Refugee Admission Levels
The Refugee Act of 1980 requires annual consultations by the Administration with Congress to determine refugee admission numbers for the fiscal year (The US government's fiscal year begins October 01 and ends September 30). Each house of Congress holds hearings in which representatives of the Executive branch, state and local officials, as well as NGOs testify. At the consultations, the Executive branch, normally through the State Department, proposes nationalities and groups to be highlighted for resettlement, and numerical ceilings for refugee admissions for the fiscal year. The numbers established are ceilings, not quotas, thus they do not have to be met during the year.
In practice, overall admission levels are tacitly set during the Congressional budget and appropriation process, which usually occurs earlier in the year, before the consultation process. After the consultations are concluded, the President announces the admission ceilings for the coming year (referred to as the Presidential Determination). Until the Presidential Determination is issued, there is no authority to admit refugees into the U.S. Changes in the ceilings may be made during the year, either regionally or overall, in consultation with the Congress. In recent years annual admissions levels have been set at 80,000 persons.
Photo credit: Kevin Hartigan/CRS