President Biden recently signed an order raising the refugee cap to 62,500 from 15,000, a record low during the Trump administration. Global resettlements were mostly halted because of the previous administration’s immigration policies and the ongoing pandemic.
The president, when signing the order said, “The United States Refugee Admissions Program embodies America’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world.”
The number of people that can be admitted to the U.S. in a given year is determined by the president. This refugee admission program allows for refugees vetted and cleared overseas to enter into the United States. But who are the refugees, and how does this refugee program work?
Who Qualifies as a Refugee?
A refugee is a person who seeks admission to the country to escape persecution, war, or oppression. A refugee should demonstrate that they can’t return to their home country because they were persecuted or fear persecution on the basis of one of protected grounds: religion, race, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group.
What Is the Difference Between the Refugee Program and Asylum?
The refugee program is distinct from the country’s asylum system. Refugees will seek protection while they are still overseas while asylum seekers seek protection either at the port of entry or from inside the United States.
How Does the Refugee Program Work?
People who flee persecution can apply for refugee status, usually through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These refugees are not, however, allowed to specify which country they would like to go to. UNHCR officials collect all the information from the refugee applicant and perform an initial screening. The applicant’s information is then transferred to a U.S. State Department Resettlement Support Center for further screening.
The State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human services are usually involved in the refugee settlement process.
The whole process can take from 18 months to two years to complete.