No. In order to apply for asylum, the applicant must be in the United States (or at one of its borders).
On an affirmative asylum application, you will need to submit materials and documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) that will establish that you have been persecuted and/or that you have a reasonable basis to fear future persecution if you are forced to return to your home country. The term “persecution” for purposes of asylum is undefined but the harm at issue must rise above the level of mere discrimination, harassment or unpleasantness. Nonphysical harm can qualify as persecution if it results in severe economic disadvantages or considerable deprivation of liberty. An asylum claim may be based on government laws, policies, and/or practices that compel someone to abandon or conceal his or her sexuality for fear of being publicly identified. Present conditions for LGBTI individuals in the Russian Federation, Belarus and several other countries of the former Soviet Union can be considered severe enough to warrant asylum.
The asylum process requires thoughtful and careful analysis, together with supplementary materials that reinforce the strength and credibility of one’s application. A well-supported application, therefore, should include numerous supplemental materials, including, but not limited to, a statement that effectively tells your story in your voice in a compelling, consistent, and credible fashion, together with an Appendix containing medical reports (if applicable), witness statements, as well as reports, articles and newspaper clippings regarding LGBT country conditions. Eligible applicants therefore are advised to work with an experienced asylum attorney to maximize his or her chances to obtain asylum. Our Foundation was formed to assist LGBTI individuals apply for asylum.
There are many benefits to obtaining asylum in this country. Foremost, you will be able to stay in the United States legally with work authorization and a path toward citizenship. You are eligible to apply for a green card (lawful permanent resident) within one year of being granted asylum, and you are eligible to apply for United States citizenship four (4) years after you obtain your green card. As an asylee, you also may be eligible for government benefits and services, including, but not limited to, Medicaid insurance and federal tuition assistance for college.
Once you and your attorney have compiled all the necessary and/or supplemental materials and prepared the required forms, you are ready to file your application. Once filed, the process generally takes about eight to ten (8-10) weeks to complete. If you apply while in status (i.e., on a valid visa) and/or do not live close to one of the eighth Asylum Offices in the United States, the process may take longer and extend to six (6) months and beyond. In any event, within several weeks of filing the application, you will have to schedule a fingerprint screening test and start preparing for an interview with an Asylum Officer at the USCIS. The Interview is non-adversarial and provides an opportunity for you to further tell your story while the USCIS assesses your credibility.
Unlike other immigration matters, there is no application or administrative fee to file for asylum in the United States. However, generally attorneys will charge for their services. The range for legal fees on an affirmative asylum application to the USCIS tends to range anywhere between $4,000 to $8,500, depending on a host of factors. PLEASE NOTE that while there are numerous experienced immigration attorneys, very few of them are LGBT and have a deep understanding of LGBT asylum issues or involve LGBT legal counsel. A few not-for profit associations, including our Foundation, provide assistance to LGBT applicants in large metropolitan areas of the United States.
Our Foundation was formed by a group of LGBT Americans to support LGBT applicants from the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Union with resettlement accommodation in the New York metropolitan area. We work with LGBT attorneys who are experienced in all matters pertaining to LGBT immigration in this country. We strongly believe that LGBT asylum petitions involve a very particular host of issues that are quite different from those for other asylum applicants. Aside from providing legal assistance to the potential asylum seekers, our Foundation strives to provide a comprehensive resettlement support to individuals and LGBT families seeking asylum in the United States, which includes social and cultural accommodations, medical practitioners and clinics working with LGBT, assistance with learning English language, vocational training and education.
No. Immigration issues are generally discretionary in nature. This means that there are no automatic or guaranteed results but an experienced asylum attorney should be able to assess whether you have a strong or weak asylum claim. In other words, an experienced asylum attorney should provide you with enough information to allow you to make an informed decision on whether applying for asylum is appropriate.
If your affirmative asylum application is initially denied, the USCIS generally will recommend your case to Immigration Court where you will have a hearing before an Immigration Judge who will independently decide whether you are eligible for asylum. Many applicants initially denied are subsequently granted asylum (or afforded other forms of immigration relief) by an Immigration Judge. The hearing is usually scheduled about a year from the date of initial denial, and you are allowed to remain in the United States until your asylum case is fully resolved, including subsequent appeals. You also will be eligible to apply for temporary work authorization 150 days from the day you initially filed your application with the USCIS.
No. Applying for asylum is strictly confidential and the United States will neither publicize the details of your asylum application nor notify your home country of your application. Additionally, anything you reveal to an attorney in the course of preparing your asylum application should be kept strictly confidential and is generally protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Yes. There are several factors that can undermine an asylum application even if the individual can show he or she has been persecuted. For example, currently there is a 1-year filing deadline from the date of last entry into the United States (although some exceptions to this deadline apply). A criminal record also can undermine an asylum application. Accordingly, it is important to consult an experienced attorney before filing an asylum application.