What Does It Take For A Family Member To Gain Refugee Status?

The process to be granted refugee status in the United States starts with the Refugee Admissions program and can take months to complete. Applicants undergo an intensive background search and must meet certain criteria before being admitted to the country. If you have a family member who is seeking refugee status, here is what you need to know. 

How Many Refugees Are Allowed?

Despite reports to the contrary, the number of refugees allowed into the United States is far smaller than many believe. Each year, the president is charged with setting the number of refugees that are allowed into the country. The number can change from year to year. 

For instance, according to the American Immigration Council, 85,000 refugees will be allowed in 2016. In 2009, the number was capped at 80,000. The number allowed is not an indication of how many are actually granted status. It is possible for the government to approve fewer applications. 

How Is the Process Started?

Before an application for refugee status can be reviewed, a referral from the United States Refugee Admissions Program, or USRAP, is required. The agency is responsible for reviewing the refugee situation in a region and determining whether or not the federal government should be involved in resettling refugees. 

If your family member is able to secure a referral, he or she can then submit an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. 

What Happens After Submitting an Application?

Once your family member has applied, he or she has to undergo a rigorous background check. Documentation must be provided to support identity for each person included on the application. During the process, iris scans and fingerprints might be taken. 

His or her background checks are conducted by several agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center. Any criminal actions, such as an outstanding warrant, could result in a denial. 

If your family member passes the background check, he or she has to be interviewed by USCIS officers. His or her background will be checked again to determine if there were any changes or updates. Meanwhile, his or her fingerprints will be screened through several agencies, including the Department of Defense. 

Once your family member passes these checks, he or she also has to undergo a medical screening, cultural orientation classes, and an assessment to decide which area would be best for resettlement. 

It is important to note that while undergoing the final steps, the USCIS and other agencies will continue to recheck your family member's backgrounds. It is imperative that he or she do everything possible to avoid being labeled a security risk.

The process to gain refugee status can be complex and time-consuming. Working with an immigration attorney can help to ensure that there are no delays in processing the application.