Questions & Answers: Refugees
Q. Who is a Refugee?
A refugee does not include a person who has left his or her home only to seek a more prosperous life, also known as an economic migrant. People fleeing civil wars and natural disasters may not be eligible for resettlement under U.S. law. However, they may fall within the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For more information about UNHCR, see the “United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)” link to the right.
Q. Which Refugees are Eligible for Resettlement in the United States?
Generally, refugees must be outside their homelands to be eligible for the U.S. refugee program; however the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) processes refugees in their home countries in a few places.
Even if an applicant is determined by USCIS to be a refugee, refugees must be admissible to the United States. An applicant can be found “inadmissible” to the United States for a variety of reasons, including criminal, health, or security-related grounds.
Ineligibility for the U.S. refugee program does not necessarily prevent eligibility for UNHCR protection or resettlement in other countries.
Q. Are Refugees in Urgent Situations Eligible for Expedited Processing?
A. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is committed to processing refugee applications as quickly as possible. However, there may be instances when an applicant is facing a particularly urgent situation, such as an acute medical or protection concern that would warrant expedited processing of the case. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) has released a fact sheet that provides information on expedited processing procedures as well as the types of cases that may be appropriate for such processing.
Applicants who believe they meet these criteria may contact the local Resettlement Support Center handling their case.
Q. How Can I Find Out If I Am Eligible For Resettlement in the United States?
Q. What Kind Of Processing Can I Expect Under The United States Refugee Program?
Following USCIS approval, the processing entity also asks for the names and addresses of any relatives in the United States, for details on the person's work history and job skills, and for any special educational or medical needs of the refugee and accompanying family members, in order to determine the best resettlement arrangements for the refugee.
The International Organization for Migration generally arranges transportation to the United States on a loan basis. Refugees are expected to repay the cost of their transportation once they are established in the United States. Individual refugees or their relatives may pay for transportation costs in advance.
Q. What Family Members May Accompany Me To The United States If I Am Approved?
If your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 were not with you at the time of your interview, they will be able to follow you to the United States, but you will have to file a Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, for each of them.
In either case, your dependent relative must also be otherwise admissible to the United States. Other relatives may qualify for resettlement in the United States if they meet the U.S. refugee criteria with their own claims.
Your case may include your spouse, child (unmarried and under 21years of age), and in some limited circumstances, other family members. You may include a same-sex spouse in your application provided that you and your spouse are legally married. As a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. Same-sex partners who are not married but who are qualified to access the U.S. Refugee Admissions under one of the three designated worldwide processing priorities may have their cases cross-referenced so that they can be interviewed at the same time and, if approved by USCIS, resettled in the same geographic area in the United States.
Q. How Can I Report My New Address?
Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/11/2013
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