Welcoming the most vulnerable

The United States resettlement program is the largest in the world and the U.S. has been the global leader in resettling refugees since the 1970s.

Refugee resettlement to the U.S. is traditionally offered to the most vulnerable refugee cases including women and children at risk, women heads of households, the elderly, survivors of violence and torture and those with acute medical needs.  



number of refugees resettled to the U.S. in 2019

Balancing the need for security

The process of refugee resettlement to the U.S. is a lengthy and thorough process that takes approximately two years and involves numerous U.S. governmental agencies.

Refugees do not choose the country in which they would like to live. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency identifies the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement and then makes recommendations to select countries.

Once a refugee is recommended to the U.S. for resettlement, the U.S. government conducts a thorough vetting of each applicant. This process takes between 12 and 24 months and includes:


  • Screening by eight federal agencies including the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI
  • Six security database checks and biometric security checks screened against U.S. federal databases
  • Medical screening
  • Three in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officers

number of U.S. federal agencies involved in the screening process of refugees

A place to call home

Since 1975, the U.S. has welcomed more than three million refugees from all over the world, and these refugees have built new lives for their families in all 50 states.

Refugees and their families have woven themselves into the fabric of American society. They are our neighbors, our friends and our colleagues. They are teachers, business owners and contribute positively to communities across the country.   

3 million

number of refugees who have resettled in the U.S. since 1975

"Refugees are vulnerable people, but due to the generosity of the American people we are able to provide refugees with help and hope as they flee devastating circumstances and prepare them for independence in a new and permanent home." 


Anne-Marie Grey. Executive Director and CEO, USA for UNHCR

Giving back to their new community

Ekhlas Ahmed's family was forced to flee the Darfur region of Sudan when violent genocide threatened their lives. Just a child, Ekhlas relied on organizations like UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – for lifesaving essentials including shelter, water, food, safety and protection. As her family moved from Sudan to Egypt, and finally to Maine where they were resettled when Ekhlas was 12 years old, they found the hope and dignity they deserved and an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Ekhlas didn’t know a word of English when she arrived in the U.S. In part, she learned the language by watching The Ellen Show after school. In her eyes, the show was positive and happy, and she wrote down and memorized the words Ellen said.

She graduated from high school in 2009, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine and is now working on a master’s degree. She teaches English at Casco Bay High School, where she is the school’s first alumni staff member. She is also the Maine delegate to the Refugee Congress, an organization that USA for UNHCR supports that is dedicated to giving refugees and asylum seekers a voice in the U.S.


All 50

states have welcomed resettled refugees into their communities

"Being resettled gave me a chance. It gave me hope again. It gave me an opportunity to find myself and accomplish my dream of getting my degree and getting educated. It gave me a voice that I’m able use everywhere I go to advocate.” 


–Ekhlas Ahmed. Teacher, Student, Resettled Refugee

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