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Mevorah Law Offices LLC
630-932-9100
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What Does “Firm Resettlement” Mean?

Posted on in Immigration
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Firm ResettlementThe 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and its ensuing 1967 Protocol are perhaps the founding documents of asylum law in the United States, providing everything from a working definition of ‘asylee’ and ‘refugee’ to the categories under which one can claim asylum. It does also specify certain bars and exclusions, setting forth some conditions under which someone is expressly unable to claim the Convention’s protections. Being ‘firmly resettled’ in another country is one of the most often seen.

What Is Firm Resettlement?

An alien or potential asylee is considered to be ‘firmly resettled’ in a country when they received an offer, while in that country, of permanent residence, citizenship or any other potentially permanent immigration status, unless they show one of two exceptions are true. The first is that they only entered the country as an expedient path on their flight from persecution or danger, while the second is to allege that they were not actually resettled because the country’s authorities put such restrictions on the person’s freedoms as to render them subject to governmental whims. In the latter case, the issue of firm resettlement is usually decided on a case-by-case basis by analyzing an individual’s restrictions and freedoms during that period of time.

It is important to note that the firm resettlement bar is slightly different for refugees than for asylees in that the bar only applies to refugees if they receive an offer of immigration status in a country they entered for purposes of flight. For example, if a person claiming refugee status fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, former Zaire) deliberately to Rwanda, and was offered permanent residence there, the firm resettlement bar would apply. If they instead entered Rwanda accidentally, walking over an undefended border, the bar would conceivably not apply.

The Four-Step Framework

Cases involving the question of firm resettlement tend to proceed on a four-step framework, first laid out by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Matter of A-G-G- (2011). The steps are:

  • The asylum officer must be the one to bring up the existence of an offer of firm resettlement;
  • If evidence exists to support the existence of such an offer, the applicant must be given the chance to rebut it or explain it;
  • The officer makes a decision; and
  • If they decide the applicant was in fact firmly resettled, the burden of proof shifts to the applicant to prove that one of the exceptions to the firm resettlement rule applies.

This framework is important to understand because failure to provide you the opportunity to explain evidence of firm resettlement can be grounds for appeal if the officer decides against you. It is also important to be aware that ‘evidence’ of a firm offer of resettlement can sometimes be tenuous. In Matter of D-X- and Y-Z- (2012), the court held that even a fake document, or a document obtained fraudulently, can constitute an offer of firm resettlement. If you have been forced to use fake documents, you may need extremely strong evidence to prove you were not firmly resettled in whichever country those documents purported to be from.

Ask an Immigration Attorney for Help

People who apply for asylum do not do so lightly, and being ineligible due to a technicality can be a death sentence for some. It is imperative to understand your position as best you can, and an experienced attorney can make all the difference. The skilled Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC have years of experience in these cases, and we will do our very best to help you with yours. Contact us today via our website or via telephone to set up a free initial consultation.

Sources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/8/208.15
http://refworld.org/pdfid/4dd2791e2.pdf
https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/07/25/3737.pdf

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