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Credible vs Reasonable Fear

Credible fear and reasonable fear, they sound basically the same, right? Both are standards by which USCIS determines if an individual has a legitimate asylum claim. Yet they are subtly different. The United States grants asylum to those who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in their country on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. A well-founded fear of persecution means that the asylum seeker doesn’t need to have experienced persecution in the past, only that there is a pattern of persecution against people who are similar to the applicant.

A person can either make an affirmative or a defensive claim of asylum. An affirmative claim means that the asylum seeker is not currently in removal proceedings, while an individual who files a defensive claim of asylum is already in such proceedings.

Both affirmative and defensive asylum applicants have credible fear interviews with asylum officers. The interview is used to pre-screen asylum seekers, during which the individual needs to establish that there is a significant possibility that she will be persecuted if she returns to her country.  If she can do this, she will have the chance to plead her case before an immigration judge. There are no mandated standards to meet to prove a significant possibility of persecution and this definition is intentionally broad. It is only meant to be a screening mechanism for asylum candidates.

Reasonable fear screenings are for individuals who are subject to administrative removal from the US because they are aggravated felons or the US has reinstated a prior order of removal. If the asylum officer determines the claim to be valid, the individual will have a hearing before an immigration judge who will decide if she is eligible for withholding of removal. The applicant must prove a “reasonable possibility” that she will be persecuted or tortured upon return to her home country. Like credible fear, there is no mandatory bar for reasonable fear candidates but it is the same legal standard used for well-founded fear in asylum cases.

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