Who is a refugee?

A refugee is someone outside of the US, whose nationality is of another country, and they are seeking refuge within the United States. A person may seek refuge because of war or persecution occurring in their home country. The United States accepts a certain number of refugees each year, and the process can take a very long time for a refugee.

Where are refugees coming from?

Refugees come to the United States from everywhere in the world. Where the most refugees come from each year changes depending on where war and persecution is highest. In 2018, the most refugees came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma / Myanmar, the Ukraine and Bhutan.

How do refugees go through the process of resettling?

In order to resettle in the United States, a refugee most often needs to first go through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR screens those who apply to determine whether their status qualifies them for resettlement. If so, the UNHCR will refer them, either to the U.S. or to other countries. Refugees can also be referred for resettlement in the United States through the United States Refugee Admissions Program.

How long does the refugee screening process take?

The screening and vetting process takes an average of two years for each refugee. To be permitted to resettle in the United States, a refugee must go through many background checks and interviews conducted by the United States Refugee Admissions Program, including:

  • An initial screening by the UNHCR
  • A collection of biographic and other information for review by the nine Resettlement Support Centers worldwide
  • Review by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) officers through the Department of Homeland Security
  • Review by other intelligence agencies like the CIA and FBI
  • In-person interview with USCIS officers
  • Once approved by the USCIS, each refugee goes through health screening
  • Most refugees complete a cultural orientation course
  • Where in the U.S. they will live and which agency will assist them as they transition is determined prior to arrival
  • Check-in with U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection


Swipe through the journey

It usually takes 3-5 year for a
refugee to enter the United States.