If you fear for your life, your health or your family safety, you will likely do anything you need to do to protect yourself and the people you love. Fears about corrupt government and institutional discrimination can lead to people desperately trying to enter the United States.

Living here as an undocumented immigrant puts you in a position of risk. If you wind up in trouble with the law, if you get severely hurt or you otherwise come to the attention of state authorities, you could find yourself facing potential deportation.

If you have reason to suspect that you would be subject to persecution if you return to your home country, you may have grounds to claim asylum and ask the government to let you stay in the country despite entering it without a visa or travel permit.

Who can qualify for asylum in the United States?

Generally speaking, only those subject to institutional or governmental persecution in their home country have a right to claim asylum. In fact, the government in the United States limits the characteristics that lead to that persecution.

Those who worry that they will face unfair treatment or even death because of their religion, race, nation of origin or politics may potentially qualify for asylum. The same is true for those who belong to certain social groups that are subject to persecution in their country of origin.

How do you claim asylum as an undocumented immigrant?

Those hoping to stay in the United States due to an asylum request will need to submit a special form, Form I-589, to apply for asylum consideration. A single application is usually enough for an individual, their spouse and their unmarried minor children.

As a general rule, applicants need to submit that form within a year of their entry into the United States. Different forms are necessary if you want to work in the United States, although you will have to wait a year after applying for asylum to qualify.

Given that those seeking refuge in the United States often have to travel quickly and without time to plan or secure a job, there are not the same financial requirements that there are for other sorts of immigration requests. There is no application fee for filing asylum paperwork in the United States.

Getting help with paperwork and having someone to advocate on your behalf during an asylum hearing can increase your chances of success.