Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Mar 30, 2014

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An immigrant asylum seeker is eligible for political asylum in the United States if they are subject to persecution in their native country because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Asylum seekers must be located within the United States or at a U.S. port of entry at the time of application. Additionally, whether or not your fear of persecution is well-founded, the timing of your application, the presence of international agreements, and your criminal history can also affect your eligibility for asylum.

Demostrating a Well-Founded Fear of Persecution

To be eligible for asylum, you must first demonstrate that you have a well-founded fear of persecution. Immigration laws have not set out a straightforward test for what is considered a well-founded fear, but immigration rulings do require that the fear be based on something more than mere speculation. You must demonstrate a genuine fear that you are being targeted, either now or in the future.

The timing of your application will also affect your eligibility. With some very limited exceptions, you must file your application within one year of your entry into the United States. Failure to timely request asylum can result in removal proceedings against you.

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Additional Factors Affecting Eligibility for Asylum

International agreements can also affect your eligibility for asylum within the United States. Occasionally, the United States enters into agreements with third party countries to accept victims of persecution from certain countries. If such an agreement exists for accepting victims of persecution from your native country, you will be required to submit your application for humanitarian relief to the third party country.

Finally, even if you are otherwise eligible for asylum relief, your request can be denied if you have a criminal history that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers a security risk. Similarly, if you have been a member of a group that has persecuted others or has made threats against the United States, you could be disqualified from asylum for national security reasons.

The eligibility requirements listed above are considered general requirements to qualify for asylum protection. Keep in mind, however, that immigration laws and procedures frequently change, especially in response to events like the September 11th attacks. If you apply for asylum and are denied, that denial can be a basis for denying future requests. If you have questions or do not understand any phase of the asylum process, you should contact an attorney who specializes in immigration law for assistance.