Effective immediately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify that both asylees and refugees must have been physically present in the United States for one year when the agency adjudicates their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, rather than at the time they file their adjustment of status application. This applies to all Form I-485 and Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, applications pending on Feb. 2, 2023, and those filed on or after that date.
This means that instead of waiting for a year after gaining asylee status in the United States, asylees should be able to apply for adjustment of status much sooner. Technically, to be eligible for adjustment of status, an asylee or refugee must have been physically present in the United States for at least 1 year after either being granted asylum status or admitted as a refugee. Although this eligibility requirement is similar for asylees and refugees, USCIS guidance has historically differed on whether refugees and asylees are required to satisfy the physical presence requirement at the time of filing or the time of adjudication of adjustment of status.
Given that adjustment of status for asylees is now taking between one to three years, this is a welcome policy update to reduce the time it takes for asylees to gain lawful permanent residency, and eventually, citizenship.
The policy manual update also provides that USCIS considers a refugee or asylee who adjusted status to a permanent resident despite filing for adjustment before accruing 1 year of physical presence to have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence for purposes of naturalization if the applicant satisfied the physical presence requirement at the time of approval of the adjustment of status application.
In the policy manual update, USCIS also clarified that asylee and refugee adjustment of status applicants previously admitted in J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant status and otherwise subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 212(e) do not need to meet that two-year home residence requirement (or obtain a waiver) to adjust their status.
Our firm welcomes these new policy changes and clarifications. We have created and uploaded a checklist for asylee and refugees to follow in order to collect the documents necessary to apply for adjustment of status.
For more information about the asylee or refugee adjustments and to find out if this new law impacts you or your children, please make an appointment with us here.