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The Convention against Torture

Posted on in Immigration
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asylum claim, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, torture, immigration, immigration relief, Chicago immigration lawyer, CAT protectionWhile the United States has had its differences with the leadership of the United Nations (UN), she has also been a signatory to several groundbreaking treaties. One of them is the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT), signed in 1984 and ratified 10 years later by the U.S.A.

The language of this convention has allowed some people to claim a form of immigration relief in the United States—yet it is still misunderstood and misinterpreted. An individual who does not qualify for asylum may still qualify for CAT protection.

The Convention in U.S. Law

CAT relief is perhaps best suited for those who specifically fear being tortured, rather than those with a generalized fear of future persecution. Not all forms of persecution qualify as torture. The standard is actually higher than the one for asylum. In an asylum case, you must show credible fear of future persecution. However, in CAT cases, you must show it is “more likely than not” that you would be tortured upon return to your home country.


There are two major advantages to applying for CAT relief in addition to or in place of asylum. The first is that if you qualify, you must be granted protection—the Convention makes the grant mandatory. The second is that if you have bars against you that prevent a grant of asylum, they are not relevant to the question of CAT relief—it may still be granted, despite the bar.

However, to go along with these perks, there are two factors with CAT relief that may be less than ideal—namely, CAT protection can be withdrawn if the situation in your home country stabilizes, and also that the convention does not prevent you from being settled in a safe third country, if U.S. officials decide for whatever reason to refuse you the right to remain in the country. Additionally, CAT protection does not confer any rights to potential citizenship or permanent resident status, unlike a grant of asylum.

Procedure for Application

Unlike an asylum claim, there is no time limit on applying for CAT protection—it is even technically possible to do so after a final order has been handed down against you. Most people apply for CAT protection at the same time that they apply for asylum—simply by checking the appropriate boxes on an application for asylum.

As stated, to qualify for CAT protection, you must demonstrate that you are more likely than not to be tortured if returned to your home country. You must also demonstrate that what you are likely to face qualifies as ‘torture’ under the CAT—in other words, “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted” that is not related to any lawful sanction or punishment. For example, if you were beaten because of your race, that might qualify as torture, or merely as persecution, depending on the context.

If CAT relief is granted, it can come in two types: withholding of removal, and deferral of removal. They are essentially the same, but deferral of removal or deferred departure is more easily rescinded if circumstances change. Both permit applying for work authorization, but only for the person granted protection, not for their families.

Get a Professional on Your Side

If you are applying for asylum, or if you are ineligible for asylum but still need relief from deportation, we can help. The Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC have years of experience that we will use to fight for you. Contact us at our DuPage County, IL offices to discuss your options today. Your first consultation is free.


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