There has been much ink spilled regarding the definition of a refugee under United States law, and who fits it in this day and age. There is a difference between a refugee and an asylee, although many use the terms interchangeably. It is imperative to understand which category you fit in, or if you fit both categories, which one better applies to your situation.
Refugee vs. Asylee
There are two primary differences between the two statuses; however, there are many similarities as well. Both refugees and asylees fear persecution if they return to their home country, based on one of the five criteria listed in the 1951 Geneva Convention (race, religion, political opinion, nationality, and membership in a particular social group). The differences, however, lie in procedure and in the question of potential immigration status.
Procedure wise, there is one main requirement that varies for refugees and asylees. To apply for asylee status, you must be in the United States, and you must qualify under the Geneva Convention criteria as having a well-founded fear of persecution if you were returned to your home country. Generally, asylum applicants must file their applications within one year of their entry into the United States.
Refugee status, however, requires that you must be located outside the United States in order to apply. Your case must also be of “special humanitarian concern” to the United States. The restrictions on refugee status are arguably more stringent than those on asylees. Still, the U.S. admits far more refugees than asylees in most years, according to State Department statistics.
The major difference between refugee and asylee claims hinges on the question of immigration status. To be considered for refugee status, you must be admissible under the immigration laws of the United States. The grounds on which to hold someone inadmissible are clearly spelled out in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and if you apply, you may be able to obtain a waiver of the ground in question (such as a criminal record or a disease or health condition). However, sometimes it is not possible. The rationale is that anyone might conceivably have acts in their past for which they would be barred entry, and that does not change regardless of refugee status.
Asylees, by comparison, do not have to be admissible in order to seek asylum in the United States. This is one of the reasons that many undocumented immigrants and foreign citizens brought to the U.S. as children apply for asylum; they may simply have no other way to obtain legal status.
Enlist Experienced Legal Help
Potential asylees are in somewhat better positions with regard to overseeing their claims than are refugees, and because they are in the United States already, asylees may be able to hire legal assistance. The knowledgeable Chicago immigration lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC understand what is required in your situation, and we will do our very best to help you get the outcome you desire. Contact our office today for a free initial consultation.
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