Priority Categories

Priority categories are used to determine a refugee's ties to the US. A refugee must fall under one of the priority categories in order to qualify for an interview with the US program. The State Department defines the priority categories as follows:

Priority One: Individual Referrals
UNHCR-referred, designated non-governmental agency (NGO) or Embassy-identified persons with compelling protection needs or those for whom no other durable solution exists. This processing priority is available to persons of any nationality.*

Priority Two: Group Referrals
Groups of special concern to the U.S. It includes specific groups (that could be defined by their particular nationalities, clans, ethnicities, religions, location, or combination of such characteristics) identified by the Department of State in consultation with USCIS, non-governmental organization (NGOs), UNHCR, and other experts. Current groups are:

In Country of Origin

  • Eurasia & Baltics: Applies to Jews, Evangelical Christians, and Ukranian and Orthodox Christians religious adherents as identified in the Lautenberg Amendment, with close family in the United States.
  • Cuba: Includes human rights activists, members of persecuted religious minorities, former political prisoners, forced-labor conscripts, persons deprived of their professional credentials or subjected to other disproportionately harsh or discriminatory treatment resulting from their perceived or actual political or religious beliefs or activities, and persons who have experienced or fear harm because of their relationship - family or social - to someone who falls under one of the preceding categories.
  • Iraq: Iraqis Associated with the United States Government Under various Priority 2 designations, including those set forth in the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, employees of the USG, a USG-funded contractor or grantee, and U.S. media and NGOs working in Iraq, and certain family members of such employees, as well as beneficiaries of approved I-130 (immigrant visa) petitions, are eligible for refugee processing in Iraq.

Outside Country of Origin:

  • Ethnic Minorities and others from Burma in camps in Thailand
  • Ethnic Minorities from Burma in Malaysia
  • Bhutanese in Nepal
  • Iranian Religious Minorities
  • Iraqis Associated with the United States
  • Congolese in Rwanda

Priority Three: Family Reunification Cases
The Priority 3 category is family-based and only open to designated nationalities of special humanitarian concern for the purpose of family-reunification refugee processing, which are listed in the chart below.

To qualify for access under Priority 3, an applicant must be outside of his or her country of origin, have an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) filed on his or her behalf by an eligible “anchor” relative in the United States during a period in which the nationality was included on the eligibility list, and be cleared for onward processing by the DHS/USCIS Refugee Access Verification Unit (RAVU). The AOR filing process includes a DNA test to establish biological parent-child relationships.

The following relatives of the U.S.-based anchor hare eligible for inclusion on the case: spouses, unmarried children under 21, and/or parents. Qualifying anchors are persons who were admitted to the United States as refugees or were granted asylum, including persons who are lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens who were initially admitted to the United States as refugees or were granted asylum.

In addition to the qualifying family members of a U.S.-based anchor listed above, on a case-by-case basis, an individual may be added on to a P-3 case if that individual:
1) lived in the same household as the qualifying family member in the country of nationality or, if stateless, last habitual residence;
2) was part of the same economic unit as the Qualifying Family Member in the country of nationality or, if stateless, last habitual residence; and
3) demonstrates exceptional and compelling humanitarian circumstances that justify inclusion on the Qualifying Family Member’s case.

These individuals “are not “spouses” or “children”, under INA 207(c)(2)(A)” and thus cannot derive their refugee status from the Principal Applicant. They must, therefore, independently establish that they qualify as a refugee.

FY14 Priority 3 Nationalities

  • Afghanistan
  • Bhutan
  • Burma
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Colombia
  • Cuba
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Haiti
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Mali
  • Republic of Congo
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Uzbekistan

*North Korean and Palestinian cases must be referred to State Department for review before a DHS/USCIS interview can be authorized.