You may have heard about refugees, but are not sure what the difference. How can a person obtain refugee status instead of being considered an undocumented immigrant?
First, let’s discuss how a refugee is determined. When a person enters this country without going through proper channels (i.e. doesn’t have a visa or a work permit), that person is considered an illegal immigrant. But if that person had fled their country because of persecution and comes to this country for asylum, then that person may be considered a refugee. The reasons are usually different between an immigrant and a refugee as well. For example, an immigrant may come to the U.S. hoping to find a better life or to be with family. The immigrant has chosen to resettle in another country. Meanwhile, a refugee leaves his/her home not because that person wants a better life, but because of war or political reasons or religious persecution. This individual was forced to resettle.
According to the U.S. Department of State, America has welcomed more than 3 million refugees since 1975 from all over the world. In 2016 alone, our country welcomed 84,995 refugees from all around the world.
In order for a refugee to be granted asylum in the U.S., he/she must register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is up to this agency to determine if the individual can be qualified as a refugee and the best solution — either to return to his/her home country, resettlement, or local integration. The UNHCR uses specific criteria to decide whether someone can be granted refugee status:
- Be considered one fo the refugees who are determined by the President of the United States to be of special humanitarian concern to the U.S.
- Meet the definition of a refugee
- Bot be firmly resettled in any third country
- Be otherwise admissible under U.S. law
If the individual is determined to stay in the U.S., he/she needs to go through an extensive screening process which includes security checks, interviews with the Department of Homeland Security, and even medical checks. The whole process can take up to 24 months.
Is it a possible for an immigrant to apply for asylum? Yes, but it can be a complicated process. Check out this article for more information.