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Convention against Torture (CAT) Protection

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018 (last modified Oct 25, 2019)

What is the Convention against Torture Protection (CAT Protection)?

The rules for providing protection under Convention against Torture (CAT Protection) implements the United States' obligation under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, which mandates: “No State Party shall expel, return (‘refouler') or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

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CAT protection is a deferral of removal. This is a temporary relief which withholds the removal (deportation) of non-citizens, who are removable, to a country where they may be subjected to torture, either directly by government officials or indirectly with the consent or acquiescence of government officials.

What is torture?

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines torture as

[A]ny 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, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

8 C.F.R. § 208.18(a)(1).

What do I need to prove to receive CAT protection?

Persons applying for deferral of removal based on CAT protection must show that:

  • It is more likely than not that they would be tortured (as defined above) if deported to their home country or any other country to which the government plans to deport them.
  • They are not terrorists.

To obtain CAT protection, the applicant must mmeet a very hard burden of proof.  CAT protection applications are rarely granted.

Note that CAT protection is only aimed at preventing torture.  It does not protect against all other potential harms (such as persecution and deprivation of liberty) on the basis of which applications for asylum or withholding of removal may be made. At the same time, those applying for CAT protection need not prove that the harm would befall them on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Why would a person apply for CAT protection as opposed to asylum or withholding of deportation?

People who have committed certain crimes would not qualify to apply for asylum or withholding of removal. Their only recourse to avoid torture would be to apply for CAT protection. At the same time, because of the disqualifying criminal acts, some of CAT protection applicants may remain in detention during the removal proceeding or while in deferral status.

Again, CAT protection is just a temporary deferral of removal.  Unlike asylum, withholding of removal and CAT protection are individual-only relief, meaning that the relief does not extend to the person's spouse and children.

Can I work while in CAT status?

If you receive CAT deferral of removal and you are not detained, you may apply for employment authorization.


Related Topics:


Withholding of Removal

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Removal Proceeding Procedure & Defenses

Removal Proceedings

Grounds for Removal

Undocumented Immigrants

Expedited Removal


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