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The United States refugee program and its benefits.

Every year millions of people around the world are displaced by war, famine, and civil and political unrest. Others are forced to flee their countries in order to escape the risk of death and torture at the hands of persecutors. In mid-1998, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated the world's population of refugees and asylum seekers to be 13 million. The United States works with other governmental, international, and private organizations to provide food, health care, and shelter to millions of refugees throughout the world.

Each year, the State Department prepares a report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions, then the U.S. president consults with Congress and establishes the proposed ceilings for refugee admissions for the fiscal year. For the 2004 fiscal year, the total ceiling is set at 70,000 admissions and is allocated to six geographic regions: Africa 25,000 admissions, East Asia 6,500, Europe and Central Asia 13,000, Latin America/Caribbean 3,500, Near East/South Asia 2,000 admissions, and 20,000 reserve.

Resettlement of refugees in third countries including the United States.

Resettlement in third countries, including the United States, is considered for refugees in urgent need of protection, refugees for whom other durable solutions are not feasible, and refugees able to join close family members. In seeking durable solutions for refugees, the United States gives priority to the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their homelands. This policy, recognized in the Refugee Act of 1980, is also the preference of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR.

In addition, the United States considers persons for admission into the United States as refugees of special humanitarian concern. People who meet the definition of a refugee and who are otherwise admissible to the United States may be resettled in the United States if they have not been firmly resettled in a third country. Many grounds of inadmissibility may be waived for refugees. Generally, refugees are people who are outside their homeland and have been persecuted in their homeland or have a well-founded fear of persecution there on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Difference between asylum and a refugee status.

Asylum and refugee statuses are closely related; however, they differ depending on where a person applies for the status. If an applicant is already in the United States, he or she may apply for an asylum status. If a person is not in the United States, he or she may be eligible to apply for a refugee status. In either case, all people who are granted either the asylum or refugee status must meet the definition of a refugee.

Applying for a refugee status.

If you believe that you are in need of protection, you may wish to make your concern known to the UNHCR or to an international non-profit voluntary agency. If either of these organizations is unavailable to you, you should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Where appropriate, a representative from one of these organizations will discuss your situation with you to find out if you might be eligible to apply for resettlement in the United States. If so, you must then complete a packet of forms, and the USCIS will conduct a formal interview with you to determine if you qualify for refugee status. If the USCIS determines that you should be resettled in the United States as a refugee, the State Department, together with other organizations, will complete your processing. There are no application fees.

Family members of refugees.

You may include your spouse or any unmarried children under the age of 21 as derivatives of your own refugee application.

Traveling outside of the United States.

In order to retain your refugee status in the United States, you may not travel outside of the United States unless, before your travel, you first obtain permission to return. If you choose to travel, you should first apply for a refugee travel document. This document will allow you to travel abroad and return to the United States.


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