U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Iraqi Processing -- Frequently Asked Questions

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
March 11, 2016


Q. Who is eligible for USRAP consideration?
A.
In general, a refugee is a person who has crossed an international border and is unwilling or unable to return home because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Individuals who have left Iraq and believe they have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution should approach the nearest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office for protection and assistance. UNHCR offices register asylum seekers and may refer for third-country resettlement consideration, including to the United States, those who are found to be particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement.

For more information on UNHCR standards and criteria for determining resettlement as the appropriate solution for refugees, refer to the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook, available online at http://www.unhcr.org/4a2ccf4c6.html.

Q. Are there any ways to apply to the USRAP if I am not referred by UNHCR?
A. Yes.
Certain categories of Iraqis with U.S. affiliations may apply directly for USRAP consideration without the need for a referral by UNHCR.

Persons described in the categories below who believe they are at risk or have experienced serious harm as a result of association with the U.S. government since March 20, 2003, and who wish to be considered for resettlement as refugees in the United States may initiate a case by contacting the relevant Department of State Resettlement Support Center (RSC) using contact information provided below. This is known as Priority-2 (P-2) or Direct Access.

The following individuals and their derivatives (spouse and unmarried children under age 21), with verifiable proof of U.S.-affiliated employment, may seek access through this program:

1. Iraqis who work/worked on a full-time basis as interpreters/translators for the U.S. Government (USG) or Multi-National Forces (MNF-I) in Iraq;

2. Iraqis who are/were employed by the USG in Iraq;

3. Iraqis who are/were employees of an organization or entity closely associated with the U.S. mission in Iraq that has received USG funding through an official and documented contract, award, grant or cooperative agreement;

4. Iraqis who are/were employed in Iraq by a U.S.-based media organization or nongovernmental organization;

5. Spouses, sons, daughters, parents and siblings of individuals described in the four categories above, or of an individual eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa as a result of his/her employment by or on behalf of the USG in Iraq, including if the individual is no longer alive, provided that the relationship is verified;

6. Iraqis who are beneficiaries of an approved I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Please note that applicants who qualify for direct access under this 6th category will be automatically contacted by the Department of State about initiating an application, and should not contact an RSC directly.

As of February 2016, processing is available in the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. We do not anticipate that processing will become available in Syria or Turkey.

Individuals in categories 1-5 above who reside in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or United Arab Emirates may initiate a case by contacting RSC MENA, which is operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at IC@iom.int.

Individuals in categories 1-5 above who reside in Lebanon may initiate a case by contacting RSC TuME, which is operated by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), at info.rsc@icmc.net.

Please note that while individuals in Lebanon do not need to be referred to the USRAP by UNHCR, Government of Lebanon exit permit procedures require that all refugees being resettled to the U.S. be registered with UNHCR.

Additionally, Iraqis are eligible for Priority-3 (P-3) access to USRAP if they are outside of Iraq and have immediate family members in the United States who initially entered as refugees or were granted asylum. The following relatives of the U.S.-based family members are qualified for P-3 access: spouse, unmarried children under 21, and/or parents. A U.S.-based family member may apply for a same-sex spouse if a legal marriage was conducted and documented. To initiate an application through this program, the U.S.-based family member should contact his/her resettlement agency (RA) for assistance in filing an Affidavit of Relationship on behalf of his/her Iraqi relatives overseas.

Q. What if I am an Iraqi still in Iraq?
A.
Certain categories of Iraqis with U.S. affiliations (as listed above) may apply for consideration to the USRAP in Iraq under the Priorty-2 program, rather than having to cross an international border. To be referred to the USRAP by UNHCR or to be eligible for the Priority-3 program, you must have crossed an international border and be outside of your home country.

Q. I am an Iraqi refugee in Syria. How can I apply for refugee resettlement in the U.S.?
A.
Due to the on-going security situation and the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Syria, U.S. officials are currently unable to enter Syria to conduct interviews. While it is our hope that such interviews will resume in Syria in the future, this cannot happen while the security problems continue.

We thank you for your patience during these difficult times, and we want to assure you that we have not stopped the U.S. resettlement program in Syria. Please be advised that:

  • For those individuals in Syria who have already completed all steps of U.S. processing, we are continuing to arrange for your safe departure to the United Status from Syria;
  • For those individuals who have already had their required in-person interview with a U.S. official, we are taking the necessary steps to process your case to completion;
  • For those who have not yet had an interview with a U.S. official, we urge you to remain patient.

We are aware that some refugees have left Syria due to security concerns. We cannot, however, advise you whether or not you should leave Syria. Only you can assess your own personal safety situation in Syria. If you leave Syria for your safety and move to a neighboring country, including Iraq, the United States will continue to process your case in your new location. If you leave Syria, please contact the Resettlement Support Center and UNHCR in the country of your new location. Please use the contact email addresses listed below:

  • Resettlement Support Center for the Middle East and North Africa (RSC MENA), operated by IOM: ic@iom.int. [For refugees in the Middle East or North Africa, except Lebanon]
  • Resettlement Support Center for Turkey and the Middle East (RSC TuME), operated by ICMC: info@icmcturkey.org. [For refugees in Turkey and Lebanon]

Q. What if I am an Iraqi citizen currently in the United States and am unable to return home?

A. Iraqis currently in the United States who are not able or unwilling to return to Iraq because they have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion may apply for asylum with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Information on the process of applying for asylum in the United States can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website at http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum.

Q. What if I have family members in the United States?
A.
A number of avenues are available for family reunification, depending on the immigration status of your relative in the United States.

U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents may file a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. U.S. citizens may file for spouses, children (regardless of age or marital status), siblings, and parents. Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may file for spouses, unmarried children under 21, and unmarried adult children. For additional information, please visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-130.

Iraqis who were admitted to the United States as a principal refugee (RE-1) or who were granted asylum status as a principle asylee (AS-1) may also file a Form I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition (also known as a follow-to-join petition or Visa 92/Visa 93) for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. This petition must be filed with USCIS within two years of arrival in the United States. For additional information, please visit http://www.uscis.gov/i-730.

Iraqis who were resettled to the U.S. through the USRAP or who were granted asylum in the U.S. may also file an affidavit of relationship (AOR) for their spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21 who are outside of their country of origin to apply for refugee resettlement through the USRAP. This form must be submitted to the Department of State through a resettlement agency affiliate in the refugee's geographic area. A directory of affiliates can be found at http://snip.state.gov/cdr.

Q. If I am referred to the program for processing, how long does it take?
A.
Resettlement is a multi-step process, and a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) or Priority-2 or Priority-3 direct-access application (if eligible) is the very first step. Upon receiving a referral or application and determining that an individual is eligible for consideration, the U.S. Department of State instructs its resettlement support center (RSC), an entity funded by the State Department, to prepare a case file. The next step is for the RSC to conduct a pre-screening interview. This process includes taking photos and fingerprints, collecting information, and initiating security checks. All applicants are then interviewed by an immigration officer from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). USCIS makes the final decision regarding every applicant’s eligibility for resettlement. If approved for refugee status, applicants undergo a medical exam and receive cultural orientation. An NGO in the United States agrees to be the refugee's sponsor. Once all security and medical checks are complete, approved applicants are booked on a flight to the United States by the International Organization for Migration, and given a loan to cover the cost of their travel. The time it takes to complete all the steps varies, but the worldwide average processing time is about 18 to 24 months from the time of referral or application until arrival in the United States. Every case is different, and waiting times vary.

Q. If I am referred by UNHCR or submit a direct application, am I guaranteed resettlement?
A.
No. The decision to admit an applicant to the United States as a refugee is made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) following an in-person interview with an officer from DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is based on the particular merits of the case. A referral or application by an eligible individual to the USRAP provides access to an interview with DHS/USCIS but does not guarantee admission to the United States.

Q. If I am granted refugee status how long can I stay in the U.S.?
A.
Resettlement through the USRAP is permanent. Those who are found to be refugees and admissible will be relocated to the United States to start new lives. They will be provided short-term assistance with housing, medical appointments, and other services upon arrival, but will be expected to seek employment and become fully self-sufficient as soon as possible. Eligible refugees must apply to adjust status to that of lawful permanent resident (LPR) after one year and may apply for U.S. citizenship after five years.

Q. What kind of benefits will I get if I become a refugee?
A.
Individuals who are admitted to the United States as refugees are sponsored by one of nine resettlement agencies participating in the Refugee Admissions Reception and Placement (R&P) Program. The sponsoring agency is responsible for providing initial services, which include housing, essential furnishings, food, necessary seasonal clothing, cultural orientation, and assistance with access to other social, medical, and employment services for the refugees’ first 30 - 90 days in the United States.

For more information about the R&P Program, please visit http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/receptionplacement/index.htm.

In addition to the R&P Program, refugees may be eligible for additional services from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For more information about HHS benefits, visit the website of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr.

Q. How can I find out the status of my refugee resettlement case?
A.
All inquiries regarding the status of a case already referred to the USRAP should be addressed to the respective RSC that is assisting with your case. Arabic speakers are on hand to answer questions.

If your case is being processed in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates, please contact RSC MENA, which is operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at IC@iom.int or by calling +962 (6) 562 5077. You may also check the status of your case online at: www.jordan.iom.int/refinfo.

If your case is being processed in Turkey or Lebanon, please contact RSC TuME, which is operated by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), at info.rsc@icmc.net or by calling (0.212) 219 20 55. You may also check the status of your case online at: rsc.icmc.net.

Please be ready to provide the RSC with your full name, date of birth, and 6-digit case number (for example: JO-123456). Please note that due to strict confidentiality guidelines, RSCs are not able to provide case updates to any third party, including family members, unless given permission to do so in writing by the principal applicant.

Neither the U.S. Department of State nor its Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs) can provide information on cases still pending referral by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Individuals must be in touch with UNHCR directly regarding the status of their case.

Q. Where can I learn about the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqis who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government?
A.
The Iraqi SIV program was authorized under section 1244 of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008, as amended. The deadline to apply to this program was September 30, 2014; therefore, the Iraqi program is not accepting new applications. Iraqi applicants who applied before the deadline continue to be considered for the SIV program. To learn more about the Iraqi SIV program, please visit http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/iraqis-work-for-us.html.

Q. What if I am writing on behalf of a member of Congress?
A.
All inquiries regarding case status should be directed to the Department of State’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H). If a request is tasked to the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), a representative from the appropriate office will respond in due course.

Q. I live in the United States and would like to assist resettled refugees. How can I help?
A.
Each refugee approved for admission to the United States is sponsored by one of nine resettlement agencies with local affiliates that provide direct services to refugees in 175 locations around the country. The initial services funded by the Department of State include: meeting refugees at the airport upon arrival; arranging for housing, essential furnishings, food, and clothing; and providing cultural orientation as well as assistance with access to other social, medical, and employment services. The local affiliates have their own practices for working with volunteers and collecting donations. We encourage you to contact the local affiliate(s) in your area to determine how you may be of assistance. Many locations have more than one refugee resettlement affiliate. Although this does not constitute an endorsement, the directory of affiliates can be found at http://snip.state.gov/cdr.

Q. How do I obtain more information about Iraqi refugee processing?
A.
Additional information on Iraqi refugee assistance and resettlement can be found at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) website at http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/index.htm.

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is free of charge to applicants. There is no need to contact a third party, such as an attorney or advocacy organization, regarding access.