How the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Works

Join Our List To Receive ICMC News By E-mail

How the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Works

Often, individuals or families at risk of being persecuted must leave their own country and seek asylum in a neighboring country. Sometimes, the country to which they have fled does not have everything they need, such as specialized healthcare. Other times, the individual or family is at risk of being forced back to their home country, which remains unsafe. This is where a third country comes into the equation and offers permanent residence, known as resettlement, so refugees can begin rebuilding their lives.

Historically, the United States has resettled nearly 100,000 refugees on average every year since the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, also known as the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, began in 1980. Here’s how the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program works:

  • People seeking refugee status register with the UN Refugee Agency  (UNHCR) in the country to which they have fled. UNHCR will determine their eligibility for refugee status based on a well-founded fear of persecution. The agency will also decide whether they can safely go back to their home country or live a dignified life in the country to which they have fled. If neither option is possible, UNHCR will recommend them for resettlement. 
  • UNHCR gathers background information, assesses the refugee’s case, and submits it to the United States for resettlement consideration.
  • U.S. government agencies and Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs) abroad, such as ICMC’s RSC for Turkey and the Middle East, perform background checks on refugees seeking resettlement. Then, the Department of Homeland Security holds in-person interviews to determine if the applicant should be considered for resettlement.
  • Pre-approved applicants then undergo a medical screening to ensure they don’t have any infectious diseases that could spread once they are resettled. The medical screening also helps determine where they will be resettled if they have a medical condition requiring specialized treatment.
  • Refugees whose resettlement applications have been approved are then assigned a sponsoring agency that places them in a community determined to be the best situation for their success. Local non-governmental organizations assist refugees upon arrival, helping them integrate into their new community and become economically self-sufficient.

The entirety of this process can take up to two years or more, making it a long and rigorous journey for refugees seeking resettlement.

The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) advocates for the rights of all uprooted people, including refugee survivors of domestic violence. In partnership with UN agencies like UNCHR, governments, and humanitarian organizations, we work to resettle refugees so they can escape dangerous situations and start rebuilding their lives. We’ve also released a series of videos demonstrating how ICMC works to support migrants and refugees, including through resettlement to the United States. Find out how you can make a difference for refugees today!

About the International Catholic Migration Commission

The International Catholic Migration Commission is a nonprofit organization that protects, serves, and advocates for displaced people throughout the world. We help refugees, asylum-seekers, victims of human trafficking, and migrants of all faiths, races, and ethnicities forge lives in safety and dignity.

With support from people like you, ICMC delivers humanitarian aid and social development, protects vulnerable migrants, contributes to refugee resettlement efforts, advocates before governments, and partners with civic leaders. We seek a sustainable solution to dangerous migration and refugee crises.

Find out more by visiting our website.

Join Our List To Receive ICMC News By E-mail

ICMC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (EIN 52-1470887)