Are you eligible for asylum based on religion?
If you have a well-founded fear that you may be persecuted in your country based on your religious beliefs, you may be eligible for asylum in the US. Religious persecution can take many forms and you may fear persecution from the government of your country or from a group that the government is either unable or unwilling to control.
Under US immigration laws, persecution due to religious beliefs includes:
- Serious threats or infliction of physical, psychological, or economic harm by one’s own government or uncontrolled group
- Punishment by a religious police through being beaten, detained, or otherwise harmed
- Punishment by a family member, whose authority over you is recognized or tolerated by your country’s government, based on your supposed failure to comply with religious norms
- Special restrictions on your religious freedom imposed by your country’s laws that have a serious impact on your individual way of life
- Severe discrimination imposed on your religious group or banning the practice of your religion and forcing you to join a certain religion against your will
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Applications for asylum based on religion are decided on a case-by-case basis as there are a wide range of possible circumstances. In order to obtain asylum, you must demonstrate that your actual or perceived lack of religion is the main reason for your persecution.
To apply for asylum based on religion in the US, you must submit an Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal: Form I-589 to the USCIS. Generally, this shoud been done within one year of your arrival to the US and you may include your spouse and children on your application.
Before you submit your I-589 packet, you may find it helpful to read 4 Tips to Help You Win Your Case.
If you are granted asylum, you may apply for a green card one year after being approved. To do so you must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status.
International Religious Freedom Act
Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) in response to growing concerns about the persecution of various religious groups throughout the world. IRFA was signed into law on October 27, 1998. While IRFA specifically noted Congressional concern for Christians in the Sudan and China, Tibetan Buddhists and Baha’is in Iran, Congress recognized the importance of protecting religious freedom throughout the world.
In its findings, Congress cited, among other reasons, the following as a basis for adopting the Act: The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of our country. Many of our nation’s founders fled religious persecution abroad, cherishing in their hearts and minds the ideal of religious freedom. They established a law, as a fundamental right and as a pillar of our Nation, the right to freedom of religion. From its birth to this day, the United States has prized this legacy of religious freedom and honored this heritage by standing for religious freedom and offering refuge to those suffering religious persecution.
IRFA seeks to address two different, though equally important, issues. First, IRFA addresses the issues of religious freedom and religious persecution directly, including a series of diplomatic and foreign policy provisions designed to enhance the ability of the United States to promote religious freedom around the globe. Second, IRFA addresses perceived problems within the Department of State (DOS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that may lead to diminished attention to the problems of religious persecution. These latter provisions now apply to the relevant components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Asylum Based on Religion Links
- International Religious Freedom Reports (US Department of State)
- Seeking Asylum in the United States (USCIS)
- Form I-589: Application for Asylum (USCIS)
- Refugees and Asylum (US Department of State)
Asylum Success Stories
- How to Win Your Asylum Case in Immigration Court
- Lawsuit Forces USCIS to Schedule Interview
- Iranian Woman Who Converted to Christianity
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Immigration Attorney Carl Shusterman has 40+ years of experience. He served as an attorney for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from 1976 until 1982, when he entered private practice. He has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in SuperLawyers Magazine. Today, he serves as Of Counsel to JR Immigration Law Firm.