Green Card for Refugees

U.S. immigration law requires refugees to apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status after they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year.

This page provides specific information for refugees in the United States who want to become LPRs (get a Green Card). This is called “adjustment of status.” You should also read the Instructions for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (PDF, 545 KB) before you apply.

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status

In order to be eligible for a Green Card as a refugee, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are physically present in the United States at the time you file your Form I-485;
  • You have been physically present in the United States for at least one year after your admission as a refugee at the time you file your Form I-485;
  • Your refugee status has not been terminated;
  • You have not already acquired permanent resident status; and
  • You are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief.

Bars to Adjustment

Depending on how you entered the United States or if you committed a particular act or violation of immigration law, you may be barred from adjusting status. The bars to adjustment do not apply to you if you are applying for a Green Card based on your refugee status.

Grounds of Inadmissibility

To qualify for a Green Card, you must be admissible to the United States. Reasons why you may be inadmissible are listed in the INA 212(a) and are called grounds of inadmissibility.

While in general, USCIS can only approve your Green Card application if none of the applicable grounds of inadmissibility apply to you. Certain grounds of inadmissibility do not apply to refugee adjustments. See USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 7, Part L, Refugee Adjustment.

In addition, some grounds of inadmissibility may be waived for refugees applying for adjustment of status. See Form I-602, Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability. If a waiver or other form of relief is granted, USCIS may approve your application for a Green Card if you are otherwise eligible.

Eligibility requirements for waivers and other forms of relief vary. For more information on the grounds of inadmissibility and waivers, please see USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 7, Part L, Refugee Adjustment, Chapter 3 – Admissibility and Waiver Requirements.

How to Apply

If you are a refugee and you have been physically present in the United States for at least one year, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to apply for a Green Card.

What to Submit (Principal Applicant)

If you are the principal applicant, you should submit the following documentation and evidence to apply for a Green Card:

Note: Refugees do not need to pay the Form I-485 filing fee or the biometric services fee.

  • Proof of your admission as a refugee  (such as a copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record that shows the date you were admitted as a refugee);
  • Evidence of one-year physical presence in the U.S.;
  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Copy of your birth certificate (if available);
  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if available);
  • Copy of your passport page with admission or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if available);
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable);

Note: If CBP provided you with an electronic Form I-94 upon your arrival/admission to the United States, you may print out a paper version of the Form I-94 from the CBP website at www.cbp.gov/I94;

Note: All refugee-based adjustment applicants must submit the vaccination record portion of Form I-693. Only applicants with “Class A” medical conditions must repeat the medical examination and submit a complete Form I-693. See the Instructions for Form I-693 (PDF, 334 KB) for more information.

  • Certified police and court records of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable); and

For more information on applying for adjustment of status, see the Instructions for Form I-485 (PDF, 545 KB). Please also see our page on Tips for Filing Forms with USCIS.

Family Members

If you are the spouse or unmarried child under 21 years of age of a refugee-based principal applicant and you were granted derivative refugee status based on your spouse or parent’s principal refugee admission, you may also apply for a Green Card. For more information on derivatives and eligibility for adjustment of status, please see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 7, Part L, Chapter 2, Section F – Special Considerations for Refugee Adjustment of Status Applicants.

Eligibility Criteria for Adjustment of Status as Derivative Applicants

In order to be eligible for a Green Card as a refugee-based derivative applicant, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are currently the principal applicant’s spouse or child;
  • You are physically present in the United States at the time you file your Form I-485;
  • You have been physically present in the United States for at least one year after admission as a refugee at the time you file your Form I-485;
  • Your refugee status has not been terminated;
  • You have not already acquired permanent resident status; and
  • You are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief.

What to Submit (Derivative Applicants)

If you are a derivative applicant (a spouse or child), you should submit the following evidence to apply for a refugee-based Green Card:

Note: Refugees do not need to pay the Form I-485 filing fee or the biometric services fee.

  • Copy of documentation showing your relationship to the principal applicant, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or adoption decree;
  • Evidence of your admission as a refugee (such as a copy of the Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, or approved I-730 Petition filed on your behalf that shows the date you were granted refugee status as a derivative);
  • Evidence of one-year physical presence in the U.S.;
  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Copy of your birth certificate (if available);
  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if available);
  • Copy of your passport page with admission  or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if available);
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable);

Note: If CBP provided you with an electronic Form I-94 upon your arrival/admission to the United States, you may print out a paper version of the Form I-94 from the CBP website at www.cbp.gov/I94;

Note: All refugee-based derivative applicants must submit the vaccination record portion of Form I-693. Only certain derivative applicants must repeat the medical examination and submit a complete Form I-693. See the Instructions for Form I‑693 (PDF, 334 KB) for more information.

  • Certified police and court records of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable); and

Legal Reference

For more information, see the following:

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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