To answer this question properly, we need to clarify the technicality of the process of receiving shelter in the United States.
Technically, if you fear persecution on the grounds of your race, religion, political opinion, sex, or membership in a particular social group, you can find shelter in the US two ways:
- Apply for asylum
- Apply for refugee status
Depending on the country where you’re located, you can apply either for asylum or the refugee status. If you’re applying for asylum, you must be located on the United States territory. Therefore, technically, USCIS doesn’t give you the right to apply for political asylum from outside the US. Note, however, that you can apply for refugee status (which is basically the same thing as asylum) if you’re afraid of being persecuted (or you were persecuted) because of your political opinion, and if you’ve left your country.
That is, say you’re Chinese and you moved to Thailand to escape persecution for your political opinion. You need to file a formal request to the U.S. Embassy or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Thailand and get a referral to The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The officials of the USRAP will review your application for refugee status and determine whether you qualify for this status in the US. If you do qualify for refugee status for political opinion, you will be resettled to the US, and your spouse and children, if any, will also have the right to apply for refugee status.