Chapter 4 - Documentation and Evidence

The officer should review the following documentation or evidence to determine the refugee’s eligibility for adjustment:

A. Required Documentation and Evidence

  • Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485)

Each applicant must file a separate application regardless of whether he or she is a principal or a derivative refugee. There is no fee required for refugees to file this form.

The officer must check the Form I-485 for additional aliases requiring a systems query.

  • Proof of refugee status 

An officer must review the contents of the A-file for proof of refugee status. The A-file should contain an approved refugee application (Form I-590) with proper endorsement, or an approved relative petition (Form I-730). Although applicants may submit an Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94), or a notice showing an approved relative petition with their application, these documents must always be cross-checked with the evidence in the A-file to confirm the applicant’s refugee status.

  • Evidence of 1-year physical presence in the United States 

An officer can generally verify physical presence by reviewing the date of last arrival, place of last entry into the United States, and address history on the adjustment application, and the information within USCIS systems, such as the Central Index System.

In addition, the officer should review the date of admission on either a Form I-94 or Form I-590 with the date of filing of the adjustment application. If the evidence lends reasonable doubt as to the time periods the applicant has spent in the United States, the officer may request additional information verifying physical presence.

  • Two (2) passport-style photos, taken no earlier than 30 days prior to filing

  • Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Form I-693)

Typically a complete medical examination record is not needed by refugees. A refugee who already received a medical examination prior to admission does not need to repeat the entire medical examination unless the original examination revealed a Class A medical condition. However, the refugee must establish compliance with the vaccination requirements at the time of adjustment of status. The refugee must submit the vaccination record portion completed by a designated civil surgeon. State and local health departments may qualify for a blanket designation as civil surgeons for the purpose of completing the vaccination record for refugees applying for adjustment of status. [1] 

  • Certified copies of arrest/court records (if applicable) 

An applicant must submit an original official statement by the arresting agency or a certified court order for all arrests, detentions or convictions, regardless of whether the arrest, detention or conviction occurred in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

  • Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability (Form I-602) (if applicable)

B. Supplemental Documentation

Supplemental documentation is often submitted by the applicant but is not required. This may include the following: 

  • Arrival/Departure Document (Form I-94), with appropriate endorsement
  • Birth certificate, when obtainable 

See the Department of State Reciprocity Tables for information on the availability of identity documents in particular countries and during specific time periods. There may be other instances in which a birth certificate is unobtainable because of country conditions or personal circumstances.

In these instances, affidavits may be submitted to establish the applicant’s identity. An officer may also review the A-file to check for a birth certificate that the applicant may have submitted with the refugee application or for other evidence submitted at the time of the interview to establish the applicant’s identity. 

  • Copy of passport(s), when obtainable 

In most instances a refugee will be unable to produce of copy of his or her passport. There may be other instances in which a passport is unobtainable due to country conditions, personal circumstances, or the fact that the applicant may have never possessed a passport. In these cases, a copy of a passport is not required and an officer may use evidence in the A-file to verify the applicant’s identity.

An officer should review any supplemental documentation submitted to ensure it is consistent with the documentation contained in the A-file. Since identity is already established during the adjudication of the refugee application, a birth certificate or passport is not required at the time of adjustment. 

Nevertheless, if the applicant submits any of these documents, the officer must address and resolve any discrepancies at the time of adjudication. In all cases, an officer should give considerable weight to the documentation contained in the refugee application or with the relative petition, as this information was previously vetted at the time of the refugee status interview or relative petition approval. 

C. Documentation Already Contained in the A-File

The refugee application, (generally referred to as the “refugee travel packet”), should already be included in the applicant’s A-file, including all of the forms, evidence, and officer notes that were part of the original application for refugee status. The most important document for an officer to review is either the refugee application or the relative petition, which provides proof of status and establishes identity (with attached photo) as well as citizenship, since most refugees will not have a birth certificate or a passport. 

Another important document in the refugee travel packet is the Medical Examination of Applicants for United States Visas (Form DS-2054, formerly numbered OF-157). An officer does not need to be aware of the overseas medical examination requirements, but should realize that the overseas medical examination requirements are not the same as the requirements for medical examinations performed in the United States. Refugees are generally not required to complete a new medical exam in the United States if a medical exam was performed overseas and there were no Class A conditions. 

D. Unavailable or Missing Documentation

When a refugee flees the country of persecution, he or she may not be able to obtain any documentation issued by a civil authority as proof of identity or of a familial relationship. At the time of the refugee status interview, an officer reviews many documents and affidavits and solicits testimony when seeking to establish a refugee’s personal and family identity. Any available documents submitted at the time of the refugee status interview should be contained within the A-file. 

An officer may rely on the documents contained in the original refugee travel packet to verify identity at the time of adjustment. While it is not necessary to request the applicant’s birth certificate or passport as proof of identity, an officer should review any documentation establishing identity submitted with the adjustment application. 

Additionally, an officer should compare photos submitted with the application to the photos in the refugee packet. If an officer is unable to establish an applicant’s identity due to discrepancies between the documentation the applicant submitted and information contained in the original refugee packet, then the officer should forward the file to the field office with jurisdiction over the case for interview and resolution.


[^ 1] For more information, see Volume 8, Admissibility, Part C, Civil Surgeon Designation and Revocation, Chapter 3, Blanket Civil Surgeon Designation, Section A, Blanket Designation of State and Local Health Departments [8 USCIS-PM C.3(A)].

Current as of November 23, 2021