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

Check out which nations are on the top ten list of having their citizens gain asylum in the United States.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

Over the years, both the mix of foreign nationals applying for asylum (protection from overseas persecution) in the United States and the ones 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. But do meaningful trends exist? Here, we will:

  • take a closer look at the latest statistics on who gains U.S. asylum, and
  • try to understand what those statistics mean.

Do Statistics on Who Gains Asylum in the U.S. Really Matter?

Before turning to the actual statistics, it is 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" (or not).

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

Of course, if absolutely no one from a particular country is gaining asylum in the United States on a certain basis; for example, if you were attempting to apply based on supposed persecution as a member of the LGBTQ community in the Netherlands, which is a country with high scores on the "rainbow" charts; you can legitimately deduce that your chances of success are slim to vanishing.

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 2022, the Flow Report showed that the top ten countries whose citizens who received grants of asylum, either from USCIS or from an immigration court, included (from most to least):

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

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 is not surprising that many asylum applicants come from there.

The report states that the total number of people granted asylum in the United States more than
doubled between 2021 and 2022, from 16,628 to 36,615.

The Department of Justice's Executive Office of Immigration Review Statistical Yearbook page also offers statistics showing grants of defensive asylum in removal proceedings.

What Prospective Applicants Can Learn From Past Asylum-Approval Statistics

Finding out whether a high number 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 someone's case. They might, for instance, quiz you in detail on the tenets of your religion if you're claiming religious persecution (to make sure you're really a member of that religion.)

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 Help

For additional information on applying for asylum in the U.S., see the Asylum & Refugee Status page of Nolo's website. And an experienced immigration attorney can be hugely helpful in evaluating the strength of your asylum claim, gathering documents from independent sources that back up your claim, linking you up with medical professionals who can examine your physical and psychological state and prepare a report explaining any signs of persecution that turned up, drafting affidavits and legal memos, preparing witnesses, and accompanying you to in-person interviews or court hearings.

If you are low income, also see How to Get a Lawyer to Represent You Pro Bono (Free) in Immigration Court Removal Proceedings.

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