What Is Asylum?

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When a foreign national in the United States is afraid to go back to their home country, they may be able to ask the U.S. government for asylum. Individuals who have been persecuted (or fear they will be persecuted) on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may be eligible for asylum status in the U.S.
While this definition may appear straightforward, asylum law is exceedingly complex and a grant of asylum is difficult to achieve. There are many legal elements to asylum, and not all persecution that people have suffered or fear will qualify them for asylum. Because the persecution suffered or feared must be “on account of” race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, merely fleeing civil war, without additional qualifying factors, is not a basis for asylum. Additionally, “persecution” does not include mere discrimination, harassment, or mandatory military service, unless additional qualifying factors are present.