Immigration can be a source of opportunity. People enter the country to get married, to take a job, to go to school or to reunite with family members. Other times, immigration can be a form of self-protection. Those facing persecution from their governments may have no choice but to leave their country and move somewhere else.
Those who face persecution could struggle to support themselves. They could also be at risk of losing their homes or their lives. People face persecution for features they have no control over, such as their ethnic heritage.
The United States is among the many countries that allow victims of government or institutional persecution to immigrate. Some people come to the United States as refugees, while others seek asylum. In both cases, the people entering the United States have faced persecution abroad. What primarily differentiates refugees and asylum-seekers?
Asylum seekers apply after entering the United States
Those seeking asylum typically do so after entering the United States. They file paperwork requesting asylum so that they can stay and avoid returning to a country where they faced persecution.
Immigrants seeking asylum typically believe that it would be unsafe for them to return home because of ongoing persecution targeting their religious group, race, cultural group or nationality. Others apply for asylum because of their membership to a specific religion, social group or political party.
Refugees apply for entry to the United States while living abroad
Refugees are people who would need to flee their country for their own safety. Some refugees apply for entry into the United States while still in their home country, while others apply after leaving and arriving in another country that is safer but still not ideal. They may not have either legal permission to be in the country where they currently live or the ability to enter the United States through a standard visa program.
As someone already living in the United States, asylum will apply to you more than refugee status. Seeking asylum can help you begin a new, safer life. Understanding what paperwork you need to file and how to demonstrate the possible persecution you face if you return home could increase your chances of securing asylum and staying in the United States.