Asylum and refugee status are special legal protections available to people who have left their home country for their own safety and are afraid to return.
Asylum is an immigration benefit, applied for within the U.S.,that allows certain foreign nationals who fear persecution to remain lawfully in the U.S. indefinitely. Persecution must be based on one or more of five grounds: Religion, Political Opinion, Membership in a particular Social Status, and Nationality. People who are granted asylum may apply for lawful permanent residence (a green card) one year after being granted asylum. With some exceptions, an asylum application generally must be filed within one year of the applicant’s last entry into the U.S.
Refugee status is an immigration benefit available to foreign nationals abroad and must be applied for outside of the U.S. To apply for refugee status, the foreign national must find their way to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate or, preferably, to an office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There, they will be interviewed about their persecution and asked to submit forms and supporting documents for their claim. If approved, the foreign national will be given a visa that can be used to enter the United States.