What is Asylum?

By USCRI July 3, 2024

Asylum is a form of protection granted to individuals who have fled their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on specific grounds—race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Key Aspects of Asylum

  1. Protection from Persecution: Asylum seekers must demonstrate that they have suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country.
  2. Legal Right to Stay: Once granted asylum, individuals have the legal right to stay in the United States and are protected from being returned to a country where they may face harm or persecution.
  3. Eligibility for Benefits: Asylum recipients in the United States—or asylees—are eligible for the same benefits as refugees, including work authorization, social services, and the ability to apply for permanent residency after a year and, eventually, citizenship.
  4. Application Process: To seek asylum, individuals typically must apply either upon arrival to the United States or shortly thereafter, often through a legal process that involves interviews and the submission of evidence supporting their claims.

Asylum is a critical component of international human rights law and is recognized by various treaties and conventions, including the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which the United States is a signatory of. These two documents outline the rights of asylum seekers and the obligations of host countries.

The Refugee Act of 1980 established the legal system in the United States to protect individuals fleeing persecution, which included the principle of non-refoulement.

How is Asylum Related to Refugee Status?

Asylum and refugee status protect individuals fleeing persecution and primarily differ in the process and location of application. Refugees are granted protection before entering the United States, while asylees are granted protection after arriving in the country.

Asylum seekers and refugees must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Both statuses play a critical role in the international system of providing life-saving protection to those fleeing persecution. Asylees should be considered refugees under the broader definition of someone fleeing persecution, and access to asylum should not be diminished.



This is part of a series of snapshots from USCRI in honor of World Refugee Day (June 20)

Also read: Refugee Warehousing Crisis: Causes and Solutions

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