5 Essentials for Refugees Arriving in the US

“A refugee is someone who survived and who can create the future.” – Amela Koluder

Refugees are not only faced with the unique challenge of seeking asylum and a safer home, but must also abandon their previous livelihoods to rebuild new ones. For those that are able to find safe asylum, rebuilding is a daunting and tremendous task. From finding new employment and learning a new language to providing for their children and successfully being admitted to the refugee program, refugees face a vast amount of challenges. 

For those seeking to understand the refugee resettlement process in the United States and wanting to learn more about US asylum procedures, we have compiled a list of 5 Essentials for Refugees Arriving in the United States.

1. Receiving Asylum in the US

The US admits a small number of refugees into the country under asylum protection. While there are approximately 30 million refugees in the world, the US government issued a cap of 18,000 refugees for the US 2020 fiscal year. For anyone seeking refugee status, understanding how a refugee may be granted asylum is critical. In the US, a person may apply for asylum via two primary processes: affirmative and defensive.

Affirmative asylum is the process in which an applicant (not currently in removal proceedings with the US) may affirmatively apply through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for asylum. However, if their application is denied, they will then enter into removal proceedings. 

Defensive asylum refers to the process where the applicant is currently in removal proceedings and is applying for asylum as a defense against removal. 

Either process is quite thorough and lengthy, full of interviews and background checks. However, receiving asylum in the US grants refugees reprieve from their previous circumstances, legally, within the United States. You can learn more about the complete process here

2. Transport to the US for Refugees

Once a refugee has been accepted for resettlement and achieves asylee status, they must travel to the United States. After receiving asylum status,  the Resettlement Support Center (RSC) requests assurance from the government for refugee placement. At the same time, the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) will begin the process of determining where the refugee will live. Special consideration is added to the process if the refugee has living relatives already in the US, to be placed near them.  When assurance of placement has been secured by the RSC, along with all other safety and medical screenings, the process of obtaining travel arrangements begins. Unfortunately for refugees seeking asylum in the US, government-provided travel accommodations are not free but are issued as a loan. Repayment of the loan begins six months after arrival and resettlement in the US. 

3. US Resettlement Assistance

With official asylee status, a refugee then has access to many benefits offered by the government such as social security, Medicaid, and other medical assistance services that are paramount to beginning the transition to a new life in the US. Asylees may also apply for travel abroad and petition for the admittance and refugee protection of other family members seeking asylum within the US. After a year as a legal asylee, individuals may apply for lawful permanent resident status and receive a green card. With another four years, a legal permanent resident can apply for citizenship. 

While the US does offer some amount of assistance to asylees, the government and refugees heavily rely on the support and aid of third-party assistance/resettlement agencies. 

4. Resettlement Agencies 

Within the first 90 days of resettlement, private and third-party agencies contract with the Department of State to provide food, employment opportunities, shelter/housing, medical care, counseling, and other services to help the asylees in hopes of making a rapid transition to self-sufficiency and stability.

5. Hope and Goals for New Life

In the midst of unbelievable turmoil and change, asylees and refugees may find themselves affected by the extreme turmoil and stress of their previous and changing circumstances. However, it’s important for these individuals to shift focus to other areas of life to enjoy satisfaction in their new lives. Continuing and beginning pursuits in hobbies, creativity, and overall well-being will be the final piece of the puzzle that transforms the nightmare of seeking safety and refuge to a brighter future, full of opportunity for happiness and fulfillment. 

Sources: 

https://www.rescue.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-refugees-and-resettlement

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/asylum-united-states

https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/how-does-us-refugee-system-work#:~:text=Once%20settled%20in%20the%20United,furnishings%2C%20food%2C%20and%20clothing.

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/07/key-facts-about-refugees-to-the-u-s/#:~:text=1%2C%202019%2C%20Trump%20has%20set,20%2C%202017%2C%20to%20Sept.

https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum/asylum/affirmative-asylum-process

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/overview-us-refugee-law-and-policy

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2018/11/19/461147/refugees-thrive-america/

https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/how-does-us-refugee-system-work

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