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What Is the Difference Between Asylum and Refugee Status?

February 03, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 312

Asylum and refugee status are easily confused with each other based on their similarities. However, from the standpoint of immigration law, the two are distinct and must be dealt with using the proper application forms and processes.


The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants both statuses based on fear of persecution to individuals of a protected class, characterized by race, religion, nationality, political views, or memberships in particular social groups. To obtain either status, immigrants must provide sound evidence that proves a well-founded fear of persecution. Both asylees and refugees may apply for a green card after remaining in the United States one year from the date when the USCIS granted them status.

Refugee status

According to the USCIS website refugees are individuals who cannot return to their countries because of fears of prosecution based in solid facts or significant threats to their life or freedom. Such individuals apply for refugee status from a location outside of the United States.

United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 define a refugee in this manner: "The 1951 Convention protects refugees. It defines a refugee as a person who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail him- or herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution. People who fulfill this definition are entitled to the rights and bound by the duties contained in the 1951 Convention."

The refugee status is not permanent: "A person may no longer be a refugee when the basis for his or her refugee status ceases to exist."

The 1951 convention excludes persons who committed:

a crime against peace;a war crime;a crime against humanity;a serious non-political crime outside their country of refuge;are guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Asylum status

Immigrants already in the United States or at U.S. ports of entry who fear persecution must apply for asylum rather than refugee status. The USCIS requires that asylum applicants also qualify under the definition of a refugee and must not fall under laws that bar the application or granting of asylum. Refugees are required to apply for permanent resident status one year after being admitted to the United States. Unlike refuges, asylees may apply but are not required to apply for permanent resident status one year after being granted asylum.

Law Office of Alena Shautsova

If you consider seeking asylum or refugee status, working with an experienced New York immigration lawyer improves your chances of obtaining status. Both statuses are subject to yearly quota restrictions and an attorney can advise and help you present a convincing argument to the USCIS.

Source: EzineArticles
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