Are Refugees and Asylum-Seekers the Same?

The Worldwide Pursuit of Life and Liberty

Many understand immigrants as people who come to another country to pursue education, employment opportunities, and an overall better life for their families. But when these people are leaving their homes in search of something much more basic—like food, shelter, and safety—they are considered refugees and/or asylees. Some of these individuals and families may be hoping to return home when it’s safe. For others, however, that day may never come, so they begin the process of applying for permanent residence in their new country.

Refugee vs. Asylum-Seeker: What’s the Difference?

The difference between these two types of migrants is a matter of status. All asylum seekers are refugees, but any given refugee may not be an asylum seeker.

Refugees are those who flee their country due to the threat of persecution, violence, human rights violations, and/or war. They may be facing persecution due to differences in areas such as:

  • Religion
  • Political opinion or group
  • Race or nationality

They are either temporarily or permanently unable to return to their home. Of all the refugees around the world, roughly two-thirds come from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria. While determining an exact number is difficult, most institutions count nearly 26 million refugees around the world today.

So where exactly are they? Some are safely under the protection of a country that granted them official refugee status. Approximately 6 million reside in refugee camps, which are temporary shelters that provide accommodations such as food, water, and medical attention. Others are dispersed in informal dwellings or urban areas. Unlike migrants, who are still subject to the laws of their home countries, refugees are protected by international laws, even if they have not been officially granted refugee-status by a specific country.

Asylum seekers are refugees who are officially requesting asylum, a form of sanctuary that comes with legal implications and benefits provided by a specific nation. Currently, 3.5 million people around the world are seeking asylum. When a government grants this status, it provides the refugee with legal protection and various forms of assistance.

Applying for Asylum in the U.S.

To attain asylum (official refugee status) in the United States, refugees need to file a Form I-589 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within one year of arrival. They will be required to provide extensive details about the threats they face in their home country. Refugees will not qualify for asylum if they have persecuted others, committed certain crimes, pose a threat to national security, have a third country they could apply to instead, or have previously been denied asylum.

Once granted asylum in the U.S., refugees are eligible to:

  • Live and work in the United States
  • Receive benefits such as welfare, food stamps, or Medicaid
  • File for their spouse and children to come to the United States
  • Apply for permanent residence one year after being granted asylum
  • Apply for citizenship (naturalization) five years after obtaining residence in the United States

Are You a Refugee in Need of Legal Support or Representation?

Our attorneys at Gambacorta Law are dedicated to helping people all around the world successfully achieve their U.S. immigration goals. Some are joining their families while others are the first to arrive. Whether our clients are here to start a business or escape dangerous conditions in their home country, we support every move with commitment and compassion. If you are a refugee and you need information about your rights, guidance regarding next steps, or representation in court, our legal team will listen closely to your story and fight for your right to stay.

Call (847) 443-9303 or fill out our online contact form. We look forward to taking on your case today.