How to apply for a green card through refugee or asylee status

There are several avenues available to apply for a green card, such as through family or a job offer. One of the lesser-known ways to obtain the right to live and work in the U.S. is by applying via refugee or asylee status. Depending on whether you’re a refugee or an asylee, the process of applying has specific eligibility criteria and requires slightly different steps.

Applying as a refugee
A refugee is someone who was forced to leave his or her native country to escape persecution, war or a natural disaster. To qualify for a green card under this status, you must have been living in the U.S. for at least one year after being admitted as a refugee. You must not have had your refugee status terminated or already obtained permanent residency in the past. Then, you can apply for a green card by following these steps:

  • File form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, selecting box “h” for refugee.
  • Submit supporting evidence, including two photos, form G-325A and the vaccination portion of form I-693 (signed by a civil surgeon), as well as proof of legal name change, if applicable, and evidence of refugee status. You may also need to fill out form G-28 if you had legal assistance in the application process and form I-693 in the case of being denied due to medical reasons.

Applying as an asylee
An asylee is someone who is currently in the U.S. and is no longer able to return to his or her native country or fears returning due to persecution. These immigrants can apply for green cards after a year of being granted asylee status. It is not mandatory that an asylee obtain a green card, though it may be in his or her best interest, as asylum status can change if he or she no longer meets the definition of an asylee or the conditions within his or her home country changes. You must also not have abandoned your status and not be resettled in a foreign country, as well as being admissible to the U.S., to obtain a green card by this means. You can then apply by following these steps:

  • File form I-485.
  • Provide supporting evidence, including two passport-style photos, forms I-693 (vaccination information) and G-325A (biographical information), a copy of your I-94 card to prove asylee status and, if you’ve been arrested, certified copies of court records.
  • Pay an application and fingerprinting fee.