U.S. Asylum Law – Protection under the Convention Against Torture

Applying for Protection under the Convention Against Torture
If you believe you will be tortured if forced to return to your home county, you may apply for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). There is no formal application to submit a CAT claim but there is a box on Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, that you can check if you wish you apply for CAT protection.

Unlike asylum and withholding of removal claims, a CAT claim does not require that you show that you will be tortured because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

The standard for CAT protection is the same as for withholding of removal – you must show that it is “more likely than not” that you will be tortured if you are forced to return to your home country.

Definition of Torture in U.S. Immigration Law
U.S. law defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or her or a third person information or a confession, punishing him or her for an act he or she or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or her or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind.”

To qualify for CAT protection, the torture must be done by or at the request of the government or with the permission or agreement of the government.

Differences Betweet CAT and Asylum & Withholding of Removal
CAT protection differs in important ways from asylum and withholding of removal:

If you have committed a serious crime, you may be eligible to apply for CAT protection. Serious crimes usually disqualify you from applying for asylum or withholding of removal.

If you are applying for CAT protection, you do not have to prove that your torture is due to your religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. However, the torture must be by or with the permission of a government official.

If you are applying for CAT protection, you must show that the harm you are likely to suffer if forced to return to your home country meets the definition of “torture.” For asylum and withholding of removal, you need to show that the harm you are likely to suffer if forced to return to your home country qualifies as “persecution.”