An Afghan boy spells out the Roman alphabet at a special English-language class at the Oinofyta reception centre in Greece.
© UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

Frequently Asked Questions


Below are answers to frequently asked questions to UNHCR Regional Office Washington. Please note that the below information is not a substitute for legal counsel. Our office does not provide legal advice or direct representation to refugees or asylum-seekers, either in their immigration proceedings or in any legal matter.

Question 1. What additional services are available to individuals in immigration detention or in immigration proceedings?

Question 2. How do I locate missing family members?

Question 3. How do I privately sponsor a refugee?

Question 4. As a U.S. citizen, can I be resettled to another country as a refugee?

Question 5. What is the process for asylum and/or refugee status in Canada?

Question 6. How do I obtain a birth certificate for a resettled refugee born in a Thai refugee camp?

Question 7. How do I obtain proof of residence in the Rafha refugee camp in Saudi Arabia?

Answer 1. Resources for individuals in immigration detention or immigration proceedings

Additional hotline services available to immigration detainees include but are not limited to:

National Immigration Detention Hotline: Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) 

Detention Hotline for LGBTQ and HIV+ immigrant detainees: Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP)

Detainee Correspondence Project: American Bar Association (ABA)

Texas Immigrant Rights Hotline: Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative

Additional resources available to individuals in immigration proceedings include but are not limited to:

Protecting Assets and Child Custody in the Face of Deportation (2017): Appleseed Network 

Find Hello and USAHello: Social services in your area

RAICES Canopy Hotline: Social services referrals 

First Steps Guide: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS)

Church World Service Resource Call Center: 1-800-375-1433 or [email protected] 

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Answer 2. Locating missing family members

The International Committee of the Red Cross in cooperation with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies manages the program Restoring Family Links that assists refugees and asylum-seekers in locating separated family members.

Locating family members that were separated during border and detention processes: 

- Office of Refugee Resettlement: National Call Center and Parent Hotline 

- VERA Institute of Justice: Immigrant Connection Project (ICON) 

- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL)

- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Online Detainee Locator System

- Federal Bureau of Prisons: Inmate Locator System

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Answer 3. Private sponsorship of a refugee

At this time, there is no program in place in the United States that allows U.S. citizens to sponsor refugees privately.

However, there are many resettlement agencies that provide assistance to individuals who have been resettled to the United States as refugees. For more information on how to get involved, please contact a resettlement agency in your area. A directory of such agencies can be found on the website of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

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Answer 4. Resettlement of U.S. citizens

UNHCR does not provide resettlement referrals to a third country for individuals present in the United States. Individuals may wish to seek advice or representation from a lawyer who specializes in civil rights in the U.S. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a network of affiliate offices throughout the U.S. and may be able to provide further assistance.

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Answer 5. Inquiries about protection in Canada

UNHCR Regional Office Washington cannot provide guidance on the Canadian asylum process. For further information regarding seeking asylum or refugee status in Canada, please consult the Government of Canada's website and/or UNHCR Canada.

Please note that the Safe Third Country Agreement between the U.S. and Canada prohibits many individuals from applying for asylum in both the U.S. and Canada. 

Further resources:

Are you in the U.S. and want to ask for asylum at the Canadian Border?UNHCR

Èske W ap viv Nan Peyi Etazini Epi W Vle Mande Azil Nan Fwontyè Peyi Kanada?UNHCR

هل أنت في الولايات المتحدة وترغب في طلب اللجوء في الحدود الكندية؟UNHCR

¿Está en los EUA y quiere pedir asilo en la frontera canadiense?UNHCR

Êtes-vous aux États-Unis et souhaitezvous demander l’asile à la frontière canadienne?UNHCR

Exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement with Canada: Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Refugees entering from U.S. and Safe Third Country: FAQ: Canadian Council for Refugees

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Answer 6. Thai birth certificate

UNHCR does not issue birth certificates. The registration of births in UNHCR or UN Border Relief Operation (UNBRO) camps in Thailand was the responsibility of the Royal Thai government. However, at the time, births were generally not registered because refugees did not have access to the government authorities responsible for issuing such civil documentation.  Furthermore, it is our understanding that the Royal Thai government will not issue a birth certificate retrospectively for persons born in these camps.  Although UNHCR and UNBRO recorded births in the camps for their own administrative purposes, these records were not systematically preserved and are not readily available.

For purposes of your resettlement from Thailand to the U.S., we understand that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) – now Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – would have established a date of birth for you at the time of your admission to the U.S. and issued documentation in your name with your date of birth. This information should be in your U.S. immigration file, along with any documentation that may have been presented at the time to establish your birthdate and family relationships. According to Article 25 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, documents issued by the immigration authorities of your country of resettlement which state your identifying information on them shall serve as an official record in the absence of identification from your home country. Therefore, we recommend that you contact the DHS office in your area for a copy of such documents. 

To request this documentation, you may need to complete a Freedom of Information Act request (Form G-639), which can be found at the website of the DHS Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Further resources:

A Guide to Filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act (PA) Requests: American Bar Association

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Answer 7. Rafha camp attestation

UNHCR is unable to provide that documentation. In line with procedures provided by the Government of Iraq, your request should be addressed to the Government of Iraq and/or its representations abroad. We are currently coordinating with partners to establish more detailed information about those procedures. We will update this page as new information becomes available.

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