On February 2nd, USCIS updated its policy guidance regarding the 1-year residency continuance for those who have been granted asylum or entered the United States as refugees. The update clarifies that the calculation of residence continuity in the United States for one year will not be calculated from the time before they file a green card application, but from the time before USCIS makes a decision on the green card application.
The update confused and differing opinions among legal practitioners about when it is safe to apply for a green card after asylum is approved. Some believed it was safer to wait six months, while others believed it was safer to wait one year.
There was concern about the risk involved, especially if USCIS made an immediate decision on the application. USCIS spokeswoman Katherine Tichacek confirmed that there would be no problem applying for a green card immediately after asylum is approved or after entering the US as a refugee. According to a USCIS spokeswoman, the applicant will not be penalized if they apply for a green card immediately after the approval of asylum. Their application will not be rejected on that basis.
However, it’s important to note that USCIS will not decide on the green card application until one year has elapsed since the grant of asylum or the initial admission as a refugee. If USCIS reviews an application immediately or if one year hasn’t elapsed since the grant of asylum or the initial admission as a refugee, the agency will not reject the application, but the agency will hold the application. Tichacek explained, “If an applicant files their adjustment of status application before one year and USCIS accepts it, USCIS will hold the application until one year has elapsed since the grant of asylum or the initial admission as a refugee.”
This means that an applicant does not need to worry about their application being rejected if they file for their green card as soon as asylum is approved. Tichacek also clarified that USCIS will determine the amount of time the asylee or refugee has been physically present in the US when making a decision on the green card application. If USCIS cannot determine whether an applicant satisfies the one-year physical presence requirement, additional evidence may be requested.
Tichacek stated, “After that, USCIS will determine the amount of time the asylee or refugee has been physically present in the U.S. If we cannot determine whether an applicant satisfies the one-year physical presence requirement by reviewing their file or our records when we adjudicate the Form I-485, we may request additional evidence.”
The new policy guidance applies to applications pending on February 2 and all applications filed on or after that date. USCIS says this update promotes consistency in the adjustment of green cards for asylum-seekers and refugees and aligns policy with President Biden’s Executive Order 14012 to remove barriers to access to immigration benefits.
It’s important to note that USCIS has been taking a long time to decide on asylum-based green cards after the coronavirus epidemic. On average, it takes 37 months to make a decision on an asylum-based green card at the Nebraska Service Center, with USCIS deciding 80 percent of applications within that timeframe.
Similarly, it takes an average of 36 and a half months to make a decision about an asylum-based green card at the Texas Service Center, with USCIS deciding 80 percent of applications within that timeframe.