What is asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed (deported) to a country where he or she fears persecution or harm. Under U.S. law, people who flee their countries because they fear persecution can apply for asylum. If they are granted asylum, this gives them protection and the right to stay in the United States. Those who are granted asylum are called asylees.

Note: According to U.S. immigration law, a refugee is someone who has been resettled to the United States through the U.S. resettlement program. This is a separate process than asylum. For more information on resettled refugees, please see Rights and Duties of Refugees.

To apply for asylum in the U.S., you must be physically present in the U.S. or be seeking entry into the U.S. at a port of entry.

Persecution can be harm or threats of harm to you or your family or to people similar to you. A person can also obtain asylum if he or she has suffered persecution in his or her country in the past.

You only can win asylum if at least one of the reasons someone harmed or may harm you is because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion (or a political opinion someone thinks you have), or the fact that you are part of a “particular social group.”