Infographic: The Screening Process for Refugee Entry into the United States

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Blog

November 20, 2015 at 7:09 PM ET by Amy Pope


A step-by-step guide to the rigorous process for refugee entry into the U.S.

‎Refugees undergo more rigorous screening than anyone else we allow into the United States. Here’s what the screening process looks like for them:

The Screening Process for Refugees Entry Into the United States (full text of the graphic written below the image)

The Full Text of the Graphic:

The Screening Process for Refugee Entry Into the United States

Recurrent vetting: Throughout this process, pending applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases, to ensure new, relevant terrorism information has not come to light. If a match is found, that case is paused for further review. Applicants who continue to have no flags continue the process. If there is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted.

  1. Many refugee applicants identify themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR. UNHCR, then:
    • ​​Collects identifying documents
    • Performs initial assessment
      • Collects biodata: name, address, birthday, place of birth, etc.
      • Collects biometrics: iris scans (for Syrians, and other refugee populations in the Middle East)
    • Interviews applicants to confirm refugee status and the need for resettlement
      • Initial information checked again
    • Only applicants who are strong candidates for resettlement move forward (less than 1% of global refugee population).
  2. Applicants are received by a federally-funded Refugee Support Center (RSC):​​
    • Collects identifying documents
    • Creates an applicant file
    • Compiles information to conduct biographic security checks
  3. Biographic security checks start with enhanced interagency security checks

    Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.

    • ​​U.S. security agencies screen the candidate, including:

    • The screening looks for indicators, like:

      • Information that the individual is a security risk

      • Connections to known bad actors

      • Outstanding warrants/immigration or criminal violations

    • DHS conducts an enhanced review of Syrian cases, which may be referred to USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate for review. Research that is used by the interviewing officer informs lines of question related to the applicant’s eligibility and credibility.

  4. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/USCIS interview:

    • Interviews are conducted by USCIS Officers specially trained for interviews​​

    • Fingerprints are collected and submitted (biometric check)

    • Re-interviews can be conducted if fingerprint results or new information raises questions. If new biographic information is identified by USCIS at an interview, additional security checks on the information are conducted. USCIS may place a case on hold to do additional research or investigation. Otherwise, the process continues.

  5. Biometric security checks:

    • Applicant’s fingerprints are taken by U.S. government employees

      • Fingerprints are screened against the FBI’s biometric database.

      • Fingerprints are screened against the DHS biometric database, containing watch-list information and previous immigration encounters in the U.S. and overseas.

      • Fingerprints are screened against the U.S. Department of Defense biometric database, which includes fingerprint records captured in Iraq and other locations.

    • If not already halted, this is the end point for cases with security concerns. Otherwise, the process continues.

  6. Medical check:

    • The need for medical screening is determined​​

    • This is the end point for cases denied due to medical reasons. Refugees may be provided medical treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.

  7. Cultural orientation and assignment to domestic resettlement locations:

    • ​​Applicants complete cultural orientation classes.

    • An assessment is made by a U.S.-based non-governmental organization to determine the best resettlement location for the candidate(s). Considerations include:

    • A location is chosen.

  8. Travel:

    • ​​International Organization for Migration books travel

    • Prior to entry in the United States, applicants are subject to:

    • This is the end point for some applicants. Applicants who have no flags continue the process.

  9. U.S. Arrival:

    • ​​All refugees are required to apply for a green card within a year of their arrival to the United States, which triggers:

    • Refugees are woven into the rich fabric of American society!

‎Amy Pope is Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security

President Obama, with Vice President Biden, speaks about the Iran Deal.

The Iran Deal

Find out how we plan to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

President Obama speaks about clean energy with a field of solar panels behind him.

Clean Power Plan

Learn more about the biggest step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.

A screenshot of several shareable items on the


Discover—and share—what the President and the White House are doing to help move America forward.

Paris attacks: nurse discovers man he tried to save was bomber | World news | The Guardian

David says he did not see Abdeslam walk into the restaurant. He believes he had been sitting at the terrace when he detonated the bomb.“He had a large opening on his side, about 30 cms (11.8 inches),” he said. “When you lift a T-shirt and you see wires, you know that’s not normal.”David says police told him Abdeslam’s bomb had not fully exploded.“[Later] I was thinking about how I lay him on the floor, with me doing CPR. It’s a pretty vigourous process. By just doing that, I also could have been gone,” he said.

Source: Paris attacks: nurse discovers man he tried to save was bomber | World news | The Guardian

Angela Merkel Changes her Stance on Refugee Limits – SPIEGEL ONLINE {Hitting the do/say anything to stay in power wall}

After announcing that Germany would not place limits on the number of asylum-seekers it accepts, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now considering a quota system. The turnaround wasn’t her choice.

Source: Angela Merkel Changes her Stance on Refugee Limits – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Branded a traitor, Russian sports whistleblower hides abroad | Reuters

The sportswoman who blew the whistle on doping in Russian athletics is in hiding abroad, pursued by a barrage of criticism from former colleagues and officials at home who accuse her of betraying her country.Yulia Stepanova, an international runner who was herself suspended for doping offences, secretly recorded Russian coaches and athletes over almost two years describing how they used performance-enhancing drugs.The 29-year-old’s evidence formed a major part of an investigation that led to Russian athletes being suspended from international competition this month, triggering the deepest crisis in Russian sport since the boycott-hit 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Source: Branded a traitor, Russian sports whistleblower hides abroad | Reuters

Malaysian leader calls on world leaders to confront terrorism | Reuters

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on world leaders to confront Islamic terrorism, saying its “barbaric acts” do not represent any race or religion, as he opened a regional summit overshadowed by a spate of attacks around the globe.Islamist militants killed 19 people in an attack on a hotel in Mali on Friday before Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners. This came a week after Islamic State militants killed 129 people in coordinated attacks in Paris.”The perpetrators of these cowardly and barbaric acts do not represent any race, religion or creed, nor should we allow them to claim to do so,” Najib said in his opening speech at the ASEAN summit.”They are terrorists and should be confronted as such, with the full force of the law.”Malaysia has deployed extraordinary security measures around Kuala Lumpur as leaders from 18 countries, including U.S. President Barack Obama, arrived for a pair of weekend summits.

Source: Malaysian leader calls on world leaders to confront terrorism | Reuters

Führer Trump To Register All Muslims In Amerikkka: Gothamist

Donald Trump, the talking slice of cheesecake served atop an expensive suit who moonlights as an esteemed Terrorism Whisperer, has come up with a solution to keep America safe from Islamic terrorists. In fact, one might call it a Final Solution of sorts, since it involves requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a database system so they can be “manag[ed].” Sound a little familiar? Hey, the Sudetenland could really use a classy casino!

Source: Führer Trump To Register All Muslims In Amerikkka: Gothamist