most to least):

  1. China (PRC)
  2. El Salvador
  3. India
  4. Guatemala
  5. Honduras
  6. Mexico
  7. Cuba
  8. Cameroon
  9. Nepal
  10. Venezuela.

Keep in mind that these are raw numbers, which reflect not only the merits of the individual cases, but the numbers of people who applied in the first place. China, for example, has a huge population, so it's not surprising that many asylum applicants come from there.

The report states that the total number of people granted asylum in the United States went up by 24% from 37,567 in 2018 to 46,508 in 2019.

The Department of Justice's Executive Office of Immigration Review Statistical Yearbook page also offers statistics showing grants of defensive asylum in removal proceedings. However, the latest figures shown there (as of early 2021) were somewhat outdated, for 2018.

What Applicants Can Learn From Past Asylum-Approval Statistics

Finding out whether a lot of other asylum applicants have come from a certain country can be instructional, even if it guarantees nothing for one's own application.

For one thing, a high number of granted cases from your country tells you that, at the very least, the asylum officer or Immigration Judge (IJ) hearing your case probably has a reasonable amount of knowledge regarding conditions there, and you won't have to educate them about basic facts. Then again, if the officers or IJs believe themselves to be too expert on the topic, you might find that they've already devised clever ways to ferret out problems in your case.

Another advantage if you come from a country with a lot of other asylum applicants is that the lawyer or agency working on your case can probably borrow materials from other lawyers to help support your claim. Gathering documents to show general country conditions or to back up accounts of persecution against particular groups is an important part of preparing an asylum claim.

For more information on applying for asylum in the U.S., see the Asylum & Refugee Status page of Nolo's website.

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