Legal Refugee

A LEGAL REFUGEE IS SOMEONE WHO HAS FLED HIS OR HER COUNTRY BECAUSE OF A “WELL–FOUNDED FEAR OF PERSECUTION FOR REASONS OF RACE, RELIGION, NATIONALITY, SOCIAL GROUP OR POLITICAL OPINION”. A REFUGEE HAS TO HAVE LEFT HIS OR HER HOME COUNTRY AND BEEN GRANTED REFUGEE STATUS IN A COUNTRY OF ASYLUM.

An individual applying for refugee status in the United States must first have been designated a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). After having been so designated, the individual can apply for refugee entrance into a number of countries willing to accept refugees from another country.

Individuals under consideration for refugee status entrance into the United States must first go through a series of interviews with an (USCIS) Immigration officer who travels to the country of initial asylum. As part of that process, an individual must complete a detailed application, a family tree and biographical information, and go through a background and security check. In addition, an applicant must also go through a thorough medical exam.

Once the application is complete and approved, the applicant’s name and case is presented by the U.S. State Department to a roundtable of voluntary (VOLAGS) refugee resettlement agencies which gather weekly in Washington DC for agency distributions. Currently, nine agencies representing local voluntary resettlement programs and affiliates are involved in the distribution meetings.

After a national voluntary agency has been assigned the case, distribution to local affiliates or VOLAG offices for assurance, or acceptance is begun. At this point, consideration by the national VOLAG is given to the ability of the local community office to provide appropriate interpreting and resettling services for the arriving refugee. The local office can then decide to accept or reject the case for resettlement through their office. The actual arrival of the refugee may not occur for several months, or several years, depending on circumstance out of the control of the local agencies.

Refugees accepted for entry into the United States must sign agreements to accept any appropriate employment when offered and must sign a promissary note to pay back the costs of their air-flight to the United States. Refugees with disabilities, and individuals under 18 or 65 and older are exempt from the employment requirements.