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Refugees and Asylees – What’s the Difference?

What is a refugee?

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. More than half of all refugees worldwide come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

            UN Refugee Agency


What is an asylee?

An asylee is someone in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

           – US Citizen and Immigration Services


  • A refugee has been granted protected status before entering the United States. An asylee has been granted protected status after applying for it from within the United States. While their case is being evaluated, they are known as asylum seekers.