The Refugee Resettlement Process

After a refugee flees their home country, one of three things will happen:

  • Local integration: they stay in the country to which they fled
  • Voluntary repatriation: they are sent back to their home country
  • Resettlement: they are sent to a third country to be resettled

The Resettlement Process in the U.S.

According to UNHCR, a refugee is a person who is forced to leave their home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution, war, or violence. 

 Refugees are often displaced from their homes with little warning or time to prepare.

An interview by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials determines if a refugee is eligible for resettlement. Upon approval, the resettlement process begins:

1. Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs) abroad process a refugee's case.
After a refugee is referred to a RSC by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the RSC abroad pre-screens a refugee and ensures that they fall within U.S. processing standards and guidelines. They begin to prepare a refugee for interviews with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
3. A refugee undergoes additional screenings.
Next, the DHS/USCIS conducts a medical screening for refugees awaiting resettlement to detect tuberculosis and other diseases. Refugees who test positive will have their admission delayed. Refugees also undergo numerous security checks through federal and international databases.
3. A refugee undergoes additional screenings.
Numerous factors determine which city a refugee will be resettled in, including health, age, language, and family ties. The resettlement site is often selected to match the particular needs of a refugee with resources available in a local community or with their relatives in the United States.
6. Final Arrangements are made.
The resettlement agency assigns caseworkers, volunteers, and other support staff to the new arrival’s case. Arrangements are made to provide a refugee with housing, furniture, clothing, food, and other necessities when they arrive.
8. A refugee arrives in the U.S. and begins resettlement.
A refugee’s caseworkers and/or sponsor family meet them at the airport when they arrive in the U.S. They are then taken to their new home and begin their adjustment to life in a new place.
2. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services conduct interviews.
Officers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services interview refugees to determine their eligibility for resettlement. Individuals that are formally determined to be refugees by DHS/USCIS receive conditional approval for resettlement until they pass a series of screenings.
4. A refugee is allocated to a voluntary resettlement agency (VOLAG).
Once a refugee is granted permission to come to the United States, the RSC sends a request for sponsorship assurance. One of 9 VOLAGs are contacted to begin the initial stages of the resettlement process. An agency’s assurance of a refugee verifies that they are prepared to accept their case.
5. A refugee is allocated to a local resettlement site.
After a local resettlement site is selected, a refugee is notified. Next, final travel arrangements and medical screenings are usually organized by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) with the help of RSCs. The resettlement agency is notified of a refugee’s arrival date one to two weeks in advance.
7. The agency prepares for the arrival of a refugee.
A refugee’s caseworkers and/or sponsor family meet them at the airport when they arrive in the U.S. They are then taken to their new home and begin their adjustment to life in a new place.
The Refugee Resettlement Process