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Asylum vs. Refugee: What is the difference?

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Asylum vs. Refugee: What is the difference?

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Asylum vs. Refugee: What is the difference?

The United States is known as the beacon of hope for many across the world who dream of coming to live and work here. Many of those are people struggling in their native countries and looking for better economic opportunities, but many are also people who are victims of persecution who seek to flee their native countries and seek refuge elsewhere. At the law office of Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates, we help clients in the Chicago area who seek asylum or refugee status in the United States.

Asylum Under U.S. Immigration Law

Asylum is a type of protection that allows the person who has been granted asylum to remain in the United States instead of being removed (deported) to a country where the person fears persecution or harm. Under U.S. immigration law, an individual who flees their native country because they have been persecuted or fear persecution are eligible to apply for. 

Refugee Status

Under U.S. immigration law, a refugee is an individual who has been resettled to the United States through the U.S. resettlement program. This is a separate and different process from asylum. To be resettled in the United States as a refugee, one must have fled their native country due to persecution and settled in some other country, usually some refugee camp. 

Once in the country away from their native country where the person has settled as a refugee, the person who is now a refugee can apply to be resettled in the United States or some other country as a refugee through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

If the individual applying for resettlement is approved by UNHCR, which is no walk in the park, the refugee is given permission and paperwork to come and live in the United States as an asylee.

An asylee is a legal status given to those who have applied and have been approved for asylum. So, asylum is the process by which one applies to become an asylee. There are two ways one can apply for asylum: affirmatively or defensively.

Applying for Affirmative Asylum

To apply for asylum under the affirmative asylum process, one must be physically present in the United States and meet other requirements, including filing your application within 1 year of entering the United States. The one-year requirement may be excused if you can show extraordinary circumstances that prevented you from filing the application within the first year.

Defensive Asylum Application

If one does not apply for asylum at the time of entering the United States or even after entry and they are arrested or placed in removal (deportation) proceedings, they can apply for asylum as part of their deportation defense. The criteria one must satisfy is the same as in the affirmative application; the only difference is an immigration judge will now have to decide whether the requirements for asylum are satisfied to approve the application for asylum.

Discuss Your Asylum Case with a Chicago Immigration Lawyer

If you seek asylum and are in the Chicago area, contact our office and schedule an appointment. We can advise you of your best options for immigration benefits in the U.S.

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