Refugee Officer Amber

Refugee Identity Card Distribution CenterJob Title: Refugee Officer
Name: Amber
Location: Washington, D.C. and Global Locations

USCIS Refugee Officers travel the globe to interview people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The officers must determine applicants' eligibility and review security checks as they adjudicate claims. For security reasons we are not identifying or showing the officers whose comments appear below.

What is life for you like?
Traveling around the world was always my dream, and since becoming a Refugee Officer, I have worked in 10 different countries, on four continents, each location beautiful and memorable in its own way. While I thought my personal time exploring new places would impact my life the most, my work dealing with applicants and being with my team is what I find most rewarding.

Is the extended travel difficult?
My team and I are away from our families for six weeks at a time, but the work is rewarding. The trips are very mission-focused and I get to see firsthand the impact my work has on people. Our days are full as my team strives to perform the necessary number of interviews at each location, so six weeks goes by very quickly.

Between deployments to refugee camps, I work at our headquarters office in Washington, D.C.  I am able to work a compressed schedule and telework once a week. Many of my co-workers also take advantage of these working arrangements, which help us fulfill commitments around our family lives.

How did you come to work as a refugee officer?
I graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and then studied law. My first job was with the USCIS Asylum Office in San Francisco as an Asylum Officer.  I later transferred to Washington, D.C., as a Refugee Officer. USCIS has offices worldwide, and I hope to work in the Lima, Peru, office one day.

I feel a personal connection to my work. My uncle came to the United States as a refugee many years ago. I often think about him when I’m in the field interviewing refugees. I think about how the person sitting in front of me is someone’s child, uncle or parent. I am humbled daily by their stories, not only of hardship and pain, but of resilience and a desire to fight on another day. I am grateful that I now have the opportunity to help them start new lives. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is listening to all the stories of persecution. But after the terrible things the applicants have endured, often they are still full of compassion, love and hope. I cherish the knowledge that I have a role in helping deserving applicants find the protection they need.
How about the most rewarding part of your job?
I take pride and comfort in the fact that our agency helps so many people turn things around and begin a new life. Last year, we helped almost 70,000 refugees resettle in the United States. 

National security is also an important part of my job. I have to make sure there is nothing in a person’s background that makes them ineligible to resettle in the U.S. This can be challenging, but while the humanitarian aspect of my job is very rewarding, I also take my role in protecting the integrity of the immigration system very seriously. My duty as a Refugee Officer is to help protect the U.S. and ensure only a deserving and eligible person takes one of the limited refugee slots.

 Photo courtesy of UNHCR

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