Refugee Resettlement

Definition of a Refugee

According to the United Nations Refugee Convention, a refugee is defined as a person who:

…owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

In general, there are three durable solutions for refugees, including voluntary repatriation to their country of origin; integration within a host country; and, resettlement to a third country, such as the United States.

Less than one percent of the world’s refugees are resettled.


U.S. Refugee Resettlement

Refugee admission to the U.S. is managed under the Immigration and Nationality Act as amended. Responsibility for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) rests within the U.S. Department of State, in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).

Each year, the President of the United States, after consulting with Congress and appropriate agencies, determines the designated nationalities and processing priorities for refugee processing for the upcoming year. The President also sets annual ceilings on the total number of refugees.

In addition to refugees, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders who are Iraqi or Afghan translators and interpreters, and who have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority at U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul, are also eligible to receive resettlement benefits.

Through the USRAP, PRM administers the Reception and Placement (R&P) program, a public-private partnership, contracting with nine national resettlement agencies, including ECDC. Reception and placement activities conducted under this agreement are paid for, in part, through financial assistance provided by the Department of State.

ECDC’s resettlement affiliate network, including branch and affiliate offices located throughout the U.S., serves refugees from around the world. For an initial resettlement period of 30 days that can be extended up to 90 days after arrival, dedicated frontline staff and volunteers provide culturally and linguistically appropriate core services and material needs support. Examples include:

Since ECDC began our resettlement program in 1991, we have resettled over 50,000 refugees and SIVs. Today, ECDC’s resettlement affiliate network continues to welcome and serve newcomers.