Resettled refugees and their threshold to permanent residency


A Bhutanes receiving certificate at Spring Institute in Colorado. Photo/Punya
A Bhutanese refugee receiving certificate at Spring Institute in Colorado. Photo/Punya

Nar Bahadur Khadka, one of the first refugees from Bhutan to get resettled here in Colorado seems upset as he was not cooperated by his Case Manager in applying for his Green Card.

As a part of the third country resettlement program of the USA and six other countries, some twelve hundred Bhutanese from different refugee camps in Nepal have so far arrived in Colorado- one of the forty-eight states of America proposed for refugee resettlement.

It has been almost seventeen months since the first Bhutanese family arrived here. Everything seemed frustrating initially when the family of four from Beldangi-II Extension camp in Jhapa, Nepal entered Colorado first through Denver International Airport.

Gradually, the influx of Bhutanese continues to add to the already existing large population of this Centennial State. Colorado ranks 22nd in terms of population while its physical boundary extends so wide to make it an eighth biggest state. Area in Colorado where majority of the Bhutanese and other refugees have been resettled are the erstwhile cities and counties of Denver and Aurora.

However, some ten Bhutanese families have also been resettled in Colorado Spring-a tourist destination some seventy-two miles south-west of Denver, the capital city. At the time when some families have been resettled for over a year, they are due to adjust their status of permanent residency through the Green Card application.

As it has been defined, a Green Card is an official document that is issued to foreign nationals who are granted lawful permanent resident status in the United States. Also known as Permanent Resident (PR) Card, it is granted to those who have lawfully resided in the United States continually for a period of one year. It is regarded a giant leap forward toward achieving the US citizenship.

With limited exception, Green Card holders are entitled to remain in the US permanently, to work in the country for any employer if they qualify and to re-enter the country after international travels, as long as they have not abandoned their permanent resident status. However, regarding international travel, the right to get into the nation of their origin or any other country solely rests upon the policy and law of the nation in question.

In addition to getting chance to apply for the US citizenship, a person with the Green Card in hand can enjoy same rights as US citizens except for voting rights and right to presidential candidacy. Getting chance to enter US army, applying for some federal posts and study grants, loans and scholarship plus various other federal and state benefits like applying for state housing, health facilities and other social security benefits are the supplementary of possessing the card.

In fact, one can travel even outside the US. This formerly green-colored card does not mean US citizenship and is not issued for lifetime. It is for a specific period, normally ten years.

People can also apply for Green Card based on a grant of asylum or refugee status. Some qualify for winning EDV lottery. The people of Bhutan can apply for this legal document based on their status of refugees. Here in Colorado, about ten families have applied for it so far. Some other families are on the way to applying for it as they have completed their first year of living and the mandatory medical requirements of the US Government.

It is learnt that those who have applied so far submitted required papers along with the form I-797 C filled out with their details to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The methods of applying for Green Card differ in different states. Individual may apply for a Green Card based on sponsorship by a qualifying family members or employers.

Families incur some expenses in hiring some experts in filing this petition to adjust to permanent resident status and they also have to pay a little for photograph and postal and delivery confirmation. Those who have filed the petition have to wait another month or two when they will be redirected towards submitting their fingerprints. Because of the lack of education and a language barrier, some people seem lost as how to obtain this important document.

It is important to note that three agencies viz. Ecumenical Refugee and Immigration Services, Lutheran Family Services and African Community Center (ACC) are responsible for providing initial housing, food and cash assistant needs for newly arrived refugees in Colorado. They also help refugees assimilate to the new and challenging cultural and social environment by organizing orientation programs.

These agencies have been trying to help refugees apply for required paper works but their way of assisting is rather complicated as it lengthens the actual period of processing. However, there are organizations such as Ethiopian Community and Somali Organization of Colorado to help people with language barriers to apply for the card. Their services are limited to refugees of specific tribe and nationality.

Bhutanese at work intensive training. Photo/Punya
Bhutanese at work intensive training. Photo/Punya

There are attorneys and notaries public in every city and counties to advocate but the majority of the refugees seem to have applied themselves with assistance from senior Nepalese, relatives and local residents they are acquainted with because these legal figures are quite inaccessible for refugees.

When some people have been working to get established permanently, there is a mixture of sentiments among others regarding their rights and desires to return to Bhutan in future. Some hold the view that after they have Alien Registration they can get back to the country of their origin while others are found indifferent towards the issue of getting back to Bhutan. There are also families who express that they are still hopeful that they can get back to Bhutan one day. Other larger group of Bhutanese maintain that they rather opt for naturalization through permanent resident status and may visit Bhutan on an occasional basis.

Resettlement of refugees in different third countries may not be satisfying solution to end the prolonged refugee crisis that has been at the front burner of the top world agenda for more than eighteen years. However, those who get valid papers to live and work in third countries after their settlement may have some better future ahead.


  1. At Cleveland, Ohio Bhutanese refugees began settling by June 2008. So far some 6 families applied for change of status and 3 families already got their Permanent Card till date. It took nearly 2 to 2.5 months to get all the process finished and receive the card.
    Resettlement case workers are here to assist the family for the first 180 days of arrival to states. After 6 months, the case-workers will instruct and give the suggestion but they won’t take the client for the appointments and other task.
    For Green Card, some families hired the attronies while some tried individually. To my understanding, the one who hired the attroney got their card. At Cleveland, there are plenty of non-profit organizations that help and procure the applications related to USCIS. For attroney, people have to pay minimum amount while filling up the form is free. For all the works from filling up of application to hire of attroney, it costs $50 per individual.