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Legal Information: Federal

Immigration

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Updated: 
May 21, 2013

Who is eligible for refugee status? Where is refugee status granted?

Refugee status may be granted to someone who:

  • is outside of his/her country of nationality (and outside of the U.S.);
  • is of special humanitarian concern to the United States;
  • is not firmly resettled in another country; and
  • is unable or unwilling to return to, or to get protection from, his/her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on one or more of the following:
    • race,
    • religion,
    • nationality,
    • membership in a particular social group, or
    • political opinion.*

The refugee status is granted in an American consulate or Embassy outside of the U.S. The refugee enters the U.S. with a “Refugee status” in his/her I-94 card (Arrival/Departure Record). 

* INA §101(a)(42)(A); see USCIS website

When should I apply for refugee status?

You have to apply for refugee status before coming to the U.S. If you are already in the U.S., you would apply for asylum instead. Go to our Asylum page for more information.

How do I apply for refugee status?

You must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee. For more information on the referral criteria, see the USRAP Consultations and Worldwide Processing Priorities on the USCIS website. If you receive a referral, you will receive help filling out your application and then be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether or not you are eligible for refugee resettlement in the U.S.*

You can also read more information on the U.S. State Department website - U.S. Refugee Admissions Program FAQs.

* See the USCIS website