Q: I’m currently on an F-1 student visa studying in the US. I am afraid to go back to my home country. Can I apply for asylum?
A: Yes, immigrants present in the US may apply for asylum, as long as they have a true non-frivolous claim. Although applicants generally need to apply during their first year in the US, there are some exceptions, including maintaining another lawful immigration status (like your F-1 status.) However, you should still apply as soon as possible.
TPS: Some countries have been designated for Temporary protected Status, or TPS. You should check the list of current TPS countries, and talk with your international student advisor or an immigration attorney about this option as well.
Asylum: Asylum is not just based on being afraid. Your situation/fears need to meet 3 specific criteria, and need to be reasonable. For example, as part of the application, you would provide reports to show that harm you suffered, or are afraid of suffering is reasonable for your country. I’ll outline the general 3 criteria below:
As an asylum applicant, you’d need to show (1) you suffered harm or have a reasonable fear of future harm that rises to the level of persecution; (2) the persecution was on account of one or more protected grounds which include: race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion; and (3) the persecution was committed by the government, or by forces that the government was unable or unwilling to control.
An immigration attorney could tell you more information about these 3 criteria and help you decide the strength of your case. Depending on the jurisdiction where you apply, courts may have interpreted these 3 criteria a bit differently.
If you decide to apply for asylum, the decision can take more than 1 year. After 5 months, if you have not yet received a determination on your case, asylum applicants can apply for an EAD work permit.