FY 2020 U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Access Categories

Section 207(a)(3) of the INA says that 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”[1]:

  • 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 USRAP by U.S. embassy, UNHCR, or a designated non-governmental organization (NGO).  UNHCR has historically referred the vast majority of P-1 cases; however, USRAP will no longer accept referrals from UNHCR except in the categories listed in this year’s allocation in the Presidential Determination.  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 Department of State and DHS concur.

Priority 2 (P-2):  Group Referrals

P-2 includes specific groups identified by U.S. law.  The open-access model allows individuals to access the program directly, on the basis of certain criteria.  The Resettlement Support Centers (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.

Once an individual gains access to USRAP 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.

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

  • Certain Members of Religious Minority Groups in Eurasia and the Baltics: Jews, Evangelical Christians, and Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox religious adherents identified in the Lautenberg Amendment, Section 599D of Title V, P. L. 101-167, as amended (the Lautenberg Amendment), with close family in the United States.  Based on 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.
  • Certain 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 eligible under Section 1243(a) of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007, Title XII, Div. A, P. L. 110-181, as amended.

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

  • Certain Members of Religious Minority Groups in Iran: Jews, Christians, Baha’is, Sabaean-Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians are considered under a reduced evidentiary standard for establishing a well-founded fear of persecution pursuant to the annual renewal of the Lautenberg Amendment, as amended in 2004 by Section 213 of Title II, Division E, of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, P. L. 108-199 (the Specter Amendment).
  • Certain 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 eligible under Section 1243(a) of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007, Title XII, Div. A, P. L. 110-181, as amended.  This program operates in Jordan and Egypt in addition to the in-country program in Iraq.

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 2020, P-3 processing is available to individuals of the following nationalities:

  • Afghanistan
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Cuba
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.)
  • 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.


[1] 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.

U.S. Department of State

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