Refugees/Displaced Persons

Refugees and Displaced Individuals

Making a SUNY education available to refugees and displaced individuals

Visa status informs availability of specific benefits. As a general principle and rule of thumb, visitors in F, J and M category visa status are not eligible for all of the benefits afforded to NYS residents. Individuals with refugee, asylum and/or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are eligible for many of the services and benefits available to US citizens and/or Legal Permanent Residents with domicile in New York State.

  • SUNY does not advise students or prospective students on non-university sponsored visas. This document is intended to offer information. For legal advice on a specific case, it is important that individuals seek independent counsel.
  • Filing for asylum does not require that an individual be in a valid visa status. Any non-citizen present in the US can file for asylum at any time, including students on university-sponsored visas.
  • One consideration for students considering changing from university-sponsored visa status to Asylum status is that it would allow them to apply for work authorization 1 year after filing for asylum. Please note that it is 1 year after filing while the petition is still being adjudicated, even when no approval has been issued. (This would not be the case if the petition were rejected within the first year.)
  • Individuals whose asylum applications are pending with USCIS are restricted from travel outside the United States until their petitions are fully adjudicated.
  • SUNY’s external specialized immigration counsel informs us that the timeline on asylum petitions is difficult to predict at this time and can vary by office. It can take years for an asylum interview to be scheduled. Under USCIS’s current scheduling system, they schedule the most recently filed cases for interviews first (as opposed to scheduling the earliest-filed cases first), but applications get quickly backlogged. It can take anywhere from 3 months to 3+ years for an asylum process to work its way through the system.
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigration status provided to nationals of specifically designated countries that are confronting an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. It provides a work permit and stay of deportation to foreign nationals from those countries who are in the United States at the time the U.S. government makes the designation. It is possible that TPS will be declared for Afghanistan.

In accordance with SUNY residency policy, certain displaced populations are considered NYS residents for tuition purposes. Refugees and asylees have the opportunity to demonstrate residency under Section IV, Part C of the residency policy. See policy excerpt:

C. Students Admitted As Refugees, Or Granted Asylum, Or Granted Withholding Of Deportation Or Removal

Refugees and asylees may also reside permanently in the United States. Students submitting proof of refugee or asylee status or application pending status should be treated as immigrant aliens and permitted to provide evidence of a New York State domicile (See Related Information for Acceptable Documentation).

It should be noted that a person whose evidence of Refugee or Asylum status has expired is nevertheless eligible for in-state tuition.  The following are acceptable proofs of this status:

  • Decision from USCIS or the Immigration Judge granting Asylum or Withholding of Deportation or Removal; or
  • Refugee Travel Document; or
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure record with Employment Authorization Stamp and the notation “Asylum granted” or “Refugee granted”; or
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD or work permit) (I-766) with the following codes: (A)(3) for Refugee, (A)(5) for Asylee, and (A)(10) for Withholding of Deportation or Removal.

Should there be a declaration of Temporary Protected Status for individuals from Afghanistan, it should  be noted that persons with TPS status also have the opportunity to demonstrate residency under Section IV, Part D of the residency policy. See policy excerpt:

D. Temporary Protected Status

Foreign nationals may also be granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As long as the individual has TPS, he or she can establish domiciliary status, because the underlying non-immigrant visa status is superseded by the TPS. If the student loses TPS, he or she will revert to the underlying non-immigrant visa status, unless it changed. For example, an F-1 student who has TPS can establish domicile for the time she is in such status. If during the time the student is in school, she loses TPS, then she will revert to F-1 status, and would not be eligible to establish domicile. If her underlying status changed from F-1 to asylee or asylee pending, then she could continue to establish domicile and therefore be considered and in-state resident for the duration of her tenure as a student.
The following are acceptable proofs of this status:

  • A USCIS Receipt of Application for TPS (Form I-821); or
  •  A USCIS letter granting TPS; or
  • Employment Authorization Document (I-766) with the codes (a)(12) or (c)(19).

Please note that, while there are multiple ways in which individuals may demonstrate New York residency, residency is not granted automatically. In each case, petitioners need to provide the documentation required under the policy and follow the appropriate steps.

Financial aid is available to many displaced individuals:

Displaced populations often arrive without academic records and, in many circumstances, are unable to secure those records from the institutions they attended.

For those that have academic credentials, credential evaluation may be needed:

  • WES Gateway Program assesses the educational credentials of individuals who have been displaced as a result of adverse circumstances in their country and have limited proof of their academic achievements.
  • SUNY resources: some SUNY campuses are able to offer academic credential review

For those who do not have access to their academic credentials:

  • SUNY resource: campuses can offer Prior Learning Assessment to those who lack educational documentation


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