There are cases in which people come to the United States from other countries because of the poor circumstances in their own country. This typically happens when people are forced to leave their country due to war, persecution, violence, or even a natural disaster. These individuals are known as refugees. A refugee may be persecuted their race, religion, nationality, political opinions, or social group. When this happens, they either cannot return home or they are afraid of doing so. These individuals may obtain refugee status in the United States as a form of protection from the harm in their native country.


In order to obtain refugee status in the United States, the individual is required to meet certain requirements. This includes:

  • They must be located outside of the United States
  • They must be of special humanitarian concern to the United States
  • They can prove they were persecuted or that they have a well-founded fear that they will be persecuted if they return to their country
  • They are not permanently living in another country
  • They can legally be admitted to the United States

A person will not be considered for refugee status if they ordered, incited, assisted, or participated in the persecution of anyone because of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

Priority Cases

In some cases, the United States will prioritize a person for refugee status. The categories for priority are as follows:

  • Priority 1: A case that is identified and referred to the program by United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), a United States Embassy, or a designated non-governmental organization
  • Priority 2: Groups of special humanitarian concern identified by the United States refugee program
  • Priority 3: A family reunification case in which the spouse, child, or parents of a person lawfully admitted to the United States as refugees, asylees, permanent residents, or citizens who previously had refugee or asylum status

How to Apply 

When a person is looking to obtain refugee status and they are eligible to do so, they must follow a certain process. They must either be referred to by UNHCR, a U.S. Embassy, or a designated non-governmental organization. If they are not, they can begin the application process with a Resettlement Support Center.

After the individual is referred to the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and is found eligible for refugee status, a number of things will happen. This process is as follows:

  • The application will be processed by the Resettlement Support Center and all biographical information will be gathered
  • The individual will have an in-person interview with a United States Citizen and Immigration Services refugee officer
  • A health screening will be done to identify medical needs and to ensure the individual has no contagious diseases
  • The Resettlement Support Center will request “sponsorship assurance” from different community-based organizations
  • The individual must take a course on cultural orientation

Contact our Firm

The Law Offices of Cheryl R. David practices immigration law throughout NYC. If you have questions about your particular matters regarding immigration please contact the office to discuss your circumstances and options.