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Green Card for Refugees

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A noncitizen that has been granted refugee status may be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident status also known as a green card, one year after obtaining asylum status. We have discussed the asylum and refugee status here.

Further eligibility requirements include:

  • The noncitizen was physically admitted into the United States as a refugee under section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • The noncitizen has been physically present in the United States at the time of filing the LPR application, form I-485.
  • The noncitizen has been physically present in the United States at least one year after being granted asylum status and physically present at the time the I-485 application is being decided.
  • Refugee status has not been terminated. Evidence of termination of status in the applicant’s A-file will generally include a notice of termination of status, a Notice To Appear, and EOIR court records. Other evidence may include a notice of intent to terminate status, interview notes, and assessment notes.
  • The noncitizen has not already acquired legal permanent resident status.
  • The noncitizen is admissible to the United States for legal permanent resident status or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief.

Definition of a Refugee

A refugee is someone who can show a well-founded fear of persecution from their country based on at least one statutory ground including:

  • Race;
  • ​Religion;
  • Nationality;
  • ​Membership in a particular social group; or
  • ​Political opinion

Adjustment of Status bars will not apply to the noncitizen asylee

The bars to adjustment of status such as when a noncitizen is present in the United States without lawful status or working without authorization will not bar the noncitizen with asylum status to apply for legal permanent resident status. We previously discussed the bars to adjustment of status here.

Some Grounds of Inadmissibility do not apply

Inadmissibility means that the noncitizen committed an act that under immigration law disqualifies him from obtaining an immigration benefit such as a green card. We have discussed the different reasons a noncitizen can be disqualified from legal permanent status and related waivers here. Many of these grounds of inadmissibility still apply for a noncitizen, asylum recipient applying for a green card, but the following grounds will not apply:

  • A noncitizen considered a Public Charge can still be disqualified under INA 212(a)(4)
  • A noncitizen seeking to enter for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible if he does not possess the appropriate Labor Certification and Qualifications under INA 212(a)(5)
  • A noncitizen who does not possess valid immigration documentation to enter and live in the United States under INA 212(a)(7)(A)

Waiver requirements are less stringent

For noncitizens that may still be disqualified for the green card, there may be waivers available for certain grounds of inadmissibility. In most cases like when a noncitizen has committed a criminal act that creates inadmissibility, a waiver may be available if the noncitizen can prove hardship to a qualifying family member. When applying for a green card based on asylum, the ground of inadmissibility maybe waived for humanitarian purposes not requiring hardship.

No two-year foreign residence requirement if the refugee had previous J-1 or J-2 status

There is no bar to adjustment of status for a refugee who previously had the status of an exchange visitor who is subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement under INA 212(e), even if the applicant never met the foreign residence requirement. The applicant is not required to show proof of compliance with or obtain a waiver of the foreign residence requirement if applying to adjust status under INA 209.

Application Process:

  • File form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. Refugees do not pay the I-485 filing fee or biometrics fee.
  • Provide of admission into the United States as a refugee such as a copy of Form I-94.
  • Provide evidence of one-year physical presence in the United States.
  • Provide two passport style photos
  • Provide copy of a government tissued document with the picture of the noncitizen.
  • Provide copy of a birth certificate.
  • Provide a copy of the passport page with a visa stamp if applicable.
  • Provide form I-693 Medical Exam.
  • Provide certified police and court records addressing any criminal charges, arrests or convictions if applicable.

Note that especially in cases with past criminal history it is strongly recommended to discuss your case with one of our immigration attorneys to help you with your application to properly address your criminal history.

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This website and blog constitutes attorney advertising. Do not consider anything in this website or blog legal advice and nothing in this website constitutes an attorney-client relationship being formed. Set up a one-hour consultation with us before acting on anything you read here. Past results are no guarantee of future results and prior results do not imply or predict future results. Each case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

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