Asylum and Refugee

New Orleans Asylum and Refugee Lawyers

Helping refugees and asylum seekers in New Orleans and Louisiana

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Both refugees and asylum seekers need experienced immigration lawyers on their side. Asylees may apply for green card status one year after their grant of asylum.

At the Law Office of James A. Graham, our New Orleans immigration lawyers represent both refugees and asylees – as defined by the above definitions provided by the US Department of Homeland Security. We’ll work to show that an applicant meets the definition of a refugee or asylee. We’ll file the correct forms, petitions, and documents, to support the request of the refugee or asylee for lawful permanent (LPR) status in the United States. We work with the refugee/asylee and his/her family to present the strongest case for a green card possible.

How does someone gain refugee status in New Orleans?

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A refugee is someone who has left his/her country who is not willing or able to return to that country because of persecution, or a well-grounded fear or persecution, due to their race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

To gain refugee status, a person must be referred to the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Per USCIS, refugee priorities in the United States are:

  • Priority 1. Cases that are identified and referred to the program by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a United States Embassy, or a designated non-governmental organization (NGO).
  • Priority 2. Groups of special humanitarian concern identified by the U.S. refugee program.
  • Priority 3: Family reunification cases (spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of persons lawfully admitted to the United States as refugees or asylees or permanent residents (green card holders) or U.S. citizens who previously had refugee or asylum status).

A refugee must apply for Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card”) status one year after being admitted to the United States.

With the help of our experienced immigration attorneys, we help refugees fill out their application and attend an interview by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer – in a foreign location such as the US embassy. The USCIS will determine if the applicant qualifies as a refugee. The refugees must be otherwise admissible (can’t be guilty of certain crimes, have communicable diseases, etc.). The refugee cannot have been involved in the persecution of others because of the other person’s race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Once the refugee status hurdle is cleared, the refugee will have a medical exam, a cultural orientation, and help for travel to the US including a loan.

The refugee’s case may include  his/her spouse, children (unmarried and under 21 years of age), and in some limited circumstances, other family members. The case may also include a same-sex spouse in your application provided that the refugee and the spouse are legally married. Some non-married same-sex partners may also be eligible.

The refugee does not owe a fee to apply for refugee status. The US does not share the refugee’s information with the home country.

How does someone gain asylee status in New Orleans?

An asylum seeker is someone who qualifies as a refugee – who is already present in America or at a port of entry. An asylee can obtain US asylum status in one of two ways:

  • The affirmative process. The applicant applies at the border if not already in the US. The asylee will not be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration Judge. The asylee must use Form I-589 to apply for asylum status. The asylee will also need to be fingerprinted and attend an interview with an official from the USCIS.
  • The defensive process. This process is used when the asylee is in removal proceedings. The asylee requests asylum as a deportation defense. The asylee will appear before an immigration Judge who decides the asylee’s eligibility for asylum.

To apply for affirmative or defensive asylum, the asylee must file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal within one year of their arrival in the US. There is no fee to apply for asylum. Asylees may apply for green card status one year after their grant of asylum.

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What rights do refugees in Louisiana have?

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The United States provides the following refugee rights once the refugee status is determined:

  • The right to stay in the United States until and if the conditions in their home country become safe
  • A right to work permit
  • Government support for several months after their arrival
  • The right to bring some close family members once Form I-730 is filed and approved
  • The right to apply for a green card – a year after being in the US
  • The right to apply for US citizenship – five years after the green card application date

Refugees can start working immediately when they arrive in the US. The refugee should receive a Form I-94 that contains a refugee admission stamp. According to USCIS, a “Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, will be filed for you in order for you to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). While you are waiting for your EAD, you can present your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, to your employer as proof of your permission to work in the United States.”

To file for a green card, the refugee should use Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Refugees who want to travel outside the US must obtain (before departure) a Refugee Travel Document to return to the US.

What rights do asylees in Louisiana have?

Once asylum status is granted, an asylee has the same general rights as a refugee.

Our New Orleans refugee and asylum lawyers will explain which forms you need to file to assert your rights. There are specific time limits for filing an Application for Employment Authorization – Form I-765:

Delays that [the asylee] requests or causes while [their] asylum application is pending with an asylum office or with the Executive Office for Immigration Review do not count toward the 150-day waiting period or the 180-day eligibility period. Possible delays include:

  • Asking to transfer a case to a new asylum office or interview location, including when the transfer is based on your change of address
  • Asking to reschedule an interview for a later date
  • Failing to appear at an interview or biometrics appointment
  • Failing to provide a competent interpreter at an interview (if required)
  • Asking to provide additional evidence at or after an interview
  • Submitting large volumes of evidence immediately before an interview that requires a reschedule
  • Failing to receive and acknowledge an asylum decision in person (if required)

The USCIS provides that “If you are scheduled for an asylum or NACARA 203 interview at an asylum office and you have an attorney or an accredited representative, they may participate in your interview remotely by telephone.”

Foreigners who are granted asylum may petition to bring a spouse and unmarried children (under 21) to America. The petition must be filed within two years from the date asylum is granted – unless there are humanitarian reasons.

Do you have a refugee and asylum lawyer near me?

The Law Office of James A. Graham is located in New Orleans and serves all of South Louisiana.

For clients who are unable to travel, we can schedule phone or video conferences when needed.

Talk with our strong caring New Orleans refugee and asylum immigration lawyers today

At the Law Office of James A. Graham, we understand the often traumatic and devastating reasons why foreigners seek refugee or asylum status in the United States. We work with applicants and the US families of applicants who are seeking to relocate to the US. We also fight to bring spouses, children, and other close family members (where permitted) to be with a refugee/asylee. To discuss your immigration rights or those of a loved one, please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.