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Laws current as of December 17, 2020

Who qualifies for asylum? Will being a victim of domestic or sexual violence qualify me?

To be eligible for asylum, you must show that:

  1. you were or will be “persecuted” in your home country; and
  2. at least one central reason for the persecution is your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.1

You may be eligible for asylum if you fall into one of the above categories. However, it is not enough to prove that you were the victim of domestic or sexual violence, or any other kind of violence. You must also show that the abuser committed or justified his/her actions because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Some courts have recognized opposition to societal norms of violence against women as a “political opinion.”2 Typically, though, domestic violence cases are based on harm on account of your membership in a particular social group. Each case is different and depends on the facts, but some domestic violence victims may be able to show that they were abused because they were married to the abuser and could not leave the relationship, because they were a member of the abuser’s family, or because they are women.3

Domestic violence asylum claims are very complicated and difficult to win without an attorney. To find a list of legal resources in your area, please see Finding a Lawyer and select your state or see our National Organizations Immigration page.

    INA § 208(b)(1)(B)(i); 8 USC § 1158(b)(1)(B)(i)
    2 Hernandez-Chacon v. Barr, 948 F.3d 94 (2020) (political opinion based on resistance to male dominance)
    3 See, e.g., De Pena-Paniagua v. Barr, 957 F.3d 88, 95 (1st Cir. 2020) (approving asylum based on particular social group of “Dominican women unable to leave a relationship with the man who abuses them” but also encouraging applicants to assert claims based simply on being in the social group of “women” or “women in a certain country”)