Russian Citizens Fleeing Military Draft (Mobilization) – is Asylum in the United States an Option?

Posted by Lola Zakharova

On September 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a "partial mobilization" of Russia's armed forces. The announced call-up would take 300,000 civilians into military service, with thousands of Russians across the country receiving draft papers known as “Povestka.” As a result of the announcement, Russian citizens who are unwilling to fight in Ukraine due to their political position have been exploring ways to leave Russia. Those with family in the United States have been wondering whether they have any immigration options in the United States.

In a press conference on September 27, 2022, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked the about the United States’ position on Russian men fleeing the military draft initiated by President Vladimir Putin. Ms. Jean-Pierre’s response appeared to indicate the White House’s position that the Russian people should not be held responsible for the actions of their government. She went on to say, “Anyone seeking refuge for persecution, regardless of their nationality, may apply for asylum in the United States and have their claim adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.” After hearing this news, people may now have questions about the U.S. asylum process.

As an initial matter, this announcement does not mean an automatic grant of asylum to any Russian citizen. Instead, each individual seeking asylum in the United States must submit an individual application for asylum which will be adjudicated by the government on its merits.

Secondly, any rumors indicating that Russian citizens should approach U.S. embassies and consulates to seek asylum are false. An asylum application can only be made if an individual is physically present in the United States or presents himself or herself at a U.S. port of entry.

Lastly, simply fleeing military draft does not give a basis for asylum. Instead, the individual must be unwilling and unable to return to Russia due to fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, stemming from refusal to join the military.

If you are a Russian national considering asylum in the United States, we have provided some basic information you need to know:

  1.  You can only file an application for asylum if you are physically present in the United States or at a U.S. port of entry.
  2. You must apply for asylum within one year of your arrival to the United States by filing Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.
  3. You can include your spouse and children in the asylum application.
  4. If you have already received asylum in a different country, you are not eligible to seek asylum in the United States.

In order to qualify for asylum, applicants must prove to U.S. immigration authorities that they are seeking protection in the United States because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Asylum applications can take a long time to be decided, but asylum seekers are eligible to apply for an employment authorization document after their application has been pending for 150 days. Asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the United States while the application is pending unless a special travel authorization is granted by the government.

If you are already in the United States and wish to seek asylum, you should contact an immigration attorney to discuss your eligibility as soon as possible. Asylum is an extremely complex and difficult process, and individuals are more likely to be granted this form of protection if they are represented by experienced attorneys authorized to practice law in the United States. Consultants, paralegals, or notarios are not authorized to practice law in the United States.


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