Looking to Obtain Asylum in the US? This law just made it more difficult.

On June 11, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided Matter of A-B-, a case negatively affecting those applying for asylum based on domestic violence or gang violence. Immigration courts and immigration officers are required to abide by the decision in Matter of A-B-. Under the new law, claims based on domestic violence or gang violence will generally not qualify for asylum. Matter of A-B- overturned the decision Matter of A-R-C-G-, which recognized domestic violence as a ground for asylum.


On July 11, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued new guidance for immigration officers who are deciding asylum and refugee claims. The guidance informs immigration officers that in accordance with Matter of A-B-, claims based on fear of domestic or gang violence will not establish the basis for asylum.

The guidance also reminds officers that they are not required to grant asylum if an applicant is eligible—that asylum is a discretionary form of relief. Even if an asylum seeker meets the requirements for asylum, the guidance notes, officers can still choose to deny asylum. The guidance informs officers that they should consider relevant factors in deciding whether to grant or deny asylum, including:

  • whether the asylum seeker entered the U.S. illegally;
  • whether the asylum seeker passed through other countries or arrived directly to the U.S.;
  • whether he or she made any attempts to seek asylum before coming to the United States;
  • the length of time the asylum seeker remained in a third country; and his or her living conditions, safety, and potential for long-term residency there.

The guidance informs officers that few gang and domestic violence based claims will merit a grant of asylum or refugee status. While the current law makes it harder for those fleeing domestic violence or gang violence to obtain asylum in the United States, not all claims based on those grounds will be rejected.

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