Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Immigration Law: Refugee/Asylum

After the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 after the September 11 attacks, the enforcement of immigration laws was transferred from the Immigration and Naturalization Service(INS) to the Department of Homeland Security.

Refugee/Asylum Law Research

I.  Introduction

a.      U.S. refugee/asylum research required researchers to look at U.S. refugee law, including federal statutes, regulations, cases and administrative decisions, and international refugee law, including 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (“Refugee Convention”), 1967 UN Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, UN Convention Against Torture, ICCPR, CRC, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (See 8 C.F.R. §§ 208.1(b), 1208.1(b)).

b.      U.S. refugee/asylum law is unique because it is derived directly from international law. 

c.       Researchers will also need to find U.S. procedures as applied in overseas adjudications, visa procedures, and/or, UNHCR refugee status procedures and country reports. 

II. Key terms: INA § 101, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a), 8 C.F.R. § 1001.1 will be a great starting porint to find definitions of immigration terms.

a.      Refugee:

      • INA § 101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42), 1951 UN Refugee Convention, Article 1A(2).
      • Normal flow refugees (INA § 207(a), 8 U.S.C. § 1157(a)), emergency flow refugees (INA § 101(a)(42)(B), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(B)).
      • Designation for Refugee Proecess by Priority:
        • Priority One (P-1): Refugees identified by UNHCR (and DOS) as in urgent need of resettlement due to "compelling security converns in their country."
        • Priority Two (P-2): Refugee groups identified by DOS, after consultation with NGOs, UNHCR and USCIS as in particular need of resettlement due to their group status. 
        • Priority Three (P-3): Familiy members of refugees already in the U.S. Seme-sex marriage recognized. Matter of Zeleniak, 26 I&N Dec. 158, 159 (BIA 2013).
      •   USCIS Refugee Introduction:
      •   USCIS Asylum Introduction:
        • Per 8 U.S.C § 1158, asylum seekers means aliens who are physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States. 8 U.S.C § 1158(a)(1).

b.      Persecution:

      • INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407, 428 n.22 (1983); Khan v. Mukasey, 549 F.3d 573 (1st Cir. 2008), etc.
      • INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 439 n. 22 (1987) (refer to the Handbook and Guidelines on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees Reissued Geneva (Dec. 2011),


c.       Past persecution and burden of proof:

      • 8 C.F.R. §§ 208.13(b)(1), 1208.13(b)(1); Mukamusoni v. Ashcroft, 390 F.3d 110 (1st Cir. 2004).


d.      Well-Founded fear of persecution

      • On account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, political opinion


e.      Protected groups


f.        Filing, safe third country, previous application, persecutor of others, conviction of a particularly serious crime, serious non-political crime, national security risk, terrorist activity, material support to terrorist group, terrorist organization, firm resettlement, admissibility.

g.       RFR: A process for the applicant to make one request for a review. An applicant must make the one request within 90 days from the date of the denial notice. The request must be made to the Rome, Bangkok, or Mexico Districts offices. 

h.        Bring Them Home Alive Act, North Korean Human Rights Act, Iraqis employed by U.S. Government in Iraq, removal of refugees, spouses and children of refugees, traveling documents, special immigrants.

III. Secondary Materials

a.      Refer to the list of secondary sources of the main guide (, including Affirmative Asylum Procedures Manual, Asylum and Related Immigration Protections, and AILA’s Asylum Primer.

b.      General immigration handbooks also have devoted chapters on refugees and asylees. E.g. Chapter 4: Fleeing Persecution: Refugees, Asylees, and Others in Immigration Law Sourcebook by Ira Kurzban.

c.       Handbook and Guidelines on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees Reissued Geneva (Dec. 2011),

d.       Affirmative Asylum Procedures Manual ("AAPM") is also availalbe at  

IV. Country Conditions Documentation (Country Reports)

a.      Human rights reports, DOS country condition reports, UNHCR reports, newspaper articles, studies, and other information.

V. Other Specific Internet Materials

a.      Request for Review (“RFR”) Tip Sheets by USCIS


b.      US Refugee Admissions Program (“USRAP”)


c.       Special Immigrant Visas (“SIVs”) for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters


d.      U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.


         f.       The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)


VI. Forms: 

         a. Refugee: Form I-590; G-325A (8 C.F.R. §§ 207.1(a), 207.2.)

         b. Asylum: Forms I-589 & G-28, available at; EOIR-28, available at