If you are a Russian citizen and have avoided military service, you may be able to apply for Asylum in the United States!
In this video, Yakov Spektor shares the asylum process for Russian draft dodgers. He provides an overview of the grounds on which someone may qualify for Asylum and explains how and where to apply.
This video also highlights eligibility criteria, waiting period, strict measures against illegal trespassers, and legal limitations for asylum grants.
In recent years, many young men in Russia dodge the draft or avoid conscription because they do not want to participate in the unlawful invasion of Ukraine. This can often mean persecution by the Russian law enforcement or a multi-year prison term. One option available to these individuals is to seek asylum in the U.S., but the process can be complicated and daunting. This blog post aims to demystify the asylum-seeking process in the United States by providing practical guidance for Russian draft dodgers.
Asylum is an internationally recognized form of protection that allows individuals who are already inside the U.S. to remain if they meet the definition of a refugee and are not barred from asylum for any reason. An individual granted asylum is protected from being returned to their home country, given the right to work in the U.S., and provided certain social services. An asylum grant will also qualify an individual to apply for a green card.
Individuals can apply for asylum if they can prove that they face persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. In the context of draft dodging, like the situation in Russia, draft dodgers might argue they are part of a specific social group being persecuted (i.e., young men refusing military service based on political beliefs or moral convictions). It is important to note that draft dodging on its own may not be sufficient grounds for asylum, so getting help from an experienced immigration lawyer with experience in handling asylum matters is crucial in order to make sure that every aspect of your asylum claim is properly developed and presented.
Asylum should be distinct from refugee status, even though both are forms of protection for individuals who face persecution. The critical difference lies in where an individual applies for each group. Asylum is sought by individuals already in the U.S. or seeking entry at a U.S. border or entry point. On the other hand, refugee status is sought by individuals who are still outside the U.S. and their home country. Each comes with its process and requirements for approval.
The Legal Framework Surrounding Asylum
U.S. asylum laws are based on international law, specifically the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act also contains provisions for those seeking asylum. However, the process can be complex and time-consuming, with applicants often facing stringent requirements and long waiting periods.
U.S. Domestic Laws:
- U.S. laws on asylum are primarily based on the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Key provisions include:
- Per the INA, an individual may apply for asylum if they are physically present in the U.S., irrespective of how they arrived or their current immigration status. This rule, however, may change – the Biden administration promulgated additional regulations that would not allow certain individuals to apply for asylum if they crossed the border illegally. Currently that rule is blocked by the courts; however, this is a great example of the constantly shifting landscape of immigration law – only an experienced immigration attorney would be able to navigate through this and only a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer can tell you whether you can apply for asylum and how to do it properly.
- Applicants must apply for asylum within one year of their last arrival in the U.S. unless they can show changed or extraordinary circumstances.
- The applicant must demonstrate they have suffered persecution or fear future persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
International Laws and Regulations:
The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol are critical legal documents at the international level. They define who is a refugee, their rights, and the legal obligations of states:
- As a signatory to the 1967 Protocol, the U.S. agreed to comply with the articles of the 1951 Convention, which prohibits returning a refugee or asylum seekers to a country where they face severe threats to their life or freedom.
- The principle of non-refoulement, which forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country where they would be in likely danger of persecution, is a cornerstone of international refugee law.
The Process of Seeking Asylum
The process of seeking asylum in the U.S. is a multi-step procedure that requires careful attention to detail and timing. Here are the critical stages in the process:
- Physical Presence in the U.S.: First and foremost, the individual must be physically present in the U.S. or at a port of entry. Asylum cannot be applied for from outside the U.S.
- Filing Form I-589: The next step is to complete and file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal. This comprehensive form asks for detailed information about you, your family, your background, and why you fear persecution or harm in your home country.
- Biometrics Appointment: You’ll be scheduled for a biometrics appointment after the government receives your application. The U.S. government will take your fingerprints, photograph, and signature here.
- Asylum Interview: The asylum office will eventually schedule an interview with you. You can present your case in detail to an asylum officer during this interview. It’s crucial to come fully prepared with all necessary documents, ready to answer in detail questions about your fear of persecution.
- Decision: After the interview, the officer will decide on your case. This could take a few weeks to several months. If your application is approved, you will be granted asylum status. If not, you are typically referred to immigration court for removal proceedings, where you will have a second opportunity to apply for asylum.
Let’s understand a few terms and requirements:
- Persecution: This refers to severe harm or suffering caused to an individual because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
- Form I-589: This is the application for asylum and withholding of removal. The form is 12 pages long, and the instructions are an additional 14 pages. It’s essential to read and follow the instructions carefully to avoid mistakes.
Challenges in The Asylum Process
Navigating the asylum process has its challenges. Here, we discuss some of the common obstacles faced by asylum seekers and how they can be addressed:
1. Long Waiting Periods: The U.S. immigration system is notoriously backlogged, leading to long waiting periods. It can take months or even years for an application to be processed.
Possible Solution: While there’s often no sure way to expedite the process, staying organized and meeting all deadlines can help avoid further delays. Legal representation can also ensure your case is presented as strongly as possible when your turn comes.
2. Work Authorization: Asylum seekers are allowed to apply for a work permit in the U.S. once their application has been pending for at least 150 days. It may take another several months for the government to approve the application and issue the work permit card (known as EAD – Employment Authorization Document), which can cause significant financial strain.
Possible Solution: Some NGOs offer financial assistance or partner with companies that hire asylum seekers once they’re eligible to work. Volunteering can also be an excellent way to spend time productively and gain experience in the U.S. workforce.
3. Language Barriers: Not being fluent in English can make the process more difficult, from filling out forms to understanding the legal proceedings.
Possible Solution: Many organizations offer free or low-cost English classes for immigrants. In addition, hiring a legal representative who speaks your language can ease communication.
4. Access to Legal Assistance: Navigating the U.S. immigration system without legal assistance can be challenging, but hiring a lawyer can be costly.
Possible Solution: Numerous legal aid organizations and pro bono projects offer free legal services to asylum seekers. Be proactive in seeking out these resources.
5. Cultural Differences: Adapting to a new culture while dealing with the stress of the process can be overwhelming.
Possible Solution: Community support is crucial. Connect with local immigrant communities, cultural groups, and organizations that can provide emotional support and practical advice.
Understanding these challenges is essential to prepare for them and seek resources to help you overcome them. Remember, this guidance is general, and it’s always a good idea to consult a legal professional for advice on your situation.
Seeking Asylum in the U.S.
The process of seeking asylum is a multifaceted journey, filled with numerous legal hurdles and personal challenges. As explored in this blog post, understanding asylum, differentiating it from refugee status, knowing the relevant U.S. and international laws, comprehending the detailed steps involved in applying, and being aware of the common obstacles is critical to successfully navigating the system.
It’s crucial to remember that while our guide provides an overview, each case is unique and has complexities. Therefore, professional legal advice is not just recommended; it is essential. Legal help can guide you through the labyrinthine process, aid you in completing the necessary forms accurately, represent you in legal proceedings, and advise you on how best to present your case.
Finally, we encourage you to watch the full videos on the YouTube channel of the Law Offices of Spektor, Spektor & Berman for a deeper understanding of the asylum process. It’s filled with first-hand experiences and valuable insights that provide additional context to our discussion. Remember, knowledge is power – the more you know, the better you can navigate the path to asylum.
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DISCLAIMER: This information is for reference only and might vary depending on your situation. Please always consult your lawyer for legal matters. The video and transcript posted here was recorded in October 2022.