To qualify as an asylee, the applicant must establish that he has a “well-founded fear” of future persecution in his home country. Furthermore, this persecution must be based on the applicant's political opinion, religion, race, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. It's important to note that the burden of proof is placed on the applicant.
One way to demonstrate such a “well-founded fear” is by showing that the applicant has been the victim of past persecution. In that case, a “well-founded fear” will be presumed unless conditions in the applicant's home country have changed significantly since the time of persecution.
If there has been no past persecution, then the applicant must demonstrate that (1) they would be singled out for persecution or (2) there is a pattern or practice of persecution of people of the applicant's same political opinion, religion, race, nationality or social membership. Nevertheless, even if the applicant is successful in establishing a well-founded fear of persecution, they may still be denied asylum if they have:
- committed a particularly serious crime while in the U.S.;
- committed a serious non-political crime in another country;
- been involved in the persecution of others;
- firmly resettled in another country prior to applying for asylum; or
- engaged in, or indicated an intention to engage in, terrorist activity or any other activity that would pose a threat to the security of the United States.
Usually, the applicant will be required to return to the asylum office two weeks after the interview to receive a decision on the application. If USCIS is unable to approve the asylum request and the applicant is illegally residing in the U.S., then USCIS will refer the applicant to an Immigration Court for a “defensive” asylum proceeding.
In the next article we will discuss what happens in the event an asylum request is denied or granted.