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Legal Information: Federal


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March 25, 2019

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

You may be eligible for refugee status if you are:

  • outside of your country of nationality and outside of the U.S.;
  • of special humanitarian concern to the U.S.;
  • not firmly resettled in another country;
  • admissible to the U.S.; and
  • unable or unwilling to return to, or to get protection from, your country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on:
    • race;
    • religion;
    • nationality;
    • membership in a particular social group; or
    • political opinion.1

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).

1 INA §101(a)(42)(A); see USCIS website Refugees page

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?

To receive refugee status, you must either:

  1. be referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) by:
    • the U.N. High Commission on Refugees;
    • a U.S. Embassy; or
    • a designated non-governmental organization; or
  2. start the application process with a Resettlement Support Center.1

If you receive a referral to the USRAP, you will receive help filling out your application and then be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer. The officer will determine whether or not you are eligible for refugee resettlement in the U.S.2

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

1 See the USCIS U.S. Refugee Admissions Program FAQs
2 See the USCIS website Refugees page