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Russians Seeking Political Asylum in US

As of March 11, 2022, 6,400 Russians and 900 Ukrainians have arrived at the Southwestern border of the United States seeking political asylum in the US. This Russia-Ukraine war has not only brought economic uncertainty and volatility in both countries but has ignited a huge humanitarian crisis with millions of refugees, both Russians and Ukranians, seeking asylum in other countries.

Where and when to file for US political asylum

If you are a Russian who is already in the US or at an American border post or port of entry (i.e., a US airport), you can apply for political asylum by filling out Form I-589. You cannot apply for political asylum when you are outside of the US or in a US embassy or consulate. Under 8 USC § 1158, any alien, such as a Russian, must be physically present in the US or must arrive in the US at a designated port of arrival to apply for asylum.

You must apply for asylum within 1 (one) year from your arrival in the US. Even if you are in the US illegally, you can still apply for political asylum. However, filing beyond the one-year period from your arrival can lead to a denial of your application. Although there are exceptions to this one-year period, it is always better to observe the period in filing the asylum application.

Grounds for Russians applying for political asylum in the US

Under 8 USC § 1158(b)(1)(A), you can apply for political asylum if you fall under the definition of a refugee. A refugee is defined in 8 USC § 1101(a)(42) as a person outside a country of his nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of a well-founded belief of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

With the 2022 Russian-Ukraine crisis, most Russians who have fled Russia are applying for political asylum in the US under the ground of a well-founded belief of persecution due to political opinion. These Russians usually have participated in anti-government demonstrations and fear that their lives will be in danger if they return back to Russia. Under CFR 1208.1(d), under the ground of political opinion, there must be an expressive behavior of political opinion and not simply a generalized disapproval of or disagreement with the State.

Filling out the Form I-589

If you are a Russian applying for political asylum and filling out Form I-589, you have to be careful about what you write. Anything written here can be used against you. Everything written and stated in your application is signed under oath, and any false information stated can be considered perjury. False information will also lead to the denial of your application. It is better to seek the counsel of a reputable lawyer to help you in filling out your Form I-589 and making sure your application is complete. Any incomplete application will be returned to you and will delay the process of having your political asylum approved.

Documents to support the Form I-589

Your identity

Aside from the completed and signed original and copy of your Form I-589, you need to submit your passport, other travel documents (Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, etc.), and other identification documents (driver’s license, national ID card, birth certificate, military card, etc.).

Your family members’ identities, if you include them in your application

If you are including your family members in your application, you also need to submit evidence of your qualifying relationship with them. For your spouse, submit a marriage certificate. For your children, submit a birth certificate. The USCIS understands that you might not have these documents on hand during your departure from your country and accepts secondary evidence to prove your qualifying relationship with your family members.

Secondary evidence consists of medical records, religious records, or school records, and an affidavit from at least one person for each event you are trying to prove. For example, if you want to prove that you are married to your spouse, a third person should execute an affidavit attesting to his personal knowledge of your marriage to your spouse. You must also execute an affidavit explaining why primary evidence (birth certificate, marriage certificate) is not available.

Evidence to prove your grounds for applying for political asylum in the US

As previously mentioned, most Russians who have fled to the US are applying for political asylum under the ground of persecution due to political opinion. To prove this, your application should include corroborative evidence showing the general conditions in your country and the specific facts on which you are relying to support your claim. This type of supporting evidence may include newspaper articles, affidavits of witnesses or experts, medical and/or psychological records, doctors’ statements, periodicals, books, photographs, official documents or personal statements, or live testimony from witnesses or experts. During your interview, you can bring witnesses to support your claims.

Under 8 USC § 1158, your testimony alone, without corroboration, may be sufficient to sustain your burden of proving that you are a refugee. This only applies if your testimony is credible, persuasive, and refers to specific facts sufficient to demonstrate that you are indeed a refugee. Your candor, demeanor, responsiveness, consistency in statements, and the inherent plausibility of your account of events are factors in determining the credibility of your testimony.

Ultimately, it is always better to submit corroborating evidence to support your testimony, and if such evidence is not available, a valid justification why you cannot reasonably obtain the evidence. Your lawyer will advise you on the documents you will need to support your claims.

Applying to work in the US

You can provisionally apply to work in the US only after 365 days from the time you submitted your application for political asylum and such application has been accepted as complete, even if your application is still pending. If you received a denial of your application before the 365 days is up, you cannot apply to work in the US.

Incomplete application

If your application is incomplete, your application will be rejected due to deficiencies. You may, however, re-file the application. For this reason, it is always better to secure the services of a lawyer to ensure that your application is complete when submitted in order to save time.

Denial of application by USCIS or referral to the immigration court

Your application may be denied by the USCIS or referred to the immigration court. A referral in the immigration court is not a denial. It just means that your case will be referred to the immigration court, and the immigration judge will be the one to decide your case.

Applying for political asylum in the US is a tedious task with lots of documentation and paperwork required. The grant of political asylum in the US can spell your future and that of your family’s. It’s always better to get the services of a reputable lawyer rather than do this on your own. Should you need assistance, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at attorneyalbertgoodwin@gmail.com.