A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin because of past persecution or a fear of future persecution based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Each year, the United States resettles a limited number of refugees.
If you are fleeing a civil war or natural disaster, you may not be eligible for resettlement under U.S. law. However, you may fall within the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Generally, you must be outside your homeland to be eligible for the U.S. refugee program. Even if we determine you to be a refugee, you must be admissible to the United States. You can be found inadmissible to the United States for a variety of reasons, including criminal, health, or security-related grounds.
You cannot be considered for refugee status if you have ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in the persecution or harm of any person because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
The United States prioritizes the types of people who should be considered for refugee status:
- Priority 1: Cases that are identified and referred to the program by UNHCR, a U.S. Embassy, or a designated non-governmental organization;
- Priority 2: Groups of special humanitarian concern identified by the U.S. refugee program; and
- Priority 3: Family reunification cases (spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of persons lawfully admitted to the United States as refugees or asylees or permanent residents (known as Green Card holders) or U.S. citizens who previously had refugee or asylum status).
For more information visit our USRAP Consultations and Worldwide Processing Priorities and Refugee pages.
How to File
To receive refugee status and be allowed to resettle within the United States, you must:
- Be referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) by UNHCR, a U.S. Embassy, or a nongovernmental organization; or
- Start the application process with a Department of State Resettlement Support Center.
After You File
Once you have been referred to USRAP and found eligible to be considered for refugee status:
- The Resettlement Support Center will process your application and gather your biographical information; and
- You will have an in-person interview with a USCIS refugee officer.
If we conditionally approve you for refugee status in the U.S.:
- You will go through a health screening to identity any medical needs and to ensure that you do not have any contagious diseases;
- The Resettlement Support Center will make a request for “sponsorship assurance” from trusted community-based organizations; and
- You may take a class on cultural orientation before coming to the United States.
For more information, see our Refugee Processing and Security Screening page.