Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or HIV positive can be grounds for an asylum claim. Seventy-seven countries currently criminalize some aspect of being LGBT. Facing fear, harassment and sometimes violence because of their sexual orientation, gender or HIV status, people reach out to Immigration Equality from all over the world. They look for answers about how to apply for asylum, about what the process is like, and about the potential benefits and risks involved. See below for answers to the most frequent questions we get about being an LGBT asylum seeker.
Important note: Unfortunately, right now a filing deadline exists that renders many LGBT people ineligible for asylum. The way the law is currently written you must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States. There are some exceptions to the filing deadline rule (see below), but they are narrow and sometimes difficult to prove. Immigration Equality and our sister organization Immigration Equality Action Fund are working hard to get Congress to repeal this arbitrary deadline because we know that a deadline of any kind could harm our community. The filing deadline is addressed in the bipartisan “Border Security, Economic Empowerment and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” bill, S. 744, which was passed by the Senate in the summer of 2013. The House of Representatives has so far refused to take up the bill; if it is not voted on, this bill will expire December 31, 2014. Because the filing deadline is dictated by statutory law, only Congress can make the change we need. Asylum claims should be considered based on merit, not compliance with an arbitrary deadline.