A person within the United States may be granted asylum if he or she can demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on (1) political opinion, (2) religion, (3) race, (4) nationality, or (5) membership in a particular social group. A person who is outside the U.S. may apply for refugee status based on this same criteria. The Refugee Act of 1980 conforms U.S. immigration laws with various UN conventions and protocols.
The fear of persecution must be either by the government of his country or by a group that the government is unable to control.
If a person is in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge, in addition to applying for asylum if he fears persecution, he may also be eligible to apply for withholding of removal and for relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). However, in order to qualify for withholding of removal, the person must demonstrate that it is more like than not that he will be persecuted if he is forced to return to his country. This is a higher standard that the “well-founded fear” standard for asylum which can be met if the person has at least a 10% chance of being persecuted.