Asylum Lawyers in Pennsylvania
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Pennsylvania Asylum Attorney Helping Clients Navigate the Complex Asylum Process

Safety and security are core needs for all humans, and many people are able to find that in their families, surrounding neighborhoods, and the country as a whole. But what happens when the country you’ve grown up in and love is no longer safe for you or your family? Leaving everything you’ve ever known behind, including friends and family members, is a big step, but sometimes, it’s necessary to ensure your safety. Luckily, the United States offers the option of asylum for those who qualify. Learn more about this process, including the requirements to qualify and what the process entails, and then speak with an immigration attorney to find out how you can start your petition and, hopefully, a new life.

If you’ve escaped your home country looking for safety and security, asylum status can help you stay in the United States and start building a new life. However, there are very specific requirements to qualify as an asylee, and the process can be complicated. If you have questions about asylum, including how to apply and what happens if you’re denied, call our Pennsylvania law office to speak to an immigration attorney.

What Is Asylum?

Asylum is what it means when the United States agrees to grant protection and admittance to someone who arrives at the border — or is already in the country — who isn’t able to return to their home country for fear of persecution. To apply for asylum through the affirmative process, you must be living in the United States at the time of the application and must submit the application within 1 year of arriving in the country. This time limit can be extended in some cases if there is a significant change of circumstances.

You can also apply for asylum as a way to avoid removal proceedings, which is known as defensive asylum. This can happen if you violate or overstay your visa or if you arrive in the country without the proper immigration documents. In this case, you will have to go before an immigration judge, and you will have the opportunity to present your case. However, the government will also be presenting a case as to why removal proceedings should continue, so it’s important to have a knowledgeable immigration attorney with you and representing you through this process.

What Is the Difference Between Refugee and Asylee Status?

Refugee and asylee — the term for the person who is granted asylum — are often used interchangeably, but they are slightly different. An asylee is someone who is either already in the United States — whether legally or illegally — or has arrived at a port of entry or border and is asking for asylum status. Refugees are not present in the United States and are granted refugee status while still in another country and come into U.S. soil as refugees. Refugees and asylees can come from the same country and be escaping the same circumstances; the only difference is their physical location.

What Is Required to Qualify for Asylum?

The person seeking asylum must show that they meet the requirements. This includes being able to show that they have suffered persecution or would likely face persecution if they were to stay in their native country. The persecution also needs to be on a “protected ground,” which includes:

  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Being a member of a specific social group
  • Race
  • Political opinion

Proof of previous physical or mental distress as a result of persecution can help bolster your case, but it is possible to be granted asylum on your personal testimony. Whether to grant asylum is largely up to the presiding judge for your case, and they have a lot of discretion in what can be used to inform their decision.

What Does the Asylum Application Process Look Like?

To apply for asylum, you will need to submit Form I-589, which is the application for asylum and for withholding of removal, within 1 year of your arrival in the United States. There is usually no benefit to waiting to submit the application, and the sooner you file, the sooner it can start being processed. You will also need to go through an interview.

While your application is being processed, you can continue to legally stay in the country. Keep in mind that the asylum process can be very lengthy and can take up to 6 months to hear back. Those seeking asylum are able to apply for a work permit while they wait so that they can begin financially supporting themselves.

What Is the Asylum Interview?

As part of the asylum process, you will need to have an interview with someone from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You can — and should — have an attorney present with you at this interview. The officer will ask you questions to try to determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for asylum. This could include questions about what type of persecution you faced — or feared you would face — and how that fear affects your mental and physical health. Remember that to be eligible for asylum, the persecution has to be on a protected ground, so the officer will ask questions to determine if your case falls into one of those categories.

It’s normal to be nervous and worried about this interview, but talking with an attorney beforehand can help. Your lawyer can let you know what kinds of questions the officer is likely to ask and provide counsel on how to answer. You may even be able to go through a mock interview process so that you feel more prepared.

How Can an Immigration Attorney Help?

Immigration is always a challenging process, but when you’re going through it as a last resort to escape persecution in your home country, you need all of the help and support you can get. An immigration attorney who has experience with asylum cases can help you navigate the process and help you connect with other resources that can provide support. Working with a lawyer can ensure that you have all of the documentation and other evidence to support your case. If you are denied, having an attorney who is already familiar with your case means that they can step in quickly to educate you on your other immigration options and what you may be able to do to ensure that you and your family are safe.

No one should have to live in constant fear, and we’re here to help our clients understand all of their immigration options, including asylum. The first step is to discuss the particulars of your situation with an immigration attorney who has experience with asylum cases to find out if you qualify. At The Law Office of Rosina C. Stambaugh, we can provide information and help you through every step of the process. Call us at 717-900-1818 to get started today.

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