What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum-seeker?

An immigrant seeking political asylum in Maine must feel “fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group, or political opinion.” Under U.S. law, an asylum seeker differs from a “refugee” in that a refugee has applied for and been granted the legal right to stay in this country, often after spending significant time in a refugee camp. Asylum seekers arrive without having been granted that right; most have been forced to flee war and turmoil in their native countries. Most asylum seekers enter the US on some type of valid visa, and must then apply for legal residence to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) within a year of arrival. The application process typically takes 2 -5 years before the person is finally interviewed and either granted or denied asylum. Most asylum seekers arrive with very little, and are initially dependent on General Assistance. Under the current law, asylum seekers cannot even apply for work authorization until 150 days after they submit their asylum application; that authorization can then take 30-60 days to receive.