Sometimes, circumstances make it unsafe for someone to remain in their own country. Once they leave, there isn’t any hope that they will be able to safely return. They need a new home country. While some people might use the terms asylum seeker and refugee interchangeably, these are two different terms that have to do with the location someone is in when they ask for political protection from persecution that they’re facing in their own country.
Understanding the difference can be helpful if you find yourself in this situation.
Who is an asylum seeker?
Asylum means that they are seeking protection from their own country while they are already living in the United States. It’s also possible to seek asylum at a port of entry into the country.
Who is a refugee?
A refugee is a person who files for protection before they try to enter the U.S. In some cases, they do this on the way into the country.
People who file for asylum, regardless of where they are located, face a lengthy process. They have to ensure that they get the documents filed within a year of arrival in the U.S. Anyone who’s claiming this must ensure that they have proof of the persecution that they’re facing in their home country.
It’s best to ensure that you have legal representation if you’re a refugee or you are going to seek asylum. This is a complex undertaking that involves background checks, fingerprinting and interviews. Many people who are granted asylum opt to pursue citizenship in the United States after the 5-year waiting period. Having an attorney they’re familiar with may be beneficial to them.