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Can minor children apply for asylum in the U.S.?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Immigration Law

Many parents are relieved to learn that minor children can apply for asylum in the United States, either as principal applicants on their own right or as derivatives on their parents’ asylum applications. 

With that said, understanding the unique concerns that need to be addressed in asylum applications for minors is important, as these cases often involve sensitive circumstances and complex legal considerations. If these concerns are not effectively addressed, a child who deserves asylum could be turned away. 

Unaccompanied minors

Children who arrive in the U.S. without a parent or legal guardian are classified as unaccompanied minors. These children have the right to apply for asylum independently. The process begins with the child expressing fear of returning to their home country, either upon arrival at a port of entry or while in immigration custody. These minors are entitled to special protections, including custody arrangements that prioritize their safety and well-being.

Accompanied minors

Minors arriving with a parent or guardian can either apply for asylum jointly with an adult’s application or file separately as a principal applicant if they have individual grounds for asylum. In cases where a child’s reasons for seeking asylum are distinct from those of their parents, it may be advantageous for them to file separately to outline their specific fears and experiences.

In both scenarios

For minors, particularly unaccompanied ones, the asylum process typically involves interviews to determine if they have a credible or reasonable fear of persecution. In some cases, if returning to the home country is not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment by one or both parents, minors might be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which is a different legal pathway from asylum that can lead to permanent residency.

Minor children, whether unaccompanied or accompanied, have the right to seek asylum in the U.S. But, these applications must be handled with particular care to address the unique vulnerabilities and legal needs of minor children.