Asylum Seeker or Refugee Graphic

Immigration 101: Refugees, Migrants, Asylum Seekers: What's the difference?

We hear these terms all the time. Migrant. Refugee. Asylum seeker. Immigrant. What’s the difference? Let’s break it down. 

A migrant is a person moving from country to country for any number of reasons - better life, better job, more opportunities. 

An immigrant is someone who moved to another country and has established residency legally or illegally.

Then there are refugees and asylum seekers. They both seek protection because they fear persecution based on a number of factors, including race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion

But the process of how they get protection differs. Refugees must apply from overseas and have to be vetted and approved before traveling to the United States. 

Asylum seekers are people who are already in the US or at the border. They must apply for protection within one year of arriving.

Whether you are a migrant, refugee, immigrant or asylum seeker, it can take years to get legal status in America.


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