USCIS clarifies physical presence guidance for asylees and refugees

Effective immediately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a clarification regarding the physical presence requirement for asylees and refugees applying for adjustment of status. According to the updated guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual, both asylees and refugees must have been physically present in the United States for a period of one year at the time of adjudicating their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This clarification applies to all pending Form I-485 and Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, applications as of February 2, 2023, and those filed thereafter. 

The purpose of this update is to ensure consistency in the adjudication process for asylee and refugee adjustment of status applications. In cases where the USCIS cannot determine an applicant's compliance with the one-year physical presence requirement through existing records during the adjudication of Form I-485, additional evidence may be requested. 

Additionally, the policy manual update specifies that asylee and refugee adjustment of status applicants who were previously admitted in J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant status and were subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 212(e) are not obligated to fulfill that requirement or obtain a waiver when adjusting their status under INA 209. 

The USCIS Policy Manual update also includes minor technical adjustments, such as clarifying processing steps for refugees seeking waivers of inadmissibility, eliminating references to the outdated Form I-291, Decision on Application for Status as Permanent Resident, and incorporating relevant regulatory citations pertaining to asylum termination procedures. 

For further details, the updated guidance is available in the USCIS Policy Manual, and individuals are encouraged to provide feedback through the Policy Manual Feedback page, with USCIS considering and incorporating received comments in future updates. 


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