Immigration Lawyers Los Angeles: Immigration Questions: What is the Difference between Asylees and Refugees

Difference between Asylees and Refugees

Technically, asylees and refugees are the same. The main difference is where and how they apply, and their application for green card residency.

United States considers a refugee as someone who is located outside the U.S., has fear of persecution, and seeks to come to the United States for shelter and protection. A refugee must fill out an application and be interviewed by an USCIS officer outside the U.S., and be approved for refugee resettlement. United States laws limit the number of people resettled into the U.S. as refugees each year.

United States considers a political asylum seeker as someone who is at the port of entry (border, airport, or seaport) or already inside the U.S. and seeks protection from persecution abroad in his/her native country. Someone who is already in the U.S., legally or illegally, must apply for political asylum within one year from the date of arrival. A person may be allowed to apply for political asylum more than one year after arrival if they can show a reasonable cause for it (i.e. the situation in their native country has worsened compared to how they were when they came into the United States, etc.). Unlike refugee resettlement, there are no annual limits to the number of people who can be granted political asylum in the U.S.

Refugees are required by law to apply for a permanent residency (green card) one year after they have been resettled into the United States. Political asylum seekers are eligible to apply for a green card one year after they have been approved for asylum, but they are not required by law to do so. However, it is in their best interest to apply for a green card as soon as they are eligible to apply because:
  • Although there are no annual limits to the number of people who are granted political asylum each year, there are annual limits to the number of permanent residencies issued to asylees.
  • If conditions in their native country improve or their personal circumstances change and they no longer meet the definition of asylees, they may not be able to remain in the United States under asylum status.

Policies related to political asylum seekers are regulated under The United States Refugee Act of 1980.

Last reviewed on: 06/15/2012
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