immigration lawyer in pasadena

Key Differences Between Applying For Asylum And Refugee Status

immigration lawyer in pasadena

Asylum seeker and refugee are titles that are often applied interchangeably. However, there are differences between the definitions of the two and in how the legal process handles them. This is why it’s important that if you are applying for either status in Los Angeles you hire an immigration lawyer in Pasadena.

The Difference Between Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Both an asylee and a refugee cannot stay in their country due to persecution or fear of an attack. The applicant must establish that there is a well-rounded fear of persecution, whether its due to religion, politics, race, ethnicity, or nationality.

The difference between the two applications is in whether the applicant has left their home country. In many jurisdictions, including the United States, an asylee is a person who is already outside of their home country. They are unwilling to go back to their country of origin because of the dangerous situation there and can seek legal residence and protection in the country they’re currently in. The United States government is obliged by immigration laws to review all the applications from asylum-seekers. It doesn’t matter if the applicant got to the country illegally or are legally in the U.S. with a Visa, they can apply for asylum status to receive certain protections while in the United States.

On the other hand, a refugee is someone who hasn’t yet left their country. They would request protection from the U.S. while still living in their home country. In more dire cases, individuals may request refugee status when they arrive at the border of the United States.

The Application Process

As you seek an immigration lawyer in Pasadena, you need to understand the nature of these processes. The immigration legislation requires asylum-seekers to file Form I-589 within a year of arriving in the United States. Applicants can include their spouses and any children who are under 21 years and unmarried.

Even though the process takes a shorter time to apply, it can be risky and complicated. If you don’t succeed with your asylum application while you are in the United States, you could lose your status. An immigration lawyer in Pasadena conversant with the laws can provide immigration help so that you can appeal the decision.

If you file the I-589, you won’t get as much support as a refugee whose application is under consideration. But asylum-seekers can apply for a work permit after 150 days since they last submitted their file for asylum.

Individuals seeking refugee status must first get a referral from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR may refer you for settlement through the United States Settlement Program (USRAP).

The referral is not easy to get, especially if you are trying to resettle to the United States. Only less than 1% of applications get referred to USRAP. Once you get the referral, you can apply for refugee status. It is important to note that being referred to USRAP does not mean you will get your application approved automatically. All these processes have to be done within certain timelines and are guided by strict procedures and are best handled by an immigration attorney.

One advantage of seeking asylum is that it is a much shorter process. You can expect a response to your application within weeks.

Once your application goes through, you will get help in finding employment and exploring low-cost housing options. Immigration laws also require some cultural orientation and training be made available.

Applying for Permanent Residency

Both can apply for a permanent residency Visa within a year. For refugees, the application for Permanent Residency is mandatory, while it is optional for asylum seekers.

To apply for U.S. Permanent Residency you need to:

  • Have lived and been physically present in the United States for one year after your application was approved.
  • Have continued to be a refugee or asylum seeker and still have a legitimate status.
  • Be admissible to the U.S. as an immigrant.
  • Have not been firmly resettled in a foreign country.


The asylum process is simpler and shorter for those who do not want to go through the lengthy process of applying to become a refugee. However, you will not get as much immigration help as is needed from agencies. Whether you are seeking asylum or refugee status, you should consider getting an immigration lawyer in Pasadena to help you through the process.