A refugee is a person who has left his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution or death based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. An individual gains the legal status of “refugee” outside the United States, usually in camps that are set up in countries neighboring the country of turmoil. Refugees are admitted into the country by the U.S. government and may apply for legal permanent resident status one year after being admitted as a refugee.
Asylum-seekers also flee persecution, but people in this category head for the United States without having gone through the refugee resettlement process. Asylum-seekers hope to be granted asylum from persecution from within the United States. The legal process for gaining asylum can be complicated and drawn-out. Asylum-seekers who are granted asylum become asylees. Asylees can apply to work in the U.S. and may petition to bring family members to the U.S. After one year, asylees may apply to become legal permanent residents.