U.S. Immigration Options For Syrians

The United States has always taken pride in responding to humanitarian crises around the world and to providing, as applicable, a safe haven for refugee victims of civil warfare.  In the case of Syria, due to a prolonged civil war with an estimated death toll as high as 310,000, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has officially designated Syria as a country entitled to special immigration protection which allows eligible Syrian nationals in the United States to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to foreign nationals of certain countries who are in the United States and who cannot safely return to their home countries.   During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases: 1. are not removable from the United States; 2. can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD); 3. may be granted travel authorization; and 4. cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of their immigration status in the United States.  Grants of TPS are initially made for periods of six to 18 months and may be extended.

In addition to the option of TPS, there is another option of applying for Political Asylum if the individual is in the United States and can prove that he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution or harm based upon five criteria which relate to their personal situation: 1. political opinion; 2. nationality; 3. religion; 4. race; and/or 5. membership in a particular social group. Persecution must either be carried out by the government or a group the government cannot control. Given the current situation, some examples may include 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. In contrast with TPS, where an individual need only to prove that they are from Syria and their date of entry into the United States, in order to be granted asylum, the asylum seeker has the burden of proof to compellingly provide probative data to illustrate their fears of persecution.  Asylum seekers are generally required to apply for asylum within 1 year of their arrival; however, due to the unprecedented country conditions in Syria, exceptions may apply.  Hiring an effective immigration lawyer will help to ensure that all possibilities and exceptions will be explored and effectuated in order to remain legally in the United States.

When comparing TPS to Asylum, it is important to note that a person who is granted asylum may remain in the United States indefinitely and may apply for the green card after one year. By contrast, an individual who is granted TPS will have to find another mechanism to adjust his or her status once the TPS eligibility period has expired.

While TPS and Asylum are for Syrians currently in the United States, Syrians outside of the United States may apply for refugee status.  To be eligible for consideration under the U.S. Refugee program, administered by Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), 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 not already firmly resettled in a foreign country.  They must establish credible fear of returning to Syria and must fall within certain refugee processing priorities.  Applying for refugee status requires an in-person interview with an officer from the Department of Homeland Security. Applicants for admission to the United States under the refugee program are processed through partner organizations in various locations.  Refugees, like individuals granted Asylum, are allowed, after one year, to apply for a green card.

The Shulman Law Group, LLC, has been working with and successfully assisting many Syrian families and business owners with their immigration process. In particular, our firm has fruitfully aided many Syrian nationals in obtaining TPS, Political Asylum, and adjusting the legalized status of those deemed Syrian refugees.  We are keenly aware of the tribulations and trauma that Syrians have experienced due to the prolonged civil war and the fears of returning to a dangerous and war-torn environment. We are poised to provide compassionate assistance to those seeking to make the United States their adopted home and safe haven.  If you, a family member, co-worker, neighbor, or an employee would like to discuss potential immigration options, please contact our office at (973) 345-1151 for an initial consultation.  All inquiries are confidential.