Asylum is a humanitarian form of immigration relief. It is available only to those who have experienced particular kinds of persecution. There are two types of asylum applications, affirmative and defensive. They are similar but arise under different circumstances.
An affirmative asylum application is for a person who comes to the U.S. and actively seeks relief within one year of entry in the country. Defensive asylum applications are for people who are placed in removal proceedings and seek to remain in the country, defending against deportation with a humanitarian claim. Asylum claims are complicated, whether affirmative or defensive, so let's consider the basics.
Asyum in Brief
Asylum is akin to refugee status, but it is granted to a person within the United States. All of the same criteria that would make an applicant a refugee if they were applying for relief from outside the country apply to the asylum applicant within it, whether applying affirmatively or defensively.
The applicant must have experienced persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinions. For example, members of a minority religion who are excluded and abused based on those beliefs can seek asylum, arguing that they cannot return home without grave danger, or political activists whose party is being stifled might apply for fear of returning home.
Affirmative and Defensive Relief
For those fleeing persecution and arriving in the U.S., the best bet is to apply for asylum affirmatively. To qualify, the application must be filed within a year of arrival and state a basis for relief, showing the applicant falls under one of the protected categories and faces persecution based on this if sent home. Defensive claims are made in response to the government initiating deportation proceedings and can be made at any point after one year.
Generally speaking, the more time passes, the harder it can be to prove a claim. Asylum applications often contain information about country conditions, the treatment of the class in question, and the specific experiences of the persecuted individual. As time passes after the events that prompted flight, it can become more difficult to collect relevant evidence, although it is not impossible. Claims are proven with a range of proofs, some very personal and others more general that explain the situation of the individual in the context of the country.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you are considering applying for asylum, speak to a lawyer. Many immigration attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.