Immigration Fact Sheet:  Refugees

A refugee is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.

Facts You Should Know

  • The United States first passed refugee legislation to address needs of displaced Europeans during World War II. Following the Vietnam War and the resulting influx of Indochinese refugees, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which is the basis for the current U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
  • Before admission to the United States, each refugee must undergo an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process conducted by Regional Refugee Coordinators and overseas Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs) which can take 18 to 24 months.
  • Resettled refugees are authorized to work in the United States, and the authorization does not expire.
  • A refugee may apply for permanent resident status in the United States one year after being admitted.
  • At the end of 2014 there were an estimated 14.4 million refugees, and the top origin countries were Afghanistan (2.6 million), Syria (2.5 million), and Somalia (2.1 million).
  • In 2015, the U.S. admitted 70,00 refugees, and the ceiling for 2016 is 85,000.

More Information on Refugees…

U.S. Department of State: Refugee Admissions Statistics

Migration Policy Institute: Refugees and Asylees in U.S.

American Immigration Council: Overview of U.S. Refugee Law

U.S. Department of State: Proposed Refugee Admissions 2016


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