Is Asylum the Same as Refugee in America?

In recent years, there has been a lot of news chatter about asylum seekers and refugees. If you haven’t paid the closest attention to news stories, then you might have gotten mixed up about who is a refugee and who is an asylum seeker. If you are like so many other Americans, then you might have been led to believe that asylum status is the same as refugee status, but this is not true. Although being a refugee and an asylee – or someone who seeks asylum – puts a person in two very similar circumstances, they are different.

Brief descriptions of asylees compared to refugees are:

  • Asylee: Someone who seeks protection from the U.S. government while within the United States.
  • Refugee: Someone who seeks protection from the U.S. government while outside the United States.

In effect, an asylum seeker can be granted the right to stay in the country after entering while a refugee can be granted the right to enter and then stay.

Similarities for Asylum & Refugee Status

One of the main similarities between an asylee and a refugee is that they are both seeking protection from persecution in their countries of origin. By entering the United States and possibly starting a new life there, they could be preserving their lives and those of immediate family members who have fled their homes with them.

Proving that they would be persecuted if they stayed can be a difficult matter, though. Asylees and refugees alike will benefit from tangible proof of persecution or evidence that creates a “well-founded fear of persecution.” Credible news stories from the country of violent acts against certain groups, letters or emails that directly threaten the asylee or refugee, and medical records that detail injuries that suggest abuse or torture can all be used to create a more convincing case.

Asylum law requires that persecution previously inflicted or that will be inflicted on an individual must be based upon a protected class. Persecution does not generally include civil war or general violence, or violence inflicted by criminal organizations.

Asylees and refugees must be facing persecution due to their:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Membership in a particular social group

If you are seeking protection as an asylee or a refugee, then you more than likely need the assistance of an attorney experienced in asylum case law.

Benefits of Asylum & Refugee Status

Once a foreign national is granted asylum or refugee status, a number of other immigration opportunities will open to them. Most can apply for work permits that will allow them to find gainful employment while in the United States, for example. Housing, educational, and financial opportunities can also be made available to lawful refugees and asylees.

Perhaps best of all, an approved asylum seeker or refugee can stay in the United States indefinitely if they meet other immigration conditions, such as not having a criminal record with serious crimes. After one year of being approved as a refugee or asylee, they can apply for a Green Card, which will grant them legal permanent resident (LPR) status. Green Cards can be renewed for 10-year periods any number of times.

Asylum to Stop Deportation

Both asylees and refugees can face deportation after receiving status. If DHS is attempting to deport you, then you file an asylum application with an immigration court judge to stop deportation procedures and request asylum. If you have not been placed in removal proceedings, then you still have asylum rights, but the procedures may be different and require filing before USCIS.

If you have questions about asylum, refugee status, or immigration law in general and require the assistance of a legal professional, reach out to Carlson & Burnett in Omaha, Nebraska. Our attorneys can help with a wide variety of immigration cases and concerns, including those involving asylum seekers who must escape persecution in their home countries. Contact us now to discuss your options with a team that genuinely cares about your future and wellbeing.



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