Edward Snowden, who worked for a U.S. government contractor fleeing to Hong Kong with enormous amount of spy data, release some damaging data and subsequently fleeing to Moscow, Russia and applying for asylum in several South American and other countries brought asylum claims into the forefront.
In the U.S. asylum or refugee status is available for those who fled their home country and afraid of returning back due to fear for their life. Is there deference between asylum and refugee status? It simply depends on your location when you apply for status. If you apply outside of the U.S., then you are applying for refugee status. Someone who is already in the U.S. or at the U.S. border can apply for asylum status. Once granted both status will allow someone to stay in the U.S. They can apply after a certain period of time and obtain a work permit while their request is being processed. In order to qualify for asylum or refugee status, one must meet certain strict guidelines. They include that you are fearful for returning to the home country due to previous persecution and reason for persecution is based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or fear of persecution due to your political opinion.