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Frequently Asked Questions

The information provided in the following questions and answers is informational only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Anyone seeking direct assistance should contact a reputable immigration counselor and/or an attorney who specializes in immigration law. Referral information may be obtained from:

Michigan Office for New Americans Hotline: 517-335-1181

For purposes of this section, the term "refugee" includes all qualifying humanitarian statuses unless otherwise noted or defined.

What is ORR?

ORR is the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an office within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

What is USCIS?

USCIS is United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an office within the US Department of Homeland Security.

What is PRM?

PRM is the Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration, a bureau within the US Department of State.

Humanitarian Statuses*

*Who is a Refugee?

A refugee is any person outside of their country who is unable or unwilling to return to that country due to a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

*Who is an Asylee?

An asylee is a person who applies for and receives a grant of asylum while in the US or on US territory, based on the same qualifying reasons as a refugee (above).

*Who is a Special Immigrant Visa Holder?

Special Immigrant Visa holders are individuals (and their families) who assisted U.S. military objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan. SIVs flee their home countries seeking safety and sanctuary, much like refugees, but are a different immigration class. However, SIVs are eligible for the same services as refugees.

*Who is an Entrant?

For purposes of the refugee services programs, a "Cuban/Haitian Entrant", or an "Entrant", is any person given status as a Cuban/Haitian with status pending, or granted any other special status later, or any other national of Cuba or Haiti who:

  1. Was paroled into the United States and has not been given any other status;
  2. Is facing exclusion or deportation proceedings under the Immigration and Nationality Act (but has not been ordered to be deported).
  3. Has applied for asylum with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and for whom no final decision has been made.

*Who is a Certified Victim of Human Trafficking?

A person who, under Section 103(8) of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and covered under subsequent reauthorizations, has been certified or determined eligible by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Severe forms of trafficking include the following:

  1. Sex trafficking in which the victim is engaged in prostitution by force, fraud, or coercion, or sex trafficking in which the victim is engaged in prostitution and has not attained 18 years of age; or
  2. Recruiting, holding, transporting or providing/obtaining a person, for labor or services, using force or fraud or coercion, in order to have that person enter into slavery or other involuntary servitude, including debt servitude.

In order to be eligible for a T Visa, each applicant must demonstrate that he or she:

  • is a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons;
  • is physically present in the US on account of the trafficking;
  • has been willing to comply with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking (children under 18 are exempted from this requirement); and
  • would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the US.

Who is an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor?

A child under age 18 (at entry) who is a refugee, asylee, entrant, trafficking victim, or youth reclassified with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) or U-Visa status who has no parent or guardian, and who has been classified as an unaccompanied refugee minor (URM) by the US Department of State.

Who is a Special Immigrant Juvenile?

A foreign-born child under age 21 who is:

  • Not married;
  • Abused, neglected, or abandoned, as determined by a court;
  • Not going to be reunited with his/her birth family as determined by a court; and
  • Going to remain in the United States as determined by a court

Who is an Unaccompanied Alien Child?

ORR in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides direct funding and oversight to state-licensed shelters throughout the United States for detained children referred to ORR by the Department of Homeland Security. These children are known as unaccompanied alien children (UAC). They include both children who enter the country without their parent or legal guardian and children who, for other reasons, have been separated from their parent or legal guardian.  Note: UAC children are not the same status nor receive the same program benefits as URM children.

Who is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)?

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as "green card" holders, are non-citizens who are lawfully authorized to live permanently within the United States. LPRs may accept an offer of employment without special restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance at public colleges and universities, and join the Armed Forces. 

An LPR can apply to become a U.S. citizen after living in the U.S. for five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen).  The USCIS documents that prove LPR status include a "green card" (form I-151 or I-551), a reentry permit (I-327), or a foreign passport with a stamp showing temporary evidence of LPR status.

Who is a U.S. Citizen Repatriate?

A U.S. citizen and her/his dependents who have returned from a foreign country to the United States because of poverty, illness, threat of war or similar crisis, and who have no available resources. The US Department of State certifies that a citizen or dependent of a citizen is eligible for repatriation and returns him or her to the US.

Who is an Immigrant?

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) broadly defines an immigrant as any alien in the United States, except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrant categories (see below). 

Who is a Non-immigrant?

A person who temporarily enters to the United States for a specific purpose. The person must have a permanent residence abroad and qualify as a nonimmigrant. Nonimmigrant classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens traveling through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign media, exchange visitors, fiancées of U.S. citizens, NATO officials, religious workers, and others. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.

Who is an Undocumented Alien?

A person who enters the US without a valid immigrant visa or without a valid non-immigrant visa.

Are there special types of help for refugees?

Yes. Refugee Services administers several federal and state programs that serve refugees. Please review the Social Services & Programming (hyperlink) and/or Refugee Assistance (hyperlink) for a listing of available programs and benefits, or visit the Resources for Refugees/Immigrants section of our page.

How do refugees come to the U.S. and to the State of Michigan?

The number of refugees admitted each year into the U.S. is established by Presidential determination, approved by Congress, and implemented by the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State works with national voluntary/private resettlement agencies to decide the number of refugees to be settled in a particular region or state.  The national resettlement agencies work with local affiliates in states (Michigan's local affiliates hyperlink) to determine the best placement option for arriving refugees/refugee families.

Can refugees apply for and receive loans for college?

Yes. Refugees can apply for federal and state funded loans and tuition assistance.  Information about federal loans and financial assistance, such as Pell and National Direct Student loans, can be received from the U.S. Department of Education.

Are undocumented immigrants, or people who are not in possession of valid U.S. immigration documentation, considered refugees?

No. Undocumented aliens are not officially considered or designated as refugees in the U.S. Undocumented persons are not eligible for any services under federally funded programs administered by MONA's Refugee Services program.