A Guide to Washington D.C. for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia) is considered America’s capital city and serves as a major international tourist attraction due to its monuments to U.S. history, the White House, and Smithsonian museums.

Facts and Tips:

  • D.C. has the largest self-identifying LGBTQ population in the United States at 8.6% of the population (2016 Gallup poll).

  • D.C. isn’t part of any U.S. state. Rather, it was created as a federal district in 1791.

  • D.C. is home to all three branches of the government: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

  • The city is divided into quadrants: Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, and Northwest. It’s important to pay attention to the quadrant on a listed address because there will be identical addresses in each quadrant.

  • D.C. has a subway system called the “Metro”. When using the escalator for the Metro, always stand on the right side and walk on the left side.

  • All of D.C.’s Smithsonian museums are free to the public.

Transportation:

D.C. has an extensive public transportation system run by the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA). This includes D.C.’s Metro system and buses. There are many apps you can access to help with determining metro and bus times such as the D.C. Metro and Bus app.

Metrorail: Metro stations are located throughout D.C., northern Virginia, and parts of Maryland and lines are identified by color. Prices per ride depend on the time of day you ride and your enter and exit stations. To ride, you will need to purchase a reloadable SmarTrip card at a Metro station.

Buses: WMATA Metrobuses travel between Metro stations. They also travel to many other locations within the D.C. metropolitan area. You SmarTrip card can be scanned upon entering the bus or you can pay using cashing. You can refill your SmarTrip card on the bus.

Buses in surrounding Maryland and Northern Virginia:

Bike-share: D.C. and surrounding Maryland and Northern Virginia neighborhoods have an extensive Capital Bikeshare program for one-time or annual membership bike use.

Rideshare apps: D.C. uses smartphone rideshare apps such as Lyft and Uber.

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.

Metropolitan Police/Fire/Medical Emergency- 911

Non-Emergency City Services- 311 or 202-737-4404 (outside of the city)

Hate Crimes Hotline- 202-727-0500

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Liaison Unit within the Metropolitan Police Department- 202-727-5427

D.C. Emergency Shelter Hotline- 202-399-7093

Poison Control- 1-800-222-1222

Animal Control- 202-576-6664

D.C. Crisis Helpline- 202-561-7000

D.C. Sexual Assault Helpline- 202-333-RAPE

D.C. Health and Wellness Center (provides free STD testing)- 202-741-7692

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 D.C.

  • Drinking age- 21

  • Smoking- Under the Smoke Free Indoor Act, smoking is illegal in most indoor public places and public parks.

  • Curfews- For minors aged 17 and younger, D.C. enforces a curfew that changes depending on the time of year. There are exceptions for these curfews. Quiet hours are from 10:00 pm - 7:00 am.

  • School- By law, children ages 5 to 18 who are residents of D.C. must be enrolled in school.

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.

Under the D.C. Human Rights Act, it is illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sex, or personal appearance. It is also illegal to deny housing, employment, or access to public educational institutions based on these traits.

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 D.C. a little easier.

  • Driver’s License- D.C. will not grant a driver’s license to an asylum seeker until they can show proof that their asylum application was approved.

  • ID Card- D.C. issues ID cards to those who do not have a driver’s license. At this time, you cannot request an ID card until you have a social security number.

  • Public Schools- All children who are residents of D.C. may attend D.C. public school, regardless of immigration status. You must prove your residency to determine which school to attend.

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 D.C.

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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