Refugees' Frequently Asked Questions
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in the information below should be construed as legal advice or encouragement to any person or persons to leave their country of nationality or residence; or to constitute any agreement on the part of HIAS to provide legal services or advice in any matter pertaining to the seeking of residence in the United States or any other country.
You must first identify a person in the United States who is willing to act as your U.S. Tie. This person must be your friend or relative and must be known to you personally. This potential U.S. Tie should visit a refugee resettlement agency in their area to inquire about the application process, the documentation required and their responsibilities as a U.S. Tie. The refugee resettlement agency staff will provide all necessary application materials and instructions.
If you are physically present in the United States, you may be eligible for asylum. For more information, see Form I-589 (Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal) which can be found here. You may wish to consult an attorney or Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representative at your own expense prior to filing an application for asylum. HIAS can evaluate your claim for asylum, but we cannot guarantee that we will be able to accept your case. You should contact Simon Wettenhall (firstname.lastname@example.org) at HIAS.
Individuals who believe they are eligible for refugee status under Lautenberg must complete a Preliminary Questionnaire (PQ) for each family member 14 or older and send the PQs and supporting documentation listed in the PQ instructions to their relative in the United States. All PQs must have the original signature. The PQ may be obtained from any local refugee resettlement agency in the United States. For agencies in the HIAS network, please click here. Once the stateside relative receives the completed PQs, she/he must contact the local refugee resettlement agency to make an appointment to complete an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR). To discuss the Lautenberg Program with a HIAS staff member, please email FSU.Refugee.Program@hias.org.
Citizens of the countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, who presently reside in the territory of the former Soviet Union, are eligible to apply for the refugee program under the Lautenberg Amendment if they (1) can prove their membership in one of the religious minorities subject to persecution in FSU (Jews, Evangelical Christians, Ukrainian Catholics, and members of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church) and (2) have first-degree relatives permanently residing in the United States. First-degree relatives include spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins are not considered first-degree relatives. To discuss the Lautenberg Program with a HIAS staff member, please email FSU.Refugee.Program@hias.org.
Refugee status is granted indefinitely and has no expiration date once the refugee has arrived in the United States. However, refugees are required to apply for permanent resident status (a green card) a year after living in the U.S.
Spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of a refugee are eligible for derivative refugee or asylum status and that is true whether the relatives are located in another country or are physically present in the U.S. To bring them to the U.S., the refugee must submit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Form I-730 within two years of the date of entry as a refugee.
If you are physically present in the United States, you may be eligible for asylum in the U.S. For more information, see Form I-589 (Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal), which can be found here. You may wish to consult an attorney or Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representative at your own expense prior to filing an application for asylum. HIAS can evaluate your claim for asylum, but we cannot guarantee that we will be able to accept your case.
HIAS provides legal assistance to persons of all nationalities, religions, and backgrounds who are afraid to return to their home countries and who do not have the means to pay for legal representation. Our attorneys in New York City and Silver Spring, Md., offer monthly phone consultations with follow-up in-person consultations for those with viable cases. We are open to referrals from other non-profit organizations, as well as private attorneys.
HIAS’ U.S. Legal team provides pro bono representation in deportation proceedings and in obtaining humanitarian visas and asylum, while also providing holistic support to our clients through wraparound services. Initial phone consultations take place one day each month. Consultations are held on the first Friday of every month from 8am-4pm. To contact our New York office, call 212-613-1341. To contact our Silver Spring office, please call 301-844-7248. We will not respond to calls received outside of these hours. Please note, we do not offer walk-in consultations.
HIAS does not provide sponsors. You should contact the nearest office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for information on resettlement options. You can find the closest office at the bottom of this page.