A Guide to Philadelphia for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and is known for playing an important role during the American Revolutionary War. The city served as a temporary capital city before Washington, D.C. and was the location where the Founding Fathers signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Facts and Tips:

  • Philadelphia, often shortened to Philly, is called the “City of Brotherly Love.”

  • Philadelphia is well known for its famous Philly cheesesteak sandwich. To order you need to specify two things: type of cheese and “with” or “without” (fried onions). Enjoy!

  • Philadelphia has a large population of college-aged students with 15 four-year colleges and universities.

  • The city has a proud LGBTQ population with frequent community events. In 2007, the city officially recognized a section of City Center as the “Gayborhood.”

  • Philadelphia’s neighborhoods are divided into sections: North, Northeast, Northwest, West, South, and Southwest. These sections surround Center City.

  • Philadelphia is the number one city in the U.S. for commuting to work by bike and has a thriving bike share system.


Philadelphia has a robust transit system using a network of buses, bike share stations, rail lines, and trolleys.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA): The SEPTA system comprises the regional rail, bus, and trolley system.

  • SEPTA fare rates

  • Regional Rail: This is a larger rail system that travels into and out of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. It can also take you to the regional airport.

  • SEPTA Buses: Buses service a number of Philadelphia neighborhoods. Some lines are offered 24 hours a day.

  • Trolleys: SEPTA trolleys offer transit around certain areas of the city. Several run 24 hours a day.

Philly Phlash Buses: These purple buses are a great option for seeing the sights in Philadelphia.

Indego Bike Share: Indego Bike Share boasts over 1,000 individual bikes that can be rented as needed by tourists and residents on walk-up, flex, or monthly plans.

Rideshare Apps: Both low-cost ride sharing apps Uber and Lyft are available in Philadelphia.

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 City services- 311 or 215-686-8686 (Outside city)

Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR)- 215-686-2856

  • PCHR@phila.gov

PCHR Anonymous Hotline- 215-686-2856

Poison Control- 800-222-1222

Philadelphia Homeless Outreach Hotline- 215-232-1984

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 Philly.

  • Drinking age- 21

  • Curfews- Minors 13 and younger have a curfew of 20:00 during the school year and 21:00 during the summer. Minors age 14-15 have a 21:00 curfew during the school year and a 22:00 curfew during the summer.

  • School- The Pennsylvania School Compulsory Law requires that students ages 6-17 attend school on a daily basis.

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.

  • LGBT Equality Bill: A Philadelphia bill that allows for gender and name change on official documents, offers tax incentives for employers who broaden their health care benefits, and applies gender neutral language in city documents and laws.

  • Bathroom Law: Anyone may use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity. All public single-stall bathrooms must be gender neutral.

  • Hate Crime Law: Philadelphia recognizes attacks based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender or gender identity as hate crimes.

  • Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance: It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, sex, or gender identity, regarding housing, access to public benefits, and employment.

  • Philadelphia Police Directive 152: Police in Philadelphia must treat all transgender people with respect, using preferred pronouns and names rather than what is written on any government ID.

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 Philly a little easier.

  • Driver’s License/ID Card- Asylum applicants may obtain a driver’s license or state ID if they can prove their current immigration status and prove a one year legal residency in Pennsylvania.

  • Public Schools- Public schools are open to undocumented U.S. immigrants and the schools have established a “sanctuary” to protect undocumented students.

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 Philly.

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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