On February 2, 2023, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated their policy guidance to allow refugees and asylees to apply for permanent residency earlier. To adjust status, an asylee or refugee must have at least a year of physical presence in the United States after either being granted asylee status or admitted as a refugee. Previously, USCIS required asylees and refugees to wait until they had a year of physical presence before they could even file an application for adjustment of status. USCIS has now clarified that asylees and refugees must meet the one-year physical presence requirement at the time USCIS decides their adjustment of status application.
The new guidance is significant for asylees and refugees as they may now file for adjustment of status significantly earlier. Under current processing times, applications for adjustment of status for refugees and asylees take about three years for USCIS to decide. Therefore, under the prior policy, asylees were forced to wait one year to submit an application that would take another three years to be granted, creating a wait time of four years for a green card. Under the new guidance, refugees and asylees can decrease their waiting time by applying well before they are eligible for adjustment, as by the time USCIS decides their application, they will have been present in the United States as an asylee or refugee for at least one year.