Hi, this is Allan Samson, immigration lawyer operating in California.
I’d like to talk a little bit about asylum applications if you’re from countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and in a general sense, countries from the former Soviet Union.
There’s a strategy choice in applying for asylum from those countries. There are some stories, some reasons which have a greater success rate than others and Id like to talk about those right now. If you come from Russia, the greatest success rate would be if you’re homosexual or LGBT because of the Russian government policy to discriminate against gays and LGBT people. This is the basic reason, but once again it’s not… just don’t say you’re gay, show that you have been involved perhaps in the past in gay organizations in Russia, or gay clubs or with photographs of you in gay meetings.
If you’re living in the United States try and join gay organizations so you can get letters of support from new gay friends in the United States who will attest to the fact that yes, you are gay or you are LGBT.
You want to show that you really are gay, that you belong to gay organizations here in the United States, and that you have belonged to gay associations or gay organizations in Russia.
My Mother and Father were born in Russia but I don’t speak Russian – I grew up at a time where they wanted children to be Americanized so they never taught me Russian. I’m married to a Russian woman but she speaks better English than I speak Russian, so the only thing I know are the [inaudible] words which I cannot mention here.
Okay, the importance in an asylum application for Russia is a good story, letters of reference from friends in the United States, and if you can get any documentation… let’s say you were at a Gay pride parade in Moscow and the police broke it up. Maybe photographs of you in the parade or maybe if you were beaten and went to the hospital, hospital records.
The key things are records, dates and records. Maybe a police report? You put in a police report when they called you a gay bastard or a homosexual bastard and you put in a police report. You can show that police report in your asylum application.
Other good reasons to apply for asylum from Russia and from Ukraine would be religion, particularly in Russia : Seventh Day Adventists, or Jehovah's Witness.
I’ve handled a number of cases, gay cases and a number of Jehovah's Witness and Seventh Day Adventists cases and these are religions which are not tolerated by the Russian government.
The Russian government is now in a close alliance with Russian Orthodox religion which will not allow any competition from non- Russian Orthodox or other religions in Russia.
When I first started practicing law many years ago, a good story was that you’re anti-communist but of course now it makes no sense to be anti-communist, there is no longer communism in the Soviet Union so the key stories would be Religion, Religious Discrimination, Gay Discrimination and if by any chance you had the ‘good luck’ to be arrested or be beaten in anti-Putin demonstrations and you can document that you were arrested or beaten, you can certainly use this in a good asylum application in the United States.
Make certain that you haven’t lived in another country beforehand, make certain that have not lived in England or France or Germany beforehand because American law will say you should not be able to apply for asylum when you can go and live in Germany or France or England. Make sure you cannot live in any other country.
The American court system takes a long time and the American asylum application takes a long time.
Right now or several years ago when I was starting to practice you would have your asylum application interview 2 months after the USCIS received your asylum application. Now it’s probably almost a year before your get your asylum interview and this gives you the opportunity to apply for work authorization if no decision has made in your case for more than 7 months or more than 6 months, 180 days, you can apply for work permission.
If you need to work, you want to apply for asylum, you have a good case for asylum but you need to work in the meantime, right now is a good time because of the slowness of the American legal system, it will allow you to be able to get work permission while your application is being considered.
If your application is denied, (they never use the word denial, they say you didn’t give reasons to merit an approval) you’ll be put into removal proceedings or deportation proceedings in front of the immigration judge and you’ll have a chance to make the same case in front of the immigration judge.
Many clients that I have had have failed in applying for asylum, they’ve hired me as their attorney and have won in front of the immigration judge. I’ve filed a few cases myself where my client lost at the asylum interview, I felt it was a good case and I encouraged them to keep me as their lawyer when they were going in front of the immigration judge and those cases I won.
Just because you lose at basic level does not mean you cannot win at higher level. It’s certainly possible. Judges have more knowledge about the requirements for asylum than asylum officers do. So from Russia and Ukraine: political reasons, anti-government feeling, anti-government demonstration, gays and LGBT, and minority religious beliefs and memberships will be valid reasons for applying.
Probably don’t waste your time in applying for economic reasons. Another good reason would be spousal abuse: if your husband or wife beat you and your feared for your life and safety and you reported it to the police in Russia and the police did not protect you or they told you to go back to the house and you ere beaten again… this is a good reason to apply for asylum in the United States, if the government of your home country is not willing or able to protect you from spousal abuse. There are increasingly successful cases from Russia and from Latin America on this basis now.
Once again, spousal abuse, religion, sexual orientation and anti-Putin, anti-government sentiment and demonstrations are valid reasons to apply.
Once again, whatever you choose, make sure your story is good plan your story with your lawyer, do not ask your lawyer to lie for you, do not ask them to make up a story for you. If somebody asks me to make up a story I will say sorry, I don’t do it, I’m not willing to lose my license to practice and part of the reason I am so successful is because I have a good reputation in court and I have a good reputation among officials in the immigration department. They know that I will not make up a fake story so the story that my client presents is more believable because I have a good reputation and good lawyers have good reputations.
If you go to a lawyer that does not have a good reputation, your story will not be viewed with believability or credibility.
Okay, thank you very much for your attention.
We are often approached by clients who are willing to immigrate to the United States under the Political Asylum Program (political asylum). Most of them present the real facts of harassment in their native country.
Some clients make straightforward statements that they are doing well. Hence, they do not experience any harassment. However, they show their willingness to move to the United States due to high wages and salaries and living standards, as well as the opportunity to participate in the Social Security program provided by this developed country. We have to frankly explain to such potential clients that we are a U.S. licensed immigration lawyer`s office. Therefore, we do not make up stories and do not engage in illegal activities. We recommend that clients follow our lead.
However, some clients are not sure whether their harassment record will be accepted or denied by the U.S. Immigration Service – USCIS. We suggest that clients familiarize themselves with the following websites describing the current situation in their native country. These are known as Country Condition reports.
Country Condition reports are published by governmental, relevant non-governmental institutions, and international organizations on a periodic basis. They describe the current situation in political, economic, social and legal areas of the country in general and in particular. The USCIS immigration officer relies on these reports to compare your request with the situation in your country to draw a conclusion concerning the actual potential for harassment and persecution in your particular case.
Country Condition reports are an important part of your case. You can find them on the following websites:
www.osce.org — The official OSCE website where you can find flash reports and daily reports on the current situation in the flashpoints. There are also thematic reports and reference materials on military conflicts and the human rights violations in many countries. The special section dedicated to the crisis and harassment in Ukraine may also be useful for Ukrainians seeking political asylum in the USA.
www.state.gov — The official website of the U.S. Department of State. We encourage you to visit this site. This section contains the reports on all countries, describing the current situation in the country in the areas of religious freedom, human rights, freedom of speech, democratic freedoms, and more. For instance, there is a report on harassment of religious organizations in Russia and a report on human rights, which play an important role while applying for political asylum in the USA for Russians.
www.amnesty.org — The official website of the global human rights movement, where you can find the reports on all countries as well the examples of human rights violations. For instance, the section on the current situation in Kazakhstan or the report оn impunity for torture and other ill-treatment in Kazakhstan indicates the current nature of the harassment in that country.
www.hrw.org — The principle website dedicated to human rights, containing annual and quarterly reports, as well as publications on legal issues around the world. If you are a refugee from Kyrgyzstan in the U.S., you can find the information on deterioration of the human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan here.
cpj.org — The website of the Committee to Protect Journalists. This site is particularly useful if the core of your case is the harassment in the area of journalism and the media. If you are a journalist and you are seeking political asylum in the U.S. from Belarus, then you can find some evidence of harassment of journalists here.
There are many more resources with information on the current situation in different countries. We recommend you check the reports and publications on the following websites: freedomhouse.org, www.fidh.org, en.rsf.org, humanrightsfirst.org.
If you find information describing the situation in your country and you reasonably believe that you have also been persecuted or harassed in your country, or you have a well-grounded fear of being subjected to such persecution - briefly describe your specific situation on 2-3 pages and submit it to us. Please, also fill out the Application on our website.
Our immigration attorney will carefully review your history, and you will receive an unbiased assessment of your chance to immigrate to the United States under the political asylum program. Moreover, we will assist you with the proper execution of the petition in accordance with the constantly changing requirements of the U.S. Immigration Service.
Our immigration offices are located in the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento. However, over the last 26 years, we have successfully helped clients located in many American cities who are from the countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and from China – and we continue to do so.