The US has Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs) abroad to process refugee cases and to coordinate administrative aspects of the program.
RSCs serve to pre-screen refugees once they’ve been referred by the UNHCR to ensure they fall within US-designated nationalities and processing priorities. They create files for each case considered by the US, and prepare refugees for their interviews with Refugee Officers from the Department of Homeland Security’s US Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS).
DHS/USCIS conduct interviews to determine whether or not an applicant is eligible for resettlement in the United States.
Any person entering the US as a refugee undergoes a refugee status determination interviews by DHS/USCIS. When families seek protection, all adults will be interviewed, though only one member of the family must meet the US refugee definition in order to be considered. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 derive their status based on that of the primary applicant. Other types of family members – like parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews – must meet the criteria for refugee consideration on their own.
If during the interview process it’s learned that the person seeking resettlement is already firmly resettled in the country they sought asylum or elsewhere, they’ll no longer be eligible for resettlement in the US.
If an applicant has been rejected by DHS/USCIS during the interview process, they cannot appeal the decision. They can only request their case be reconsidered if new or previously unavailable information arises. The DHS/USCIS official who conducted the original screening uses their own discretion in deciding whether or not to grant a new interview. To assist with this process DHS/USCIS has produced a Request for Review Tip Sheet.
Persons formally determined as refugees by DHS/USCIS receive conditional approval for resettlement until they pass a medical examination and multiple, extensive security checks.
Even after screenings from the UNHCR, and a successful interview with DHS/USCIS, applicants must go through additional medical and security checks.
The US screens for tuberculosis and certain venereal diseases. Persons testing positive for any of these conditions will have their admission to the US delayed while they receive medical treatment.
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 fact sheets by:
Upon approval, travel arrangements are facilitated through the coordination of US resettlement agencies and the International Organization of Migration
After a refugee has been conditionally accepted by DHS/USCIS, the RSC sends a request for sponsorship assurance to the US. 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 screenings are generally coordinated by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in cooperation with RSCs. In some countries where IOM is not present, travel may be coordinated with a US embassy or by UNHCR. Refugees receive an interest free travel loan to pay for the cost of their transportation to the US.
Where a refugee is ultimately resettled within the US is determined by one of the nine US resettlement agencies and their vast networks of community partners.
Prior to travel, RSCs have one more job in giving refugees a cultural orientation about life in the US. Upon arrival, refugees are welcomed and provided assistance as they become established in their new communities. Find out how you can get involved in sponsoring a refugee or family by visiting our community sponsorship page.
Whereas refugees seek to secure their safety by being resettled in a third country, asylum seekers ask for protection directly from within the country, or border of the country, where they hope to remain. Learn the steps individuals must navigate to be resettled as an asylee in the United States.