What Happens If An Asylum Seeker Returns To Home Country
Author: US Asylum Attorney Alena Shautsova
US Asylum lawyer Alena Shautsova, based in NYC, Brooklyn, helps clients to understand US asylum laws, prepare and submit their asylum applications and fight for them in asylum office and Immigration courts.
When a person requests asylum in the United States, he/she declares that under no circumstances he/she is able or willing to return to their home country (or country of persecution). This is the only way a person can qualify for a “refugee” definition and receive asylum in the United States. If a person has some fear of return, if a person can find a safe place in their home country upon return if a person is just harassed there, but generally, can return and live safely in their home country, then a person does not qualify for asylum...
However, it is easier said than done: we are not born in isolation, often asylum seekers flee their homes leaving behind parents, children, other family members, property that helped them to support themselves, at times, property that became is a reason for persecution… As such, there may be a need for a return to their home countries: to see a terminally ill family member, or for some other extremely important reasons...
Returning to one’s home country while the asylum application is pending
A person who has submitted his/her asylum application in the US and is waiting for an affirmative asylum interview (that is an interview with an Asylum officer and not a court hearing) can travel outside the US only if he/she obtains advance parole. Advance parole is permission to travel that is given to the applicant in advance of travel and that allows him/her to come back to the US after leaving the US while a person’s application for an Immigration benefit is pending with the US immigration authorities.
But, an applicant’s voluntary return to the country of persecution will certainly raise questions regarding the presence of well-founded fear of return to the country. For example, an asylum seeker who obtained advance parole, and returned to their home country would jeopardize his/her asylum claim. Such a return would constitute an abandonment of the asylum claim that was still pending while the applicant was waiting for an interview with an asylum officer. See 8 CFR 208.8(b). The good news is that it is not an absolute prohibition on travel, and in fact, an asylum seeker is allowed to put forward evidence that his/her return to the home country had compelling reasons. Of course, in such cases be prepared that the home-travel will raise multiple other issues: such as credibility of the entire claim, questions regarding freedom of travel to/from your home country, absence of possible detention in your home country, etc. For these reasons, and to avoid harm in your home country, it is best to avoid traveling there completely.
Returning to One’s Country Before the Claim is Filed
Usually, however, there will be a different scenario: a person is returning to one’s home country after he/she has the first opportunity to leave that country and before filing his/her asylum in the United States. For example, X travels to the United States in 2016, stays in the US for 2.5 months, leaves the US to go to his home country. X and his family members come back to the US at the end of 2017. After the second entry to the US, X submits his asylum claim. Will his claim be denied because he returned to his home country after the 2016 visit? The answer depends on many factors, but X will face an additional battle compared to someone who applied for asylum in the US the first time he/she entered the US. X will likely be questioned about the events that took place in his home country after his 2016 return there, if his fear of return occurred prior to the 2016 US visit or after, the reasons for his return, etc.
Returning to Home Country After Asylum is Granted
A person who receives asylum status in the United States is considered “stateless” and should not be using the passport of his/her home country for international travel. In the United States, a person is allowed to receive a travel document issued to asylee that they can use for the purposes of international travel. Some countries treat this travel document almost like a passport. But some do not: they do not recognize this document as an official document for international travel purposes, usually because these countries did not adopt the corresponding international agreements. In the United States, a person who was granted an asylum status shall be using such travel documents for the purposes of international travel even after he/she becomes a green card holder until he/she becomes a US citizen, at which time the person will be using a US passport for travel.
If a person who is already an asylee travels back to his/her home country before he/she becomes a US citizen and uses a US citizen passport for such travel, it may pose an issue of the credibility of his/her claim. Again, if there is a compelling reason for the return, a person may present such an explanation: to visit a family member in trouble, conduct some public work, etc.
If you need help with an asylum claim, please reach us at 917-885-2261 to book a confidential consultation or visit our website.