The number of asylum seekers admitted in the US has shifted over time, and so has the number of refugees the US government allows in. The 2020 ceiling for admissions was lowered to 18,000, just over half of what it was the year before. However, the number of people petitioning for asylum has more than tripled since 2009.

This change means the US is permitting its smallest number of asylum seekers since 1980, despite the growing numbers. For asylum seekers displaced by war, oppression and violence, these reductions will impact their ability to gain status as a refugee.

What’s the difference between asylum seekers and refugees?

To be granted asylum in the U.S., a person must prove they’re a victim of persecution or violence in their country based on factors like religion, race, political opinion, or other similar circumstances. When that person’s case is accepted by the country they are seeking asylum in, they are given status as a refugee, which in turn provides international protections.   

How is immigration different from seeking asylum?

Immigration is when a person seeks residence in another country, usually for reasons like joining family or seeking better work and education opportunities. Immigrants seek green card status, which classifies them as a permanent resident.

Some people decide to immigrate for economic reasons, like leaving a poverty-stricken location. These economic migrants cannot gain classification as a refugee.

The application process is more complicated and much lengthier than seeking asylum. Asylum and refugee status provides an expedited path to safely and legally residing in a new country, which in turn opens up the possibility of gaining a naturalized citizenship.

Since World War II, the US has opened its arms to more refugees fleeing persecution than any other country. An immigration attorney can help determine your qualifications for seeking asylum, and guide you through the process.