Asylum is a process by which people who need protection from heinous acts in other countries use to obtain legal status in the United States. Additionally, it often is used as a last resort by immigrants who lack other pathways to obtain legal status. Receiving asylum status is exceptionally difficult, relatively rare and discretionary. One of the major benefits of receiving asylum status is that it also permits the asylee to work in the U.S.

It is the applicant's burden to show that she or she qualifies for asylum. The applicant must meet that burden through their testimony to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS). This CIS officer must find the applicant's testimony to be credible and persuasive. This is a tough burden to meet, and CIS officers are naturally skeptical of testimony because they're used to applicants who embellish their stories because they are desperate to get into the U.S. Credibility is immensely important for any applicant, and a lack of it will sink their asylum efforts.

An asylum applicant has to meet four basic requirements:

  1. The applicant must be in the U.S. or at the border.
  2. He or she must be unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country due to safety issues.
  3. The applicant must show past persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution.
  4. And finally, the applicant must demonstrate the persecution (or fear of it) is based on one of the protected grounds - race, religion, nationality, political opinion or particular social group.

The most important requirements are the third and fourth. In terms of persecution, the applicant must show that he or she would be individually targeted or that there's a pattern of persecution of similarly situation people in the applicant's home country. This is known as the "well-founded fear" test. It has two components: subjective and objective. Subjectively, the applicant must show that he or she really does have a fear of returning to their home country. This fear can be based on such things as serious physical harm or severe psychological treatment. Objectively, the fear must be reasonable, and this is where it's important to look at the home country's conditions.

To begin the asylum process, a form I-589 is filed, and corroborating evidence of the asylum claim is to be submitted at this time. An interview will be scheduled, and around two weeks after the interview the applicant will receive an approval notice or NOID - notice of intent to deny. The applicant will have to appear before a judge at some point for removal proceedings, and he or she will then have an opportunity for the judge to grant asylum.

If an applicant is successful in receiving asylum, he or she should adjust status about a year after receipt by filing a form I-485.