Following are some tips on how to prepare supporting documentation, which is a critical component of your application.
What You Need to Prove
Every document you include in your asylum application should be designed in some way or another to help prove that you meet the legal requirements for asylum. More specifically, these documents, combined with Form I-589 and your interview, should prove that:
- You meet the legal definition of “refugee” due to persecution or fear of persecution on the basis of your race, religion, nationality, political views or membership in a particular social group.
- You complied with the one-year deadline for submission of an affirmative asylum claim.
- You are not subject to a US government ban on immigration benefits (by previously submitting a fraudulent asylum application, for example).
- Your story is internally consistent (it doesn’t contradict itself) and it is also consistent with available external evidence.
Documents Not Written in English
Any document not written in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. What this means is that you must include not only the original non-English document, but also a word-for-word translation, followed by a statement from the translator that (i) identifies the document and the translator (ii) states that the translator translated all of the document to the best of his ability and (iii) includes the translator’s signature.
Documents translated by well-known local translation agencies are considered the most credible.
Your Personal Statement
A personal statement is not required since Form I-589 includes space to provide the information that is typically contained in a personal statement. Nevertheless, since it is unlikely that you will be able to tell your entire story in the scant space that Form I-589 provides, you are probably going to need to submit a separate personal statement.
Your personal statement should explain why you left your country and why you fear to return there. The more specific details you provide, the better, as long as the details are accurate. You should also do your best to link the persecution you suffered or fear that you will suffer to the grounds of persecution (race, religion, etc.) that will support an asylum claim. This is where your lawyer can provide you with, particularly valuable assistance.
Personal Supporting Documents
Personal supporting documents are documents that relate to you as an individual (rather than, for example, conditions in your home country or the persecution that a particular group is experiencing there). These documents can be used as follows:
- To establish your personal identity: A copy of your passport, national ID card, birth certificate, etc. will be needed.
- Evidence of your membership in a persecuted group, if possible: A membership document in a political party, for example, or a union membership card, depending on which persecuted group you are a member of, would help greatly. If you are being persecuted due to the color of your skin, on the other hand, your personal presence might be evidence enough.
- Direct evidence of your own persecution, if you have experienced any yet. This might include medical reports, photographs, etc.
A witness statement can come in the form of a signed letter; however, notarized affidavits are usually best because they better confirm the identity of the witness and because the affidavit format is considered a more reliable guarantee of the truthfulness of the content of the statement. Two important types of witness statements are:
- Statements from fact witnesses, which can corroborate, for example, specific facts about the persecution you have experienced, or your presence at events sponsored by persecuted groups (attendance at a house of worship, for example). Statements from government officials, clergy, family, friends, etc. are all acceptable. You may also need a witness to corroborate the date of your entry to the US (if you entered illegally) so that you can prove you complied with the one-year deadline.
- Medical or psychological evaluations from doctors, psychologists, etc. that can confirm the harm you have suffered.
All of your statements should be detailed, fact-intensive and relevant.
You might include a statement from, for example, a country-condition expert who is familiar with human rights conditions in your country. Numerous immigration assistance groups can put you in touch with a country condition expert.
Other Types of Documents
Feel free to include numerous relevant newspaper clippings and other mass media documentation that can help substantiate your claims, especially if your name or photograph appears in them. Human rights reports issued by the US government or by a private organization such as Amnesty International can also help support your case.