The Law Office of Jason A. Dennis is one of the fastest growing immigration law firms in the country. Our team of immigration law experts is available to offer legal services and advice to clients on any complications they may face while applying for refugee status.
We have experience in every facet of immigration law and will use our knowledge and skills to reach the best outcome possible for your case. Contact our New York City refugee protection lawyers today for legal advice or to schedule an initial consultation and see what we can do to help you.
What is a Refugee?
The United States has a particular set of laws determining whether an individual can be classified as a refugee. To qualify for refugee status an individual must meet the following criteria:
- You must be located outside the United States
- You must be of special humanitarian concern to the United States
- You must demonstrate that you were persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution due to your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group
- You must not be firmly resettled in another country
- You must be admissible into the United States
Anyone who has ordered, incited, assisted, or similarly participated in the persecution of a person due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a specific social group, or political opinion will not be eligible for refugee status.
Situations that may qualify as persecution include imprisonment and torture of political dissidents or those listed as undesirables, armed attacks on protesters, genocidal acts committed against a certain race, or exclusion of certain religions from the country's political process. These situations will typically qualify as credible fears for your refugee status.
If you are eligible for and receive, refugee status you will be permitted to enter the United States, may apply for a Green Card, and can potentially have a path to U.S. citizenship.
How is Refugee Status Different From Asylum?
Asylum and refugee protections are very similar but are differentiated by a key distinction. Asylum must be applied for within the United States while a refugee must obtain their status from outside of the country. The criteria you must meet to qualify for each are the same, but the conditions for applying are separate.
How Do I Receive Refugee Protections?
To be considered as a refugee you must receive a referral to the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The USRAP Consultations and Worldwide Processing Priorities page contains more information and additional resources on the criteria for a refugee referral.
After receiving a referral, you will be given help entering your application. You will then be scheduled for an interview with a USCIS officer to determine your eligibility for refugee resettlement and immigration benefit.
You are allowed to include your spouse, children (as long as they are unmarried and below the age of 21), and, under the proper circumstances, other family members in your case. A same-sex spouse may be included if you can prove the two of you have been legally married. For same-sex partners who are not married, your cases may be cross-referenced so that interviews may be scheduled near one another. If both cases are approved by USCIS, you will be resettled in the same geographic area of the United States.
Refugee status does not require an application fee. The information you provide on your application documents, interview, or anywhere else in the process will not be shared with your home country.
Refugees are usually given an I-94 Form stamped “Admitted as a Refugee pursuant to section 207 of the Act” on admission to the United States until their status can be updated properly.
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How can I Bring My Family to the United States?
If you intend to include your family members who are abroad in your refugee case you may file Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition. This can allow you to include your spouse and unmarried child under age 21. This petition must be filed within 2 years of your arrival in the United States unless there are legitimate humanitarian reasons to excuse the deadline. The criteria for this petition are as follows:
- You, as the petitioner, must be a principal refugee or asylee, meaning that you were directly granted refugee or asylee status rather than receiving it through a relative.
- You must have entered the United States within the last 2 years or been granted asylum status within the last 2 years.
- You must remain in refugee or asylee status or have successfully applied for permanent resident status and received your Green Card. If you have become a naturalized U.S. citizen you may not petition for derivative refugee or asylee status for a relative. You may, however, be able to help family immigrate to the United States through other avenues.
- Your family relationship must have existed prior to your arrival in the United States as a refugee, or before your asylum status was granted.
- Your must have been married to your spouse before entering as a refugee or being granted asylum for them to qualify.
- Your child must have been conceived or born before you entered the country as a refugee or were granted asylum.
You may be eligible to file an Affidavit of Relationship for your spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parents. This form is used to reunite refugees and asylees with close relatives determined to be refugees but still located outside the United States. This form will record information on family relationships and must be completed to begin the application process for your relatives who may be eligible to enter the country under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
Working in the United States Under Refugee Status
You are eligible to work in the United States immediately after your arrival as a refugee. You will receive a Form I-94 upon your admission that will contain a refugee admission stamp. A Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization will be filed for you to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of your immigration documentation. You can present your Form I-94 refugee admission stamp to your employer as proof of permission to work in the United States until your EAD arrives.
How Long Does it Take?
The time it takes to acquire refugee status can vary drastically depending on the complexity of the case. While the majority of cases will be settled relatively quickly, refugee application reviews can be a complicated immigration issue and the process can take between 6 months and several years to complete.
How Do I File for Permanent Residency?
If you have been admitted into the United States as a refugee you must apply for a Green Card within 1 year of your arrival. You must apply for permanent residency through Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or via an immigration status adjustment. Refugees are not required to pay a filing fee for Form I-485 or for fingerprinting/biometric fees.
Hire a NYC Refugee Protection Attorney
The Law Office of Jason A. Dennis has the combined experience to handle all areas of immigration law. Our law firm is dedicated to reaching the best possible solution for our clients, for both simple and complex immigration matters. If you are seeking refugee status from the United States, or have legal questions regarding the process, contact our experienced immigration lawyers in NYC for a free initial consultation.