Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeks to:

  • Resolve the asylee’s status by ultimately determining whether he or she is admissible to the United States as an immigrant; and

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

B. Background

The Refugee Act of 1980 not only provided for the admission and adjustment of status of refugees but also established procedures for noncitizens to seek asylum. Prior to the Refugee Act, there was no mechanism for someone in the United States to apply for protection under the Refugee Convention. The Refugee Act required the establishment of a procedure for a noncitizen who meets the definition of a refugee to apply for and be granted asylum if physically present in the United States regardless of the person’s immigration status. 

The Refugee Act provided for the adjustment of status of asylees to permanent residents. Unlike refugees, asylees are not required to apply for adjustment of status 1 year after receiving asylum. Instead, an asylee may apply for adjustment of status after accruing 1 year of physical presence after receiving asylum status. The asylee is not required to apply within a specific time frame.

Although the Refugee Act exempted asylees from the worldwide annual limitations on immigrants, the law placed a ceiling of 5,000 on the number of asylees who could adjust to permanent resident status each year. The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the annual ceiling to 10,000 and waived the annual limit for those asylees who met the required 1-year physical presence requirement and filed for adjustment of status on or before June 1, 1990. In 2005, the REAL ID Act [1] permanently eliminated the annual cap on the number of asylees allowed to adjust status.

C. Legal Authorities


[^ 1] See the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, Pub. L. 109-13 (May 11, 2005).

Current as of November 23, 2021