Many people use the terms “asylum seeker” and “refugee” interchangeably, but there are important differences between the two. An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection and who is still waiting for a determination on their claim for refugee status. A refugee, on the other hand, qualifies for asylum.
The more you understand about the two, the easier it is to understand your own status in the country.
A refugee is an individual who leaves their home country in fear of persecution for their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social connections. The United States received 25,519 refugees in 2022.
Asylum seekers have also fled their home country in search of safety. However, they are still waiting for a determination on their refugee status. As an asylum seeker, you ask the U.S. government for international protection to keep you safe from your home country due to a fear of persecution.
When the government approves an asylum application, you become a refugee. Not all asylum requests receive approval. The government might deny your request if they find insufficient evidence of persecution fears.
The key differences
When it comes to communicating with the U.S. government and immigration officials, understanding the differences between asylum seekers and refugees can save a lot of confusion. Remember that asylum seekers request protection. While that request is under consideration, they are still waiting for asylum and not yet a refugee.
As a refugee, you have greater protections for your right to stay in the country. While you await an asylum determination, you could still face deportation. It is in your best interest to file asylum or refugee petitions right away to protect yourself.