Asylum vs. Refugee Status - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

When people want to come to the U.S. to escape persecution in another country, they can apply for asylum or refugee status.

But what are the differences between the two?

Here’s what you need to know.

Asylum vs. Refugee Status

Basically, asylum and refugee status are the same – but there’s one major difference, and it lies in where you asked to enter the U.S. for protection.


You can apply for protection in the U.S. under asylum laws if you meet the definition of a refugee and you’re already in the United States. You can ask for asylum no matter where you’re from, and regardless of your current immigration status. In fact, you have up to one year after arriving in the U.S. to ask for asylum in most cases.

Refugee Status

You can apply for protection in the U.S. under refugee laws if you meet the definition of a refugee and you’re of “special humanitarian concern to the United States.” You can ask for refugee status when you’re outside your country but not in the U.S. (If you’re in the U.S., you’ll ask for asylum.)

What’s the Definition of a Refugee?

A refugee is a person who has been persecuted in his or her country or has a credible fear that they will be persecuted because of:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • A particular political opinion

A person’s eligible family members can typically be allowed into the U.S. with the refugee or asylee, but every case is different, and you must apply for permission to bring or include your family on your petition.

Do You Need to Talk to a Milwaukee Immigration Attorney?

If you need to talk to a Milwaukee immigration attorney, we may be able to help you. Our lawyers can answer your questions and help you with asylum or refugee status, removal proceedings and immigrant visas, as well as a wide range of other immigration issues. Call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule your consultation today.

Carlos Gamino