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What's the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

We've talked about asylum before, and many people have heard of the phrase. Asylum is a crucial part of immigration law. However, many people have also heard of a refugee, or someone seeking refuge in another country. "Isn't that just someone seeking asylum?," you may ask yourself. What's the difference between these two ideas, and how do they pertain to United States immigration law?

The biggest difference between the two ideas is that someone seeking asylum is already within the U.S., whereas a refugee is in another country. Another key difference is that people seeking asylum apply for such a designation through the United States, whereas a refugee must apply for such a designation through the United Nations (U.N.).

If someone is to receive asylum, they must show that they are being persecuted because of a specific criteria. For example, if they are being persecuted in their home country for their religious beliefs, their political affiliation, their race, their nationality, or their affiliation with a social or political group, then they could be granted asylum. The timeline for applying for timeline isn't necessarily quick, but it can grant some important protections.

Seeking refugee status is a tough endeavor, simply because the individual is outside of the U.S. and they are applying through an international body. This can cause legal complications. However, refugee status grants many of the protections that asylum grants. If you are granted refugee status, you can be relocated to the U.S., which again comes with it's own set of complications -- though you will have that critical protection that you need.

Source: FindLaw, "Asylum and Refugees Overview," Accessed Dec. 11, 2014

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