Knowing the difference between asylum seekers and refugees

Asylum seekers are refugees whose claims are yet to be evaluated by the government.

Knowing the difference between asylum seekers and refugees
To apply for asylum, individuals must submit a Form I-589. (Source: KFDA)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Although the terms “asylum seeke” and “refugee” are often used interchangeably, most people do not know the difference. The easiest explanation is asylum seekers are refugees whose claims are yet to be evaluated by the government.

Immigrants seeking help in other countries, the United States for example, will remain asylum seekers for as long as their applications for refugee status are pending.

According to U.S Citizen and Immigration Services, refugee status or asylum may be granted to persecuted individuals after becoming endangered on accounts of race, religion, nationality and/or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who:

  • Meet the definition of refugee.
  • Are already in the United States.
  • Are seeking admission at a port of entry.

In order to receive status as a refugee, a person must first receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for consideration. Eligibility for refugee status is determined on a case-by-case basis through an interview with a specially-trained USCIS officer.

During interviews, officers will examine relevant evidence, including testimony, to determine if the applicant:

  • Qualified under a designated processing priority.
  • Meets the definition of a refugee.
  • Is not firmly resettled in a third country.
  • Is otherwise admissible under U.S. law.

The length of the entire asylum/refugee process can take between six months to several years, depending on circumstances. To apply for asylum, individuals must submit a Form I-589.

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