Refugees Entering U.S. Raises Common Questions

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Refugee Crisis in Europe, but sometimes news stories don’t really answer all the questions people have. Amid all those questions and soundbites, it’s time for a crash course of questions you may have been too shy to ask.

Refugee vs. Migrant: What’s the Difference?

The definition of a migrant can be a little fuzzy (many international organizations have their own definitions that don’t necessarily match exactly with others), but generally speaking, a migrant is someone who leaves their home in order to work and live somewhere else. Migrants may be motivated by a range of factors, including economic reasons, and this is distinct from a refugee, who are forced to leave their country out of fear for their lives in order to escape violent persecution.

What determines whether a refugee can come into the U.S.?

In the United States, a refugee “must have a well-founded fear of persecution” based on one of the five ‘protected grounds’: religion, political opinion, race, nationality, or membership in a particular social group.

When a refugee wants to get resettled, what is the process like?

The UNHCR, a U.S. Embassy, or an authorized NGO can refer a refugee to the US. Once the referral is made, the refugee must put together a case file to take before the Department of Homeland Security, and they are interviewed by Citizenship and Immigration Services. If they are approved, the refugee undergoes a health check, a partner NGO agrees to be their sponsor, and the refugee is given a cultural orientation program. After all this, the refugee (and their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) are finally permitted to enter the country.

The US Refugee Admission program says the average processing time for this worldwide is 12-18 months, but that time can vary a great deal on a case by case basis.

They arrive – What next?

Then, the ‘sponsoring agency’ mentioned earlier takes over. These agencies “are responsible for providing initial services, which include housing, essential furnishings, food, clothing, orientation, and assistance with access to other social, medical, and employment services for the refugees’ first 30-90 days in the United States” (for more info, or a list of current sponsoring agencies that are taking on this task, click here )

Are Refugees from the current Syrian crisis arriving in the U.S. already? How many will come?

Since the war began, 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted in the United States. Bloomberg reports that, “Wednesday at the White House, the most senior national security officials will discuss raising the limit on the number of refugees from around the world allowed to enter the Unites States — from 70,000 this year to 85,000 next year and 100,000 in fiscal 2017”.

Things to know:

Refugees do not receive Visas. They are, however, given other appropriate documentation that allows them to enter the country and work within the country.

Refugee status lasts for 12 months, after which their status must adjust to Permanent Resident Alien. They can apply for citizenship after 5 years.

To staying current,

Sarah Grainger
Blog Contributor

(Source: http://www.state.gov/j/prm/releases/factsheets/2013/210135.htm)


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