Domestic violence can be a basis for applying for asylum in the United States. If a person can demonstrate that they have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in their home country on account of their membership in a particular social group, which includes victims of domestic violence, they may be eligible for asylum.
To apply for asylum in the United States, an individual must meet the following requirements:
Timeliness: The individual must apply for asylum within one year of their last arrival in the United States. Exceptions to this rule may apply in certain circumstances such as a change in their country of origin's political or social situation, a serious illness or disability, or if the individual was a minor. Exceptions to the one-year deadline are narrow and the individual must provide compelling evidence to support their claim of eligibility for an exception.
Physical presence: The individual must be physically present in the United States when they apply for asylum.
No prior deportation or removal orders: An individual cannot apply for asylum if they have already been deported or ordered removed from the United States.
Non-citizenship status: The individual must be a non-citizen or non-legal permanent resident to be eligible for asylum.
Meritorious fear: The individual must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
No bars to asylum: There are certain criminal and security-related bars to asylum, such as participating in persecution, terrorism, and certain other crimes.
After an individual applies for asylum, they will have an initial interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer during which they will be asked to provide evidence and testimony to support their claim. If the USCIS officer determines that the individual has a credible fear of persecution, the case will proceed to the next stage, which is a full asylum hearing in front of an immigration judge. The hearing itself can take several hours to several days and the judge will make a final decision on the case.
To prove a claim of persecution based on domestic violence for an asylum, an individual must provide evidence that supports their claim such as:
Personal testimony: The individual must provide detailed and credible testimony about their experiences of domestic violence including who committed the violence, how often it occurred, and any efforts to seek help or escape the abuse.
Documentation: The individual may provide documentation such as police reports, medical records, or witness statements to support their claim of domestic violence.
Expert witness testimony: The individual may provide testimony from experts in relevant fields such as doctors, social workers, psychologists or therapists, or cultural experts, to support their claim of domestic violence and its impact on their fear of persecution.
Country conditions information: The individual may provide information about the general human rights situation in their country of origin including the prevalence of domestic violence and the lack of protection for victims such as lack of support from the police.
Evidence of past persecution: The individual may provide evidence of past persecution such as beatings, imprisonment, or torture, to demonstrate that they have a well-founded fear of future persecution.
It is difficult to find an exact number of asylums granted in the United States each year as the numbers can vary from year to year and depend on various factors such as changes in immigration policies, number of new applications and processing times. However, data from the USCIS indicates that the number of asylum approvals has decreased while the number of pending asylum cases has increased, resulting in longer wait times for applicants. In 2020, the USCIS reported that there were approximately 32,000 asylum grants which was a significant decrease from the previous year. This number can be misleading as it only represents those individuals who were granted asylum through the USCIS and does not include those who were granted asylum through the immigration court system.
The asylum process is complex and the criteria for eligibility can be difficult to meet. The length of the asylum process can vary depending on factors such as the individual's location, the complexity of the case, and current government processing times. On average, the process can take several months to several years. The process can be lengthy and complex and applicants may experience long periods of waiting and uncertainty.
An immigration lawyer can help the individual understand the process and provide guidance and support throughout the process.