In the US, there are five distinct reasons someone can be granted asylum. These are persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Because religion is one of the five listed reasons that asylum can be given, it’s common to see people from all around the world apply for religious asylum in the US.
How does religious asylum work in the United States? What are the challenges for this type of asylum application?
How Religious Beliefs Can Justify Asylum Claims
Whether you apply for affirmative asylum or defensive, you will have the burden of proof to show three main things:
- That you practice a certain religion
- That you have been persecuted or fear persecution by the government (or a group that the government cannot or will not stop from persecuting you)
- That your fear of persecution is directly related to your religious belief and practices
These are the main concerns for religious asylum cases, and it can be more difficult than you might think to prove all three. While the US puts a high value on the right to practice any religion you want or to not practice any religion if you don’t want to, there are also a lot of cases of fraud that can make judges more skeptical. You will have to have a lot of solid evidence to make your case convincing.
This is where an asylum lawyer can actually help you. If you have a genuine application for religious asylum in the US, there is a high chance of enough evidence existing to prove it. You may not know exactly what qualifies as good evidence, and it can vary from case to case, but the right lawyer will be there to make the whole process easier and less confusing for you.
Sometimes asylum claims are only rejected because the applicant wasn’t convincing enough or the evidence did not show enough of a connection between the religious belief and the fear of persecution. You will need a strong case that shows the connection clearly. You’ll also need to get prepared for the interview ahead of time, because you may be asked a lot of questions aimed at proving you do hold certain religious beliefs and that you have a reason to be afraid of government persecution at home.
Examples of Asylum for Religious Persecution
Here are some examples of specific religious persecution that’s led to asylum in the US:
- Asylum for Egyptian Copts
Coptic Christians in Egypt have faced years of persecution either directly from the government or from government-sponsored organizations that were not stopped. Because of this, the US has granted asylum for Egyptian Copts on many occasions. Although religious persecution has declined in Egypt, the Department of Homeland Security still shows that as recently as 2015 Egypt was number 4 on the list of countries with the most asylum applications granted. It’s unclear how many were based on religious reasons out of the 1,666 cases granted approval.
- Arab Religious Converts
In some Arab nations, conversion to another religious belief constitutes blasphemy and is punishable by death or other serious threats. Some Arab religious converts have successfully been granted asylum after demonstrating that their conversion caused a reasonable fear of persecution.
- Chinese Christians
While some forms of Christianity are acceptable in China, others beyond the state accepted churches are not allowed. Practitioners frequently face fines, jail time, and other penalties. Many Chinese Christians are granted asylum in the US.
- Falun Gong Practitioners in China
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that’s illegal in China. Some practitioners have come to the US and successfully claimed religious asylum based on the past persecution they received or the fear of persecution if they return to China.
- Non-Sunni Pakistanis
Ahmadi, Shia, and Christians from Pakistan have all successfully made asylum claims in the US. This is because these are all three minority religions that are considered blasphemous or incorrect by local religious extremist terror groups that the government cannot or will not control.
Follow-to-Join Status for Religious Asylum Seekers
If you get asylum in the US for religious reasons, you can bring your immediate family over as well, whether they are under threat or not. They can get derivative asylee status if they are in the US or outside of the US and may come to live with you legally with the same benefits you’ll get from asylee status. The follow-to-join program doesn’t apply to relatives other than one spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21.
Religious asylum in the US allows you to seek refuge from persecution you might be facing because of your religious practices. The law does not restrict which specific religions can apply, so you may have a chance of getting asylum if you have a reasonable fear of persecution because of your religious practices or beliefs. Consult with the Law Office of Fady Eskandar to see if you may have a solid case to apply for US asylum.