“Withholding of removal” is an immigration phrase used to describe instances wherein U.S. immigration officials prevent a foreign alien from being removed to their country of origin. This is done in cases where the person’s safety, life, or freedom would be in danger due to their membership in a protected category, such as race, political affiliation, religion, nationality, or membership in a specific social group.

Withholding of removal is often available as an alternative in case the person is not granted asylum status. It is more difficult to obtain than asylum status; however, it is often more advantageous because the applicant is automatically granted withholding of removal if they qualify for it. In other words, the granting of the withholding is mandatory so long as the person meets all the requirements.

When Is Withholding of Removal Available?

Withholding of removal is only available to certain people. The main requirement is that the person will be facing a “clear probability of persecution” if they were to be removed or deported to their country of origin. That is, it must be “more likely than not” that persecution would occur upon return to their country.

In addition to that main requirements, there are several things that might disqualify an applicant from a withholding of removal. The person will be barred from the protection of a withholding if they:

  • Persecuted others
  • Were convicted of a serious crime, usually a crime involving moral turpitude
  • Committed certain non-political crimes while outside of the U.S.
  • Participated in acts of terrorism

How Is Withholding of Removal Different from Asylum?

If a person is actually granted withholding of removal, they will be granted more narrow protections and rights than a person who is granted full asylum. For instance, withholding of removal:

  • Is specific to the person’s country of origin (i.e., they will not be removed to country of origin, but can possibly be removed to a different country)
  • Is specific to the person, meaning that spouses/children cannot also receive protection under the person’s withholding of removal
  • Does not provide opportunities for lawful permanent resident status
  • Provides less benefits and opportunities in terms of work status
  • Does not allow the person to re-enter the U.S. if they leave the country

Thus, withholding of removal can be seen as a narrower or more limited form of relief from removal/deportation. However, it is still a beneficial option for persons seeking refuge in the United States. Persons who apply for asylum are highly encouraged to also apply for withholding of removal in the event that they are denied asylum status.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with Withholding of Removal Issues?

Withholding of removal is a very specific immigration status and is only granted if all conditions are met. You may need to hire an immigration lawyer in your area if you or a loved on of yours needs assistance with a withholding of removal application or issue. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice and research to determine what your options are under current immigration laws and policies. Also, if you need to attend an immigration interview or court meeting, your lawyer can provide you with representation during those times as well.