YES! The US welcomes refugees from other countries. Foreigners who are forced to leave their homes because of war, security concerns, religious persecution, racial persecution, and other qualifying forms of persecution can come to America first as refugees before getting permanent residence (a green card) and eventually becoming naturalized (gaining US citizenship).
So, refugees can become American citizens. However, the process takes time. It also requires the refugees to follow due process and meet certain eligibility requirements.
The USCIS is the agency responsible for handling refugees and asylees and other related immigration issues. The agency is part of the DHS that welcomes refugees and asylees to America. The US values the talents and skills of individuals forced out of their countries because of eventualities like war and persecution and welcomes such individuals in the US.
The goal of resettlement is to ensure refugees and asylees get a new life in the US. While the US, alongside agencies like the UNHCR, helps those who want to go back to their countries, assistance is also given for those who wish to establish themselves in America.
The process of refugees becoming US citizens starts with a refugee obtaining refugee status.
Can Refugees become US citizens? Yes! and here are the three steps to be followed.
Step 1: Obtaining Refugee Status
Refugees that find themselves in places like Austin TX, or any other state must be legally recognized as refugees before they can start their path to citizenship. To secure refugee status, you must show you can’t return to your country because of reasons such as past persecution or a well-founded fear of imminent persecution. Victims of war are notable examples of individuals who meet the criteria for applying for refugee status.
Refugees need to fill form I-590 and provide other required information to apply for consideration as a refugee in the US. Meeting eligibility requirements for refugee status in America can be a challenge. To increase your odds of being successful, consult an immigration lawyer.
Once you are given a refugee status, you enjoy certain rights such as freedom of speech, assembly, and worship. Individuals who secure their status as refugees should understand US laws and culture to have a smooth experience. Refugees in America can work in America, leave anywhere, including Austin TX, travel to/from the US under certain conditions, and attend public schooling, just to mention a few rights. Most importantly, refugees have a right to pursue lawful permanent residence.
Step 2: Getting Permanent Resident Status
The next step for refugees interested in becoming US citizens is pursuing a green card (permanent residence). Refugees can pursue permanent residency status a year after securing refugee status. The benefits of permanent residence include being able to work as well as live in the US permanently.
Permanent residents get a green card (Permanent Resident Card). Refugees must meet certain conditions to get green cards. Besides being required to be in the US for at least a year after gaining refugee status, they must also maintain physical presence when applying. The same condition applies to asylum seekers interested in permanent resident status.
Refugees must file Form I-485 and provide other documentation as part of getting permanent residence status.
The application is free for refugees. It is also straightforward. However, applications are usually rejected because of the smallest procedural reasons. The importance of getting legal assistance from an immigration attorney can’t be overemphasized.
Step 3: Applying for Naturalization
Once you secure lawful permanent residency, you can apply for US citizenship. Refugees and asylees are required to wait for five years before seeking Naturalization (citizenship). Understanding the timeline requirements is important given there are rollback provisions. Generally, refugees can become US citizens faster than asylees who got into the US simultaneously.
Refugees count the five-year time requirement from the date of securing permanent residency. So, refugees who spend years in America before pursuing permanent residency status will still have to wait 5 years before applying for Naturalization.
The USCIS has specific requirements for Naturalization. For instance, this process is reserved for adults aged 18 and above. Other requirements besides having lawful permanent residence status include speaking, reading and writing English, demonstrating good moral character, and demonstrating a good understanding of US culture, history, and government. You should also be loyal to the US constitution and swear allegiance to the US.
Individuals with permanent residence in America can file for Naturalization easily online or by paper. To file online, one requires a USCIS online a/c. Once the account is active, you simply need to provide the relevant evidence and pay applicable filing fees electronically. The USCIS sends case status updates communicated directly and securely. You can respond to these requests and communication online.
When filing by paper, you need Form N-400. Complete the form, sign it, pay the applicable filing fee and provide the required documentation. All the information required is provided on Form N-400.
After filing, you should expect to receive a confirmation notice acknowledging that your application has been received. This is followed by a notice to go for a biometrics appointment (if applicable). You’ll also be given an interview date. After attending, a notice containing the application decision is sent.
Individuals who are successful must pledge allegiance to America at the Naturalization Ceremony that marks the beginning of US citizenship.
Summary: Can Refugees Become US Citizens?
YES! However, there is a process and special requirements. The process begins by securing a refugee status then permanent residency. After five years, a Naturalization application can be made. The above information is obviously an over-simplification of the whole process. To ensure you meet all requirements and increase your chances of successfully becoming a US citizen, seek the assistance of an immigration attorney.
There are seasoned immigration attorneys in Austin TX to consider for refugees interested in going through the process of Naturalization smoothly. Most importantly, you don’t need to incur huge costs. The best immigration lawyers are willing to offer free legal advice and won’t necessarily charge you for basic but important information often overlooked by refugees pursuing citizenship.