U.S. Immigration Options for Syrians
Frequently asked questions
- Q: Is it possible for Syrians living in Syria to travel to the United States?
- A: Despite the dangerous conditions in Syria, there is currently no special visa or emergency/humanitarian/refugee immigration option that specifically allows Syrians to travel to the United States. However, it appears that options for refugee processing are under consideration. Standard visas (such as tourist, business, or student visas) and family- and employment- based green card applications are still permitted for eligible applicants; however, processing at the U.S. embassy in Damascus has been halted since February 6, 2012. If a visa application is denied or otherwise not feasible, “humanitarian parole” may be an option as it allows an individual to come to the U.S. for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency, if all other avenues are exhausted; however, it is only given in rare circumstances.
** NOTE: On February 6, 2012, the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria officially closed and halted all operations. The embassy stated that the Polish Embassy in Damascus will assist U.S. citizens remaining in Syria by providing limited consular services. Other processing may be available through the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan or other posts in the region. **
- Q: Has the U.S. government designated Syria for any special immigration protection based on the current situation?
- A: ** UPDATE ** Yes. On January 5, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will not only be extended for Syrians who already have this status, but will also be permitted for all other eligible Syrians who have been continuously residing in the United States since January 5, 2015. TPS was originally permitted for Syrians that were residing in the U.S. since March 29, 2012 and then extended for Syrians residing in the U.S. since June 17, 2013. TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to foreign nationals of certain countries who are in the U.S. and who cannot safely return to their home countries. For further information, please visit our TPS for Syrians page.
- Q: In addition to TPS, are Syrians in the United States who are out of status or who have visas that may soon expire eligible for asylum?
- A: Possibly. Asylum is a form of protection
extended to certain foreign nationals who are in the United States and
who cannot safely return to their home countries. Asylum seekers must prove that
they have a well-founded fear of persecution/harm based on their particular
personal situation relating to their:
- (1) political opinion/activity
- (2) nationality
- (3) religion
- (4) race, and/or
- (5) membership in a particular social group
Given the current situation, some examples may include a Syrian national in the U.S. who attended protests in the U.S.; a Syrian national who is an active member (or closely related to an active member) of opposition-related organizations; or a Syrian national whose family member was harmed or killed by the Syrian government during a protest, etc.
Generally, the law does not apply to individuals who fear returning to their home country due to generalized violence, political instability, civil wars, criminal prosecution, harassment and/or discrimination, and economic or environmental reasons. However, even these reasons may suffice if they can be connected to one of the five listed reasons.
Asylum seekers are generally required to apply for asylum within 1 year of their arrival; however, given the unprecedented country conditions in Syria, exceptions may apply. Persecution must either be carried out by the government or a group the government cannot control. A person who is granted asylum may remain in the U.S. indefinitely and may apply for the green card after one year. Individuals who do not qualify for asylum may be eligible for withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture.
For further information, please refer to Attorney Nadeen Aljijakli's recent article on Syrian asylum claims: Syrians under Fire: Seeking Asylum in America.
- Q: Are there any other long term immigration options for Syrians in the United States?
- A: Standard family- and employment-based options
remain available for eligible applicants. Other forms of relief may be available
for individuals in deportation proceedings, such as cancellation of removal, or
for individuals with outstanding deportation orders, such as deferred action or
potential reopening of their cases. Other options may be available based on
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also suggests the following options for foreign nationals impacted by civil unrest:
-A change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States;
-Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
-Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and relatives of lawful permanent residents whose priority dates are current; and
-Expedited employment authorization where appropriate.
- Q: Do you need additional information?
- A: If you would like to discuss potential immigration options for you or a family member, please contact us at (440) 519-1975 or by email for a consultation. All inquiries are confidential.
** DISCLAIMER: The information in this message
provides general information only. This information does not constitute legal
advice and does not take the place of consulting with an attorney. We do not
warrant that the materials in this advisory are completely accurate, error-free
or comprehensive. **