Expedited Immigrant Visa Processing for Certain Syrians and Iraqis
Frequently Asked Questions
In February 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) launched the Priority-2 (P-2) Direct Access Program (DAP) for Iraqi and Syrian Beneficiaries of an approved I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.
- Q: What is the Direct Access Program (DAP)?
- A: The Direct Access Program has recently been implemented as a means of expediting the processing of immigrant visas filed by family members of Syrians and Iraqis. The beneficiaries of the immigrant visas also have to demonstrate that they are refugees in order to qualify for the program. Many family-based petitions take years for processing, for instance, it can take at least 12 years for a sibling petition to become available. The goal of the Direct Access Program is to reduce the wait-time for qualifying Syrians and Iraqis.
- Q: Who qualifies for the Direct Access Program?
- A: DAP is available to approved I-130 beneficiaries of Iraqi or Syrian nationality and their derivatives. Derivatives are spouses and unmarried children who were less than 21 years old at the time the beneficiary’s I-130 petition was approved. Applicants for the DAP must also demonstrate that they meet the U.S. refugee definition that they are unable or unwilling to return to their countries of citizenship because of persecution or a well-founded fear or persecution on account of race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. Applicants for DAP, including all derivatives included in the case, must demonstrate that they are otherwise eligible for admission to the U.S.
- Q: Given the current country conditions in Iraq and Syria, won’t all Iraqis and Syrians with approved I-130s qualify for the DAP?
- A: No, it is not enough to have an approved I-130; all applicants will also need to meet the refugee definition listed above.
- Q: Where does the beneficiary have to be living in order to access the DAP?
- A: Processing for DAP is only available in thirteen locations throughout the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon*, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Processing is not available in Syria, nor is it available for individuals who are residing in the U.S. or Canada. The U.S. Government has advised individuals who elect to relocate for DAP processing that it cannot provide assistance to individuals who elect to relocate for purposes of DAP processing. Applicants for the DAP must be physically present in the country where they are requesting processing at the time when they submit their Expression of Interest forms.
***Please note that Lebanon is the only one of the listed countries which requires that applicants register as refugees with the UNHCR. However, because the UNHCR is not currently accepting refugee registrations in Lebanon, it appears that processing for DAP is not currently available in Lebanon.***
- Q: What can I do if I am eligible for the DAP but I am residing in Syria?
- A: You must be residing in one of the 13 processing locations listed above to apply for DAP. USCIS has stated that it is possible that the program will be expanded in the future and beneficiaries who do not reside in one of the current locations may return the forms indicating another country where they would like to be processed. USCIS will contact them if the processing locations are expanded. It is unlikely, however, that processing in Syria will be possible due to the conflict there.
- Q: How does the process work?
- A: USCIS has stated that it is mailing letters and “Expression of Interest Forms” from the Department of State to the petitioners of cases with qualifying Syrian or Iraqi beneficiaries. When the letter is received, the petitioner should notify the beneficiary about the program and if the beneficiary wishes to apply, either party may complete and return the forms. After the Refugee Processing Center receives your forms, they will be forwarded to the appropriate Resettlement Support Center (RSC) overseas. The RSC will contact the beneficiary directly to arrange further case processing.
- Q: I have heard that some petitioners have already received letters about applying for DAP. What should I do if I haven’t received a letter yet?
- A: Although some petitioners started receiving letters around mid-February 2016, it may take several weeks for the petitioners in all eligible cases to be contacted. If you have not received a letter and would like us to follow up with the U.S. government on your behalf, you may contact us for a consultation at email@example.com.
- Q: Will DAP necessarily speed up the process for all qualified beneficiaries of approved I-130s?
- A: No, the refugee resettlement process can take 18-24 months or even longer so it depends on the type of petition you have filed and how long it has already been pending. USCIS has recommended that you not pursue processing through DAP if the beneficiary of an approved I-130 has already been interviewed for an immigrant visa or has already been scheduled for his/her interview as it will not expedite the process.
- Q: Will applying for DAP negatively affect my immigrant visa petition?
- A: No, it is permissible to pursue refugee processing for purposes of DAP and immigrant visa processing at the same time. If the potential immigrant fails to qualify for DAP, he/she can continue with the traditional processing route for an immigration visa, assuming he/she was not found to be inadmissible to the U.S.
- Q: What should I do if I am the petitioner of an approved I-130 for a Syrian or Iraqi but I have moved since I filed the petition?
- A: You should contact the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to provide updated address information. When contacting the RPC, make sure that you have the following information:
1. NVC case number
2. Beneficiary’s name (as it appears on his/her passport)
3. Beneficiary’s date of birth
- Q: Do derivative applicants also have to complete a Beneficiary Contact Information Form?
- A: No, only the beneficiary of the I-130 petition needs to complete this form.
- Q: What special benefits does DAP offer?
- A: Applicants who are approved for refugee resettlement may receive public assistance for their travel and initial stay in the U.S. which is not provided to individuals immigrating to the U.S. pursuant to I-130 immigrant visas.
- Q: What is the government filing fee for the DAP program?
- A: There is no fee at this time.
- Q: Are there any programs to assist family members of Syrians who have come to the U.S. as refugees or family members of Syrians who have received asylum in the U.S.?
- A: Syrians are eligible for Priority-3 (P-3) access to U.S. Refugee Admissions Processing if they are outside of Syria and have immediate family members in the United States who initially entered as refugees or were granted asylum. The following relatives of the U.S.-based family members are qualified for P-3 access: spouse, unmarried children under 21, and/or parents. To initiate an application through this program, the U.S.-based family member should contact his/her resettlement agency (RA) for assistance in filing an Affidavit of Relationship on behalf of his/her Syrian relatives overseas.
- Q: Do you need additional information? Contact us for a consultation.
- A: It may be helpful for applicants to seek experienced legal counsel to determine if DAP is advantageous and whether any risks may apply. If you would like to discuss the possibility of applying for DAP, please contact us at (347) 669-1629 or by email for a consultation. All inquiries are confidential. General information can also be found in the following FAQ released by the Refugee Processing Center.
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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
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