A Guide to Seattle for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

Seattle is a large city located in Pacific Northwestern United States. The city was colonized in 1852 but was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years prior to colonization. In the 1980’s Seattle began to grow as a hotbed of technological innovation and industry. Today, it retains that reputation as the home of major U.S. software and internet companies.

Facts and Tips:

  • Seattle is the home of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and Nintendo of America.

  • The city was named “Seattle” in 1852 after Chief Si’ahl of the local Duwamish and Suquamish Native American tribes.

  • Many famous American musicians got their start in Seattle, including Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Soundgarden to name a few. Seattle is often credited as establishing the grunge rock scene in the 1990’s.

  • In 2016, Seattle was the fastest growing American city with a 3.1% growth rate.

  • Residents do not pay income tax in Washington State.

  • Recreational marijuana is legal to buy and sell in Washington State, including Seattle.  However, it cannot be smoked in public places.


Seattle is notorious for its traffic. As a result, the city is now working to increase its public transport options.

Sound Transit (Link Light Rail): The Link light rail makes trips from Angle Lake Station to the University of Washington through downtown Seattle.

King County Metro Transit: King County Metro Transit provides bus service in downtown Seattle and outlying neighborhoods in King County. Check out their mobile app for helpful information.

Seattle Monorail: The iconic Seattle Center Monorail travels between Westlake Center in downtown and Seattle Center at the base of Queen Anne Hill.

Street Cars: The South Lake Union Streetcar makes 11 stops through the South Lake Union area. The First Hill Streetcar makes 10 stops through Chinatown-International District through Capitol Hill.

ORCA All Day Transit Passes: An all-day regional transit pass is useful for unlimited all day riding on all public transit (excluding the Seattle Monorail and Washington State Ferries)

Bike Share: Bike rentals are available in Seattle through LimeBike. LimeBike offers rent-as-needed bike rentals in convenient locations throughout the city.

Car Share: Seattle has several car share programs such as Car2Go and Zipcar. Note that you need a valid driver’s license to rent cars through car share programs.

Rideshare Apps: In downtown Seattle, Uber and Lyft rides can be scheduled using smartphone apps.

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

Police Non-Emergency- 206-625-5011

Reporting a Crime Online

Seattle Information and Complaint Line- 206-684-2489

Poison Control- 800-222-1222

Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit- 206-684-5575

Seattle Gay City 24-Hour Hotline- 206-461-3222

Seattle LGBTQ Comission- 206-684-4500

Washington State HIV/AIDS Hotline- 800-272-2437

Seattle Bias Crime Detective Beth Wareing- 206-684-5621

(Email: mailto:elizabeth.wareing@seattle.gov)

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 Seattle.

  • Drinking Age- 21

  • Jaywalking- Crossing the street outside a crosswalk or disobeying a crosswalk signal is punished in Seattle with a $56 fine.

  • Washington and Seattle Marijuana and Smoking Laws- Washington state law protects private marijuana use. You can consume in a residence as long as the property owner allows it. Marijuana cannot be consumed in public. Washington’s Smoking in Public Places law prohibits smoking of any kind in public places or places of employment.

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.

  • All Gender Bathroom Ordinance- This law allows the use of single-occupancy restrooms by any person, regardless of sex or gender identity. SMC 14.06 applies to existing and newly-built city facilities and public places. Report a violation here.

  • Hate Crime Laws- Seattle protects against hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and national origin. Hate crimes occur when someone intentionally causes physical injury to a person, damages their property, or causes a reasonable fear of harm to a person or property because of their perceived inclusion in a protected class of people.

  • Discrimination and Harassment- In Seattle, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and national origin for the sale or renting of housing, employment, public accommodations, and fair contracting. Report a violation here.

  • Seattle Ban on Conversion Therapy for Minors- It is illegal for any licensed medical or mental health provider in Seattle to employ “conversion therapy” on minors in an attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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 Seattle a little easier.

  • Driver’s License/ID Card- Washington allows immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses but you first have to prove that you live in the state and prove your identity. You may drive using your valid out-of-country driver’s license for up to one year in Washington. If you have a valid driver’s license from Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, or Japan, you can get your Washington license without a driver’s test.

  • Public Schools- The Seattle School district admits any student, regardless of national origin or citizenship, if the student or parent/guardian resides within the school district.

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 Seattle.

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.


Interested in helping fund our work? Join our new Giving Club or visit our Donate page for instructions on how to easily make a tax-deductible contribution to AsylumConnect today.