Legal Information: Federal


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December 17, 2020

What is asylum?

Asylum is for people who are afraid to return to their home countries. It is like refugee status except that you apply from inside the U.S. as opposed to filing from your country of origin. It is not an easy or fast process, and it is not something you should do without help from a lawyer who knows how to do asylum cases. If you fear going to your home country because of domestic violence or sexual assault that you experienced there, make sure your attorney has experience applying for asylum for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors; not all immigration attorneys do.1

The biggest problem for getting asylum status for those who experienced domestic or sexual violence in other countries is that the law was created before violence against women was generally recognized as problems or crimes. Although our government has granted asylum on the basis of domestic or sexual violence that was committed in another country, it is still very difficult to win this type of asylum claim because of the way the law was written.

Because asylum is complicated and the rules change a lot, this section will not tell you how you can win an asylum case; it will only outline some of the main things the government says you must show.

1 The Center for Gender and Refugee Studies is a good resource for lawyers, domestic and sexual violence advocates, and asylum-seekers who have questions regarding asylum based on domestic or sexual violence.

WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.