According to U.S. immigration law, a refugee is someone who has been resettled to the United States through the U.S. resettlement program. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services states that a refugee is someone who “Is located outside of the United States; Is of special humanitarian concern to the United States; Demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group; Is not firmly resettled in another country; and is admissible to the United States.”

Refugees are required to respect the laws and regulations of the United States.

Refugees should receive at least the same rights and basic help as any other foreigner who is a legal resident, including freedom of thought, of movement, and freedom from torture and degrading treatment.

For further information regarding family, work, and other rights and duties of refugees, please visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services page on Refugees.

Other rights and responsibilities include:

Your Right to be Safe in your community

Your refugee status grants you legal status in the U.S., and you have the right to receive the same treatment as U.S. citizens.

If you are the victim of a crime, you should immediately call the police: 911

Your Rights to Advocate for your Community

You have the right to:

  • Call and meet with elected officials in your town, state, and in Congress to develop a relationship, educate them about your contribution to the community, and seek their support for refugee resettlement and issues you care about.
  • Share your story as a refugee to help transform the public narrative about refugees.
  • Join diverse voices such as resettlement staff, faith leaders, employers, military veterans, other refugee leaders, and supportive community members to take action together.

For more information, please see Refugee Congress.

Your Rights in Relation to Lawful Permanent Residents and Criminal Convictions

Minor offenses can result in deportation for non-US citizens.

If you are not yet a citizen and you are arrested or accused of a crime, make sure your lawyer understands your immigration status. Pleading guilty as part of a plea bargain can jeopardize your legal status and could eventually lead to deportation.

Other Resources:

For more information on rights as a refugee in the United States, refer to this report prepared by Church World Services and the Refugee Center Online.