Although many who seek a green card in the United States are simply married to a U.S. citizen and hoping their relationship will help process a smooth I-485 process, there are other categories of immigrants and non-immigrants who are seeking a green card through an adjustment of status. One of these categories of immigrants are refugees.

As defined by U.S. law as well as the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees are migrants who are able to demonstrate that they have been persecuted, or have reason to fear persecution, on the basis of one of five “protected grounds”: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group (CFR, 2020). 

In order to become an immigrant eligible to travel to the United States, you must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee first. For more information on the referral criteria, see the USRAP Consultations and Worldwide Processing Priorities or visit the USCIS page that deals with refugees and related issues here: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum/refugees

Regardless of the process of how refugees come to the United States, these individuals are also ones who will eventually need to file their own I-485 forms within one year of being in the United States. Refugees are eligible to work once they land in America, and most will simply be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, and will have their passports stamped appropriately.

How Applying for a Waiver Affects your I-485

One of the more complicated factors of being a refugee and seeking refuge inside the United States is due to the process of adjusting your status later on. Refugees can sometimes be ineligible for adjusting their status, or for having a green card approved because of “grounds of inadmissibility”. For example, health related concerns and mental health records tend to prevent refugees from being issued a green card on the contingency of their admissibility.

In order to bypass this process and make sure that an applicant is able to both come to the United States, and eventually secure a green card, applicants should be encouraged to fill out their I-602 Form. Basically, the form is an Application made by the Refugee as Waiver for Grounds of Excludability. The form can be found here, or on the USCIS website: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/forms/i-602.pdf

Some of the criteria that the USCIS is looking out for when it comes to adjusting status, and why refugees may need to file their I-602, involve the following:

  • Communicable diseases that may be of public health significance
  • Having a physical or mental health disorder that is associated with a potential threat to to the property or safety of others
  • Crimes of moral turpitude
  • Having been engaged in prostitution at any point in the last ten years
  • Having been affiliated with or engaged with a Communist or any other totalitarian party as per the INA Section 212a(3)(D)

There are many other grounds for inadmissibility, as the list goes on. For applicants that have claimed refugee status and are looking to eventually adjust their status in the United States, the activities that are outlined on Pages 2 and 3 of the Form I-602 are very important. It is a good idea to at least download this form and scroll these first three pages to see if you qualify for any of the boxes to be checked.

If you need to file both Forms concurrently, as when you are applying for an adjustment of status, it is better to be safe than have to start the process all over again and accrue more fees.

In addition, once eligible to adjust their status inside the United States, a refugee should have their approved refugee application, Form I-590 with the proper endorsement, or an approved relative petition, Form I-730, to show. Although applicants may submit an Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94), or a notice showing an approved relative petition with their application, these documents must always be cross-checked to show true status.

Keywords
Refugee Green Card EAD