In order to qualify for asylum one must have suffered persecution or fear of future persecution indicated in one of the following grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
The hardest one to prove is belonging to a particular social group. This particular group is subject to many arguments and has been the cause of multiple litigation throughout the country. It differs from asylum officer to asylum officer and a difference from immigration judge to immigration judge. Almost everybody has a different opinion of what a particular social group is.
As a general rule, a particular social group is a specific group of people viewed by government as a threat. It is also often described as a group sharing a common characteristic that is so fundamental to their individual identities that the members cannot or should not be expected to change. Problem is to define what that shared characteristic is. It can be gender, it can be color, it can be family ties, or it can even be shared experiences. These shared experiences can be former member of a gang, maybe part of a military corruption, member of a gang cartel, or even some kind of property ownership. In its most vague term a particular social group is a group composed of persons who have a similar background, social status, experiences, or habits.
However this particular area has been the subject of much litigation. The United States of America has specifically recognized tribes or ethnic groups. It has also recognized social classes, family members, dissidents, homosexual groups, police or military, and in some cases even women who may be targeted in their home country.
In recent years the United States of America has recognized gender. This has allowed some women to request asylum based on their fear of genital mutilation or even Islamic dress code requirements. To be considered as a particular social group it has to be perceived as a unique group with its own society. The crucial termed is uniqueness. It is then determined the poor or rich does not qualify as a membership of a particular social group.
One should note that what may be considered a particular social group in a foreign country is not necessarily a particular social group in the United States of America. For example, married women who are abused by male in El Salvador, cannot leave those relationships, and cannot obtain help from the police. This has been found part of a social group. On the other hand, married woman in Canada who are in abusive relationships are not a particular social group. The main reason for his is because it is believed that the Canadian government will do a much better job of protecting their women that the Salvadoran government will.
It is very hard to predict if one particular social group will fall within the requirements of what is a particular social group within the United States of America. One should argue that the grant of an asylum application based on the persecution on account of a protected group will have better chances of being granted that arguing that one is persecuted because of a membership in a particular social group. If one is claiming asylum as membership in a particular social group, they should be advised by an experienced immigration attorney to help them with this process. This will only increase the chance of winning an asylum application.