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Political Asylum & Refugee Information

Political Asylum and the United States Refugee Program

Political Asylum:

The United States does not grant asylum in its diplomatic premises abroad. Under U.S. law, the United States grants asylum only to aliens who are physically present in the United States.

U.S. Refugee Program:

To be eligible for consideration under the U.S. Refugee program, an applicant must meet the definition of a refugee: a person outside of his/her country of nationality or outside his/her habitual residence, who is unwilling or unable to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. In addition, he or she must be able to establish that he or she is not already firmly resettled in a foreign country and must fall within certain refugee processing priorities.

Refugee Processing:

The U.S. Refugee admissions program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applicants for admission to the United States under the program are processed at certain USCIS offices abroad. London is not a refugee-processing post and no processing for the U.S. Refugee program takes place in the United Kingdom.

Persons seeking admission to the United States through the U.S. Refugee admissions program may be processed at the United States diplomatic posts located in Athens, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Madrid, Manila, Mexico City, New Delhi, Rome and Vienna. Please note, however, that the United States government can not take responsibility for the movement of applicants to any of these locations, can offer no assistance to applicants seeking necessary permission or visas to effect such movement, and can offer no guarantee to another country that the applicant entering that country will be accepted for entry into the United States as a refugee.

Refugee Travel Documents (Form I-131)

 Applications for Refugee Travel Documents may be filed at the USCIS Europe, Middle East and Africa District Office if the applicant:

  • Was admitted to the US as a refugee or asylee, 
  • Departed the U.S. without having applied for a Refugee Travel Document, and, 
  • Has not yet been outside the US for more than one year 

In order to approve a Refugee Travel Document application, there must be sufficient time to process and deliver the document so that the applicant can travel back to the United States before the one-year deadline.  In urgent or compelling circumstances, or when there is insufficient time to process and issue the document, USCIS may request that the Field Office or U.S. Embassy/Consulate with jurisdiction over the applicant’s residence issue a Boarding/Transportation Letter in lieu of a Refugee Travel Document.