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Ending Gender Based Violence: Domestic Violence and Asylum in the US

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.