We’ve been getting calls at the office from members of the Syrian diaspora asking about family members from back home who wish to seek asylum in the US. Many have already left Syria and are now spread out in countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. Many are trying to find ways to survive, earn a living, until they figure out their next steps of possibly coming to the United States. However, this can pose a significant problem for the possible asylum seeker as a person who has fled his/her home country for fear of persecution, but then has firmly resettled in another country, will generally be denied asylum or refugee status. 

What constitutes “firmly resettled” and how to overcome such findings is covered by 8 CFR §208.15.

The person who has applied for protection in the United States will be found to have “firmly settled” if they have:

1. been granted permanent residency or citizenship by a third or adopted country,

2. made travel plans in and out of the third country, or

3. achieved a certain level of economic independence through their professional, educational or business activities in the third country.

The only way a finding of “firm resettlement” can be overcome is if, in accordance with the regulation, the person seeking protection is able to establish that either (a) they remained in the third country only for as was necessary to arrange onward travel AND didn’t establish significant ties in that country, or (b) their conditions of resettlement were restricted by the actions of the country of refuge, thus making firm resettlement impossible.

The stakes are high during such horrific conflicts. People are simply looking for survival and often don’t have a long term strategy in mind. However, it is important to have your end goal in mind when pursuing refugee or asylum status in the United States. Many who are contact with relatives and friends “back home” to “come here”. That’s not enough. Please be aware of the limitations and possible bars to asylum and refugee status, while still putting survival above all else.

And, as usual, please consult an immigration lawyer to discuss the specifics of your particular case.

Posted By: Zoe Kevork, Principal Attorney.