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Understanding asylum and refugee issues

South Carolina residents may wonder what the difference is between asylum and refugee status. While many seek permission to live in the country, those seeking asylum are categorized as individuals who are currently located on U.S. soil. Refugees, on the other hand, have not yet entered the country. Location determines the direction for a petition to be submitted. A refugee would seek the assistance of the United Nations while an individual seeking asylum would make a request directly to the United States government.

An individual who seeks asylum needs to be able to demonstrate that there is a fear of persecution upon return to his or her home country because of the person's race, nationality, religious beliefs, political opinions or social affiliations. The request must typically occur within a year of coming to the U.S. and may not occur concurrently with an application for employment authorization. Family members must be named in the petition for the asylum request to also include them. The individual may seek permanent residency after holding asylum status for a full year.

Seeking approval of refugee status is similar except for location at the time of application. An application submitted to the United Nations for this status may allow various countries to be considered for full-time residency. The United States government reviews applications for resettling in the nation prior to granting permission.

Because every case is unique, someone seeking entry into the U.S. could work with a legal professional who is familiar with these areas of immigration law. A lawyer may ensure that all appropriate family members are named in a petition and help an individual or family to adhere to requirements and deadlines imposed by the government. The lawyer may also coordinate entrance into the country for an individual who has requested refugee status.

Source: Findlaw, "Asylum and Refugees Overview", August 14, 2014

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