The Resettlement Process

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program includes many  steps: 

Overseas Processing

The U.S. has  Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs) abroad to process refugee cases and to coordinate administrative aspects of the program. Specifically, the RSCs prescreen refugees to ensure they fall within the U.S. designated nationalities and processing priorities; create case files for each case considered by the U.S.; and prepare refugees for their interviews with Refugee Officers from the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS). 

After DHS/USCIS approves a case:

  • RSCs provide refugees with cultural orientation about life in the U.S.; 
  • The International Organization of Migration arranges medical exams and transport to the U.S.; and
  • The RSC coordinate refugee arrivals with resettlement agencies in the U.S.

Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Adjudication

All persons entering the U.S. as refugees undergo refugee status determination interviews by DHS/USCIS.  When interviewing family units, all adults are interviewed, but only one member of the family unit needs to meet the US refugee definition.  Members of their family may derive refugee status from the family member who is the principal applicant.  DHS/USCIS regulations limit derivative status to the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age.  Other family members, such as parents, siblings, married children, children over the age of 21, nieces, nephews, etc. must meet the refugee definition themselves.  Such persons cannot derive refugee status from the principal applicant, though they can be included in the principal applicant’s case for the purpose of obtaining an interview. 

During the interview process, DHS/USCIS also determines whether or not the person is firmly resettled in the country of first asylum or elsewhere, which would deem them ineligible for resettlement to the U.S. 

Persons rejected by DHS/USCIS during the refugee process cannot appeal the decision.  An applicant, however, may request a reconsideration of his/her case on the basis of new information, or information that was not available in a previous interview.  The request is made to the DHS/USCIS official or office who conducted the interview.  Whether the request granted is entirely within the discretion of DHS/USCIS.  To assist with this process DHS/USCIS has produced a Request for Review Tip Sheet.

Persons adjudicated as refugees by DHS/USCIS are conditionally approved for resettlement until they pass a medical examination and multiple, extensive security checks.

Medical Checks

The U.S. screens for tuberculosis and certain venereal diseases. Persons testing positive for any of these conditions will have their admission to the U.S. delayed while they receive medical treatment.

Security Checks

Numerous security checks through multiple federal and international databases are required and processed for all refugees. 

For more information about the extensive screenings refugees and asylum seekers undergo, see these backgrounders by:

Assurances and Travel Arrangements

After a refugee has been conditionally accepted by DHS/USCIS, the RSC sends a request for sponsorship assurance to the U.S. The assurance process is managed by the Refugee Processing Center, a part of the State Department, in coordination with the nine national refugee resettlement agencies.  An agency's assurance for a refugee confirms that they are willing and prepared to accept the case for resettlement will make all necessary arrangements at the local level to receive the refugee. Once an assurance is received by the refugee processing post, travel arrangements can be made.

Travel arrangements and medical screening are generally coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in cooperation with RSCs. In some countries where IOM is not present, travel may be coordinated with a U.S. embassy or by UNHCR. Refugees receive an interest free travel loan to pay for the cost of their transportation to the U.S.

Photo Credit: EMM


Additional Information