Can I Apply for Asylum at an American Embassy?

No. You must be physically present in the United States to apply. The distinction between a refugee and an asylee (asylum applicant) is easy to confuse. Both are considered persons who are subject to persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Consequently, both types apply for humanitarian relief with the U.S. government. The main difference in processing, however, is where the individual is located. Refugees are located outside of the U.S and outside of their native country. Asylees are already within the U.S. or a port of entry of the U.S. This distinction is important because it affects how and where you can apply for relief.

Asylees: Asylum for Those Located in the U.S. or a Port of Entry

If you are an asylee, you can apply for affirmative or defensive asylum processing within the United States. With some limited exceptions, your application must be filed within one year of your entry into the U.S. You are not allowed to work until your asylum application is approved or you have received prior authorization to work.

Refugees: Asylum for Those Located Outside the U.S.

If you are a refugee, you may contact the American embassy for assistance in submitting an application for resettlement to the United States. They will assist you in completing your application and gathering your supporting documentation. They can also help arrange loans to pay for any relocation expenses. Once your application is approved and you enter the U.S., you are authorized to work. Within one year of your entry, you are required to apply for permanent residency status, or a green card. Filing your application as quickly as possible with the American embassy is important because caps or quotas are generally set each year for the number of persons admitted as refugees. 

Even if you are not eligible as a refugee under the refugee process, you may still qualify for assistance through other asylum-type programs through the American embassy. For example, if you are the victim of domestic violence, you may not fit the statutory definition of refugee, but you may still qualify for a visa under the Violence Against Women Act.

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