Every year, thousands of people leave their native countries and seek asylum in the United States after suffering or fearing future torture and persecution back home due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group (including being gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual).
Historically, as long as asylum seekers’ stories were credible, immigration judges were likely to grant asylum even if they lacked certain types of documentation. That changed when the REAL ID Act of 2005 was voted into law.
REAL ID Law of 2005
Passage of the REAL ID Act of 2005 established stricter documentation guidelines for all immigrants including asylum seekers. Now immigration judges may require more than just a credible story from the asylum application in order to grant asylum. According to the law:
- Asylum seekers must comply with requirements to submit supporting documentation on asylum applications or other information for relief as provided by law, regulation, or instructions on the relief application form.
- The immigration judge will determine whether or not the testimony of an applicant or witness is credible and persuasive, and will refer to specific facts demonstrating satisfaction of the burden of proof. The immigration judge shall weigh credible testimony along with other evidence of record. Under the Real ID Act, credible testimony alone may not be enough to win your case if the immigration judge determines that there was documentary evidence available which you could have submitted to the court, but did not do so.
The Power of Secondary Documentation
The Los Angeles-area immigration attorneys at Nalbandian Law handle more asylum cases than any other single type of immigration law. Recently we represented an asylum applicant who had been severely beaten and injured by the opposition political party back home.
Under the stricter guidelines of the Real ID Law, our client didn’t have the required documentation the judge needed to grant asylum. Specifically, our client didn’t have medical records documenting his injuries, nor did he have a card showing his membership in the persecuted political party.
In spite of these problems, Nalbandian Law was able to obtain secondary documentation from witnesses in his native country that supported our client’s credible story.
The documentation included a detailed letter from a neighbor who treated our client’s injuries. The letter further explained that when the neighbor tried to get a copy of our client’s party membership card at the local political office, the party official refused, saying he could only give the card directly to our client. We presented an additional letter from another witness who stated that he had been to political demonstrations with our client.
Other law firms may not have pursued alternate ways to obtain secondary documentation as we did; others may not have taken our client’s case. Yet thanks to our supportive documentation from credible witnesses, the immigration judge was satisfied and granted our client asylum.
The Problem of Missing Documents
Amidst the haste and turmoil of fleeing their native country, asylum seekers may be unable to bring all the documents they’ll need to support their asylum plea. It is important to provide immigration court with valid reasons why documents are missing. Additionally, having secondary documentation from witnesses like relatives and neighbors can make the difference between asylum being granted or refused.
Call 818-244-0310 today and talk to the immigration experts at Nalbandian Law, an experienced law firm in the Los Angeles metro area. We know exactly what USCIS is looking for in a winning application. We’ll review your situation and determine if you have a valid case for asylum. If you do, our careful preparation and thorough documentation will ensure you have the best possible chance of being granted asylum.