U.S. Refugee Admissions Program: Overseas Application and Case Processing

When a refugee applicant is referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for resettlement consideration, the case is first received and processed by a Resettlement Support Center (RSC). The Department of State currently funds and manages seven RSCs around the world that are operated by NGOs or international organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM).


RSCs collect biometric, biographic, and other information from the applicants to prepare cases for security screening, interview, and adjudication by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) . The Secretary of Homeland Security has delegated to USCIS the authority to determine eligibility for refugee status under U.S. law. The decision whether and how many refugees to admit to the United States each year is determined by the President. There is no minimum or fixed maximum number of refugees that can be admitted under U.S. law – and is set by the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions. USCIS officers review the information that the RSC has collected, and the results of security screening processes and conducts an interview with each refugee applicant before determining whether the applicant is eligible for classification as a refugee.

Post-Adjudication Processing

If an applicant is conditionally approved for resettlement by USCIS, or in certain cases prior to receiving a decision from USCIS, RSC staff guide the refugee applicant through post-adjudication steps, including a health screening to identify medical needs and address any health concerns before individuals enter the United States. The RSC also obtains a “sponsorship assurance” from a U.S.-based resettlement agency that receives funding from PRM for Reception and Placement (R&P) assistance.  Refugees may also be assured to a private sponsor group through the Welcome Corps, which will provide initial resettlement services upon arrival rather than a resettlement agency. Once all required steps are completed, the RSC refers the case to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to arrange transportation to the United States.

Cultural Orientation

The Department of State strives to ensure that refugees admitted to the United States are prepared for the changes they will experience by providing cultural orientation programs prior to departure. The Department of State funds one- to five-day pre-departure orientation classes for eligible refugees at sites throughout the world. Comprehensive cultural orientation resources have been developed to assist refugees’ transition to life in the United States, including a Settle-In US website, Facebook page, and mobile app. Cultural orientation programming continues once refugees arrive in the United States.


The Department of State funds the international transportation of refugees to be resettled in the United States through a program administered by IOM. The transportation is provided to refugees through a no-interest loan. Refugees are responsible for repaying these loans over time through their reception and placement providers, beginning six months after their arrival.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future