know what you need to know
July 21, 2020
Under U.S. law, a refugee is someone who lives outside of the U.S. and is seen by the government as having a special humanitarian concern. They must be able to prove that they were persecuted or that they fear they will be persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or their involvement in a social group in their country. They cannot be someone who ordered, assisted in, or participated in the persecution of someone for the reasons previously listed. (1)
A refugee must receive a referral from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) in order to be considered a refugee. (1)
Every year, immigration law requires Executive Branch officials to review the situation and discuss whether the reasons for believing the individual seeking refuge are justified by U.S. humanitarian concern. After the consultation with cabinet representatives and Congress, the decision is drafted and presented to the President to be signed. No refugees can enter the U.S. until the Presidential Determination has been signed. (2)
Processing priorities are established annually to determine which of the world’s refugees are of special humanitarian concern to the U.S. If an applicant can fulfill a processing priority, they are able to interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official. The current priorities are:
The eligibility of a refugee is determined through an interview with a specially-trained USCIS officer. The interview is designed to obtain information about the applicant’s request for refuge, and if they are eligible for resettlement in the U.S. by determining :
The USCIS will consider the conditions of the applicant’s home country, and will evaluate the applicant’s credibility. They will confirm that security checks are complete, but also reviewed and analyzed. (3)
Coming to the U.S.
Once approved, they will receive a medical examination along with cultural orientation, help with their travel plans, and a loan for their travels to the U.S.. Upon arrival in the U.S., they are to receive medical benefits from the Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Any refugee who wishes to bring their spouse or children under the age of 21 to the U.S. must fill out Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. (1) They must fit the following criteria:
For the refugee’s spouse, the application process is to:
For the refugee’s children, the process is to:
Working in the U.S.
A refugee can begin working once they have arrived in the U.S. Upon arrival they will receive a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record with their refugee admission stamp. A Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization will be filed upon their arrival, so they can receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). While waiting for their EAD, they can use their Form I-94 to provide proof to employers that they are authorized to work in the U.S. (1)
Filing for a Permanent Residency (Green Card)
All refugees must apply for a Green Card after a year of living in the U.S. They must apply by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence. There is no filing fee for refugees to file Form I-485, nor do refugees have to pay fees for fingerprinting or biometrics. (1)