A Guide to San Francisco for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

San Francisco is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. Often leading the way for progressive political movements, San Francisco was the birthplace of the United Nations in 1945 and the “Summer of Love” in 1967. Today, San Francisco is known for its inclusive LGBTQ communities and is ranked highly on world “liveability” rankings.

Facts and Tips:

  • San Francisco holds the biggest LGBTQ Pride festival in America in June.

  • The famous Golden Gate Bridge is one mile long and connects the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Its paint color is “International Orange.”

  • The Chinese fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco by a Japanese immigrant.

  • The city is famous for its steep and winding streets; the steepest being Filbert Street at an angle of 31.5 degrees.

  • Castro and SoMa, San Francisco neighborhoods, were named the world’s best “Gayborhoods” by Gaycities members in 2016.

  • San Francisco’s cable cars are the only moving U.S. National Historical Monument.


San Francisco is a compact city with an extensive public transportation network that makes getting around without a car the preferred travel method. Trip planning is available online or by dialing 511.

San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni): Muni is the primary transit operator within San Francisco. Its extensive network of buses, trolleys, streetcars, and cable car lines, serve every tourist destination, shopping district, and residential neighborhood located within city limits.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART): BART is another regional transit operator in the Bay Area. Its extensive train network connects San Francisco with Peninsula and East Bay cities and both airports (SFO and OAK). BART’s destinations guide has more information on points of interest.

Ferries: San Francisco is well suited for ferry service, and several lines offer a scenic, practical way to venture out from the city.

Bike Share: San Francisco has several bike options for one time rentals or monthly/annual plans. The largest is Ford GoBike.

Car Share: San Francisco has several car share services available in convenient locations around the city such as Zipcar and Maven Car Sharing.

Rideshare Apps: Both low-cost ride sharing apps Uber and Lyft are available across San Francisco.

Important Phone Numbers:

Here’s a list of important phone numbers that LGBTQ asylum seekers might find useful. It would be best to save these numbers to your phone or have them available at all times in case of an emergency.

Emergency- 911

Non-Emergency- 415-553-0123

City Services and Questions- 311

Hate Crimes Investigation- 415-553-1133

Sex Crimes Investigation- 415-553-1361

Immigrant Legal & Education Network ICE Reporting Service- 415-200-1548

Animal Control- 415-554-6364

24/7 LGBT Crisis/Suicide Prevention Hotline- 415-781-0500

Poison Control- 1-800-876-4766

Police Sexual Assault Unit- 415-553-1361

Adult Rape Treatment Center- 415-206-3222

Daytime HIV/AIDS Hotline- 415-434-2437

24/7 HIV/AIDS Hotline- 1-800-273-2437

General Local Laws:

While it’s important for everyone to follow the law, it’s especially important when seeking asylum because any infractions with the law could hurt or eliminate your chances of receiving asylum. Here are a few laws that can surprise people who are new to San Francisco.

  • Drinking Age- 21

  • Smoking- Outside of designated smoking areas, it is illegal to smoke in public places in California. You also cannot smoke in a motor vehicle where there is a child present.

  • Marijuana- It is legal to consume marijuana in California but only in private residences. As of 2018, anyone 21 or older may purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at a time from a licensed dispensary with proper identification.

  • Note that marijuana is still illegal under federal law and that employers may fire or refuse to hire employees if drug tests reveal marijuana use.

  • Noise Laws- Residential quiet hours are in place in San Francisco between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am.

LGBTQ Laws to Know:

There are also some laws that focus on LGBTQ rights that asylum seekers should know so they understand how they are protected and when/if those rights are violated.

  • Discrimination: Discrimination protections regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression have been adopted statewide since 2003.

  • FAIR Education Act and the School Success and Opportunity Act: Public schools are required to teach about the history of the LGBTQ community and transgender students are allowed to choose the appropriate restroom or sports team in regard to their gender identity.

  • Conversion Therapy: Conversion therapy for minors is illegal.

  • Same-Sex Adoption: Same-sex adoption is legal.

  • California Fair Employment and Housing Act: It is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

  • California State Code: California state code includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in defining hate crimes.

State Resources for Non-Citizens:

When moving to a new place, it’s easy to be overwhelmed as there’s a lot to know and things can work very differently. Here’s a list of resources that LGBTQ asylum seekers may want to take advantage of to help make the move to San Francisco a little easier.

  • Driver’s License/ID Card/AB-60- California residents who cannot establish legal presence in the United States may apply for a driver’s license if they can show proof of identification and residency. These driver’s licenses may not be used for identification purposes. It is illegal to discriminate against a holder of an AB-60 license, or use this license to question the holder’s citizenship or immigration status.

  • CA State ID- You may obtain a California ID while waiting for your asylum approval if you can show certain documentation.

  • Public Schools- San Francisco is considered a “Sanctuary City” and their public schools allow children of all immigration backgrounds

Helpful Links:

In case there’s additional information that we didn’t cover, here are some additional links that you may find helpful if you’re a new LGBTQ asylum seeker in San Francisco.

Disclaimer: The contents herein are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice. The contents should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for legal advice. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments. No action should be taken in reliance on the information presented and AsylumConnect disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken in reliance on the contents herein. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.


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