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Legal questions - refugees & status
Especially for Potential Asylees
The Human Rights Clinic
Check out this news release.
You wouldn't refer your refugee clients here for treatment, but if you have clients seeking asylum, the Human Rights Clinic can provide medical examinations to help in asylum applications. Physicians for Human Rights and pro bono attorneys arrange examinations by emailing email@example.com.
Please note that the content provided on this page does not constitute legal advice and refugees should consult immigration attorneys with any questions.
Adjustment of Status for Refugees
Refugees are required by law to apply for permanent resident status one year after being granted/entering the U.S. as refugees. Permanent resident status is also known as becoming a “legal permanent resident/LPR” or and an LPR card is also referred to as a “green card.” Why is LPR status important?
Additional information: If a refugee wishes to travel outside the U.S. for a brief period of time they must apply for a refugee travel document Form I-131. They cannot leave the U.S. until they are in receipt of the travel document. They should also consult with an immigration attorney if they have any grounds of inadmissible (to ensure they will be allowed to re-enter the U.S.).
New York Times: New Policy Permits Asylum for Battered Woman (7/15/09)
Immigration Glossary (from MONA)
Alien - Any person who is not a citizen of the US. This generic term includes legal permanent residents and persons here on temporary visas as well as those undocumented persons (known by some as “illegal aliens”) who either entered the US without inspection or entered with temporary visas and did not leave when the visas expired.
Asylee – A person who has been granted asylum (protective status) in the US, based on the fact that s/he is likely to face persecution or death if s/he returns to his or her homeland, based on his or her religion, ethnicity, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The basis for this determination is much the same as for a refugee, but refugee status is decided and conferred outside of the US. Asylum status is decided and conferred on someone already in the US. (Note: a person does not become an asylee at the time of submitting an application for this status. The standard of proof is high, and many are denied this status and deported. Those who are granted asylum status are eligible for the same transitional benefits as a refugee, starting on the date asylum is granted.)
Citizen – A person who either was born in the US, derived status from a US citizen parent, or was naturalized. To qualify for naturalization, an alien must have held legal permanent resident status for five years, or for three years, if married to a US citizen for that length of time. (See “Naturalization” for additional information.)
“Green card”– The popular term for the identification document known officially as the I-551 or “alien registration card”, issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to legal permanent residents of the US. This document bears the permanent resident’s photo, signature and fingerprint. Although current versions are usually white, earlier versions were green, hence “green card”. Recently, the INS began issuing “green cards” with expiration dates, in order to encourage legal permanent residents to apply for citizenship. An expired green card does not indicate expired legal status, but the permanent resident should apply for an updated green card or for citizenship.
Immigrant – A person who comes to the US to remain here permanently. Refugees and asylees are sub-groups of immigrants. Most come with permission of the US government, sponsored by family members or employers.
Naturalization – The process by which a legal permanent resident becomes a US citizen. This involves filing the necessary paperwork and fees, having fingerprints cleared through the FBI, passing an interview that includes a US history and government test as well as a writing sample, and a swearing-in ceremony. This process currently takes a year or more from the
date an application is submitted. A legal permanent resident may not apply for naturalization until s/he has been a permanent resident for 5 years (or 3 years if married to a US citizen).
Non-immigrant – A person who enters the US for a temporary stay as, for instance, a visitor for business or pleasure, or on a student visa. Change of status from one non-immigrant status to another is sometimes possible. Change from non-immigrant status to immigrant status is approved less often, because it is viewed as a violation of the terms of the non-immigrant visa.
Permanent Resident – A person who has been given permission to remain permanently in the US—a “green card” holder. This is not the same as a US citizen. (See definition of “naturalization” for the conditions under which a permanent resident may become a citizen.) There are only a few paths to permanent residency. Sponsorship by a US citizen or permanent resident immediate relative can take many years. An employer who sponsors an immigrant worker must advertise the position and prove to the government that no equally—or better—qualified US citizen or legal permanent resident has applied for the job. Other routes, which lead to legal permanent residence, are admission to the US as a refugee, approval of an application for asylum, or winning the annual State Department Diversity Visa Lottery.
Qualified Alien – This term, created by the Welfare Reform Law in 1996, includes lawful permanent residents, refugees, conditional entrants, persons granted parole into the US for a period of at least one year, certain battered spouses and children and their parents or children, Cuban/Haitian entrants and those persons granted asylum or the withholding of deportation or removal. “Qualified” does not mean “eligible.” Qualified aliens must still meet other eligibility requirements of benefit programs. If a person is a “non-qualified immigrant” it does not necessarily mean they are undocumented. The non-qualified immigrant
category includes many immigrants who are lawfully present in the U.S.
Refugee – A person outside the US who has been able to establish, to the satisfaction of the US government, that s/he will be in grave danger of persecution or death if s/he returns to his or her homeland, on account of his or her ethnicity, religion, or political opinion. The only document a refugee is likely to receive upon arrival is a piece of card stock known as an I-94, stamped “Admitted as a refugee, pursuant to section 207 of the INA for an indefinite period of time…Employment uthorized.”
Refugees are in the US permanently and are eligible for refugee-specific transitional assistance for the first 8 months in this country. Refugees were protected under welfare reformand are thus eligible for safety net benefits that legal permanent residents may not now access. After one year in refugee status, an individual may file papers to adjust to legal permanent
resident status. (A refugee retains eligibility for safety net benefits after becoming a permanent resident.) Refugees are usually 7 to 10% of the immigrants admitted to the U.S. in any given year.
Temporary Protected Status – This is a nonimmigrant status granted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to persons from countries to which the US State Department has certified that they cannot safely return. Reasons for granting this status include natural disasters such as earthquakes or massive hurricane damage, or countrywide chaos due to civil war. Persons in this category are here legally, and are granted work authorization for the duration of their approved “TPS”, but are not "qualified aliens” for the purpose of eligibility for federal means-tested benefits. However, some states have chosen to provide state-funded services to this population. TPS is usually granted for periods of 6 months to one year. Every six months, the State Department re-evaluates the country conditions and decides whether or not to extend TPS for natives of that country for another period of time.
Visa – The document or stamp issued by an American consulate or the State Department, granting permission for an individual to enter the US, and delineating the terms of the stay. A non-immigrant visa limits the duration of the individual’s stay in the US, and usually prohibits the visa holder from working in the U.S., unless they have been granted a visa specifically for that purpose. The holder of an immigrant visa is a legal permanent resident and may apply for US citizenship after 5 years in that status (or after 3 years, if married to a US citizen.)
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, Jul 16 2009, 12:04 PM EDT
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