Many times, people come to the United States looking for a safe haven from torture, persecution or abuse by their own governments. Those who fear persecution in their home country can apply for asylum or refugee status here, and if granted, will be able to remain here indefinitely.

In order to qualify, individuals must have a well-founded fear that they will be persecuted in the future. Those who have been persecuted in the past meet this definition. In addition, the reason for the persecution must be due to race, religion, membership in a particular social group, political views or nationality. Persecution based upon gender can sometimes fall into the category of “particular social group.”

Whether an individual files for refugee status or asylum will depend on where he or she is at the present time. Those who have not yet arrived in the United States must apply for refugee status, while those who are already here must apply for asylum. Petitions are then heard in federal court, where a determination will be made that is also subject to appeal.

In order to prevail during a federal hearing, applicants must ensure that all the necessary documentation is in place, in addition to being able to prove persecution based upon one of the five grounds listed above. This can be especially difficult for those who are unfamiliar with the American legal system, which is why hiring an immigration attorney to help with these proceedings can be an especially good idea for many.