Skip to main content

Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

USCIS seeks to:

  • Resolve the refugee’s status after admission by ultimately determining whether the refugee is admissible to the United States as an immigrant; and

  • Provide qualified refugees a pathway to permanent residence as persons of special humanitarian concern to the United States.

B. Background

Before the Refugee Act of 1980, refugee admission policy was reactive and piecemeal as it grew in response to humanitarian crises and ethnic conflicts. The result was an assortment of laws and regulations that classified persons as refugees, conditional entrants, parolees, pre-parolees, escapees, evacuees, or asylum grantees. In many cases, the long-term resolution of these classifications was unclear. The Refugee Act of 1980 addressed these issues by providing a systematic procedure for the admission and permanent resettlement of refugees of special humanitarian concern to the United States.

Prior to the passage of the Refugee Act, a refugee in the United States had to wait two years to apply for adjustment of status. The refugee also had to show that he or she had fled (or stayed away from) any communist-dominated country or country within the Middle East and was unwilling or unable to return due to fear of persecution. 

Although the refugee was not required to show that he or she continued to meet the definition of a refugee, he or she adjusted status under section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), meaning that all of the inadmissibility grounds and bars to adjustment applied. The Refugee Act established, among other things, a uniform basis for permanent resettlement by amending the INA with the creation of section 209. 

Refugees are now required to apply to adjust status one year after being admitted as a refugee in order for USCIS to determine their admissibility to the United States as an immigrant.[1] Recognizing the unique and tenuous position of this population, Congress determined that certain grounds of inadmissibility would not apply at time of adjustment, while allowing for the possible waiver of other grounds. 

C. Legal Authorities

Footnote


[^ 1] See INA 209.

Resources

Legal Authorities

INA 101(a)(42) - Definition of refugee

INA 207, 8 CFR 207 - Annual admission of refugees and admission of emergency situation refugees

INA 209, 8 CFR 209 - Adjustment of status of refugees and asylees

Pub. L. 96-212 (PDF) - Refugee Act of 1980

Appendices

No appendices available at this time.

Updates

Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].

POLICY ALERT - Use of Form G-325A

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to remove references to Biographic Information (Form G-325A).

Read More
POLICY ALERT - Refugee and Asylee-Based Adjustment of Status under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 209

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to address adjustment of status applications filed by refugees and asylees under INA sections 209(a) and 209(b).

Read More