No one wants to be a refugee. The people who are forced to leave their homes simply want to live free of harm. However, to be accepted as a refugee in the United States is very difficult, and often cannot be done without an experienced legal professional by your side. Understanding the process is a critical first step.
The 1951 Convention
United States refugee law is primarily predicated on the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. It is in the Protocol that the term refugee is defined, and the U.S. has adopted it into federal law. The definition of the word refugee is “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
This definition appears to be common sense, but in reality, it sets out a series of legal benchmarks that anyone wishing to obtain status as a refugee must meet. They must show that they have not only a fear of being persecuted, but that their fear is ‘well-founded,’ and it must be directly related to a characteristic they possess (or that people think they possess). To prove all these criteria, as well as complying with all administrative procedures, is a long and difficult path. However, some have no other choice.
In order to even begin to apply for refugee status, you must be located outside the United States, and you must receive leave to apply from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). USRAP allows potential refugees to apply for status based on an assessment of their situation—the more precarious a potential immigrant’s situation, the higher priority they are usually granted. If you are permitted to apply and later granted leave to immigrate, this priority will follow you, with the least self-sufficient having the most access to loans and helpful programs. However, refugees who have obtained legal status may work in the United States, showing their Form I-94 (Entry Form) until an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) can be obtained.
One important factor to consider is that refugees must adjust their status to that of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR, or ‘green card’ holder); the application must be filed within one year of admittance to the United States. Refugees are not permitted to simply remain in refugee status because those in that status are entitled to participate in certain programs (such as, for example, intensive English language lessons) that other immigrants are not. After being an LPR for five years, with no evidence of poor character, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship.
An Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Help
If you or your loved ones have been forced to leave your home, the last thing you need is more confusion while you contend with the complex requirements of becoming a refugee. Seeking a knowledgeable lawyer can help immeasurably. The compassionate DuPage County immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC understand that you need help, and we will do our best to provide it. Contact our office today to set up an appointment.
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