FY 2019 U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Access Categories

Section 207(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) says that U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) shall allocate admissions among refugees “of special humanitarian concern to the United States in accordance with a determination made by the President after appropriate consultation.” There are three categories of individuals eligible to enter USRAP, known as “priorities.”  (Note that entering USRAP under a certain “priority” does not establish precedence in the order in which cases will be processed. Once cases are established as eligible for access under one of the three processing priorities, they all undergo the same processing steps.)

  • Priority 1: Individual cases referred by designated entities to the program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement.
  • Priority 2: Groups of special concern designated by the Department of State as having access to the program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement.
  • Priority 3: Individual cases from designated nationalities granted access for purposes of reunification with family members already in the United States.

Priority 1 (P-1): Individual Referrals

P-1 allows consideration of refugee claims from persons of any nationality, usually with compelling protection needs, for whom resettlement appears to be the appropriate, durable solution. P-1 cases are identified and referred to the program by UNHCR, a U.S. embassy, or a designated NGO. UNHCR has historically referred the vast majority of P-1 cases. Some NGOs providing humanitarian assistance in locations where there are large concentrations of refugees are eligible to provide P-1 referrals. A U.S. ambassador may make a P-1 referral for persons still in their country of origin if the ambassador determines that such cases are in need of exceptional treatment, and the Departments of State and DHS concur.

Priority 2 (P-2): Group Referrals

P-2 includes specific groups whose members are in need of resettlement (within certain nationalities, clans, or ethnic groups, and sometimes in specified locations) identified by the Department of State in consultation with DHS, UNHCR, NGOs, or other entities. The process of identifying the group and its characteristics includes consideration of whether the group is of special humanitarian concern to the United States, and whether individual members of the group are likely to qualify for admission as refugees under U.S. law.

There are two P-2 models: open access and pre-defined group access, often upon the recommendation of UNHCR. Under both models, P-2 designations are made based on shared characteristics that define the group. In general, these characteristics are the reason members of the group have been persecuted in the past or will face persecution in the future.

The open-access model allows individuals to access the program directly, on the basis of meeting designated criteria. The RSCs responsible for handling open-access P-2 applications, working under the direction of PRM, make a preliminary determination as to whether individual applicants qualify for access and should be presented to DHS for interview. Applicants who clearly do not meet the access requirements are “screened out” before the DHS interview.

In contrast, a pre-defined group designation is normally based on a UNHCR recommendation describing eligibility criteria that should apply to individuals in a specific location. In this model, the referring entity (usually UNHCR) provides the biographical data of eligible refugee applicants for to the RSC for processing.

Once an individual gains access to processing via a P-2 designation, all other processing steps are the same as for those referred by P-1, including individual pre-screening and DHS interviews, and all security and medical checks.

FY 2019 P-2 Designations:

Open-access P-2s inside their country of origin:

  • Eurasia and the Baltics: Jews, Evangelical Christians, and Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox religious adherents identified in the Lautenberg Amendment, P.L. 101-167, § 599D, 103 Stat. 1261 (1989) (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1157) as amended (“Lautenberg Amendment”), with close family in the United States. With the annual statutory renewal of the Lautenberg Amendment, these individuals are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution.
  • Iraqis Associated with the United States: Employees of the U.S. government, U.S. government-funded contractors or grantees, U.S. media, or U.S. NGOs working in Iraq, and certain family members of such employees, as well as beneficiaries of approved I-130 Petitions for Alien Relative for whom immigrant visas have not yet been issued, are eligible for refugee processing in Iraq.

Open-access P-2s outside their country of origin:

  • Iranian Religious Minorities: Iranian members of certain religious minority groups are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution pursuant to the annual statutory renewal of the Lautenberg Amendment as amended in 2004 by Sec. 213 of Title II, Division E, of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, P.L. 108-199, 118 Stat. 3 (“the Specter Amendment”).
  • Iraqis Associated with the United States: Employees of the U.S. government, U.S. government-funded contractors or grantees, U.S. media, or U.S. NGOs working in Iraq, and certain family members of such employees, as well as beneficiaries of approved I-130 Petitions for Alien Relative for whom immigrant visas have not yet been issued. This program operates in Jordan and Egypt, in addition to the in-country program in Iraq.
  • Syrian Beneficiaries of Approved I-130 petitions: Certain Syrian beneficiaries of approved I-130 Petitions for Alien Relative for whom immigrant visas have not yet been issued.

Pre-defined group access P-2s outside their country of origin:

  • Ethnic Minorities and Others from Burma in Camps in Thailand: Individuals who fled Burma, are registered in one of nine refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma border, are identified by UNHCR as in need of resettlement, and expressed interest in third-country resettlement prior to January 2014, depending on location.
  • Ethnic Minorities from Burma in Malaysia: Members of ethnic minorities from Burma who are recognized by UNHCR as refugees in Malaysia, registered by August 17, 2010, and identified as being in need of resettlement. UNHCR has referred the vast majority of all Burmese Chin P-2 cases, and USRAP will focus on resolving the Burmese Chin residual caseload in FY 2019. UNHCR will continue to refer Rohingya and other Burmese ethnic minorities for resettlement consideration.
  • Congolese in Rwanda: Certain refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Rwanda who arrived between 1994 and 2005, were verifiably registered in 2011 or 2012, and were identified as in need of resettlement.
  • Congolese in Tanzania: Certain DRC refugees registered by UNHCR in Tanzania whose residence in Nyarugusu camp was confirmed in a 2013-2014 UNHCR verification exercise.

Priority 3 (P-3): Family Reunification

P-3 provides USRAP access to members of designated nationalities who have immediate family members in the United States who entered as refugees or were granted asylum (even if they subsequently gained LPR status or naturalized as U.S. citizens). Parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21 of the U.S.-based asylee or refugee can participate. For FY 2019, P-3 processing is available to individuals of the following nationalities:

  • Afghanistan
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Cuba
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Mali
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria

Following-to-Join Family Reunification Petitions

A refugee admitted to the United States may request “following-to-join benefits” for his or her spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 who were not previously granted refugee status. Within two years of admission, the refugee may file a Form I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition with DHS for each eligible family member.

Individuals who gain access to the USRAP through the Form I-730 petition process are interviewed by DHS or Department of State consular officers to verify the relationships claimed in the petition, as well as to examine any applicable bars to status and admissibility. Beneficiaries of I-730 petitions are not required to establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, as they derive their status from the petitioner. Beneficiaries of I-730 petitions may be processed within their country of origin or in other locations.

Certain relatives in the United States may file an I-730 petition and simultaneously seek Priority 3 access for their qualifying family members (if eligible). In some cases, the I-730 petition will be the only option as the family members are still in their country of origin. Unlike the P-3 process, the I-730 process does not allow the relative in the United States to petition for parents.

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