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As worldwide conditions become more complex and in constant change, the resettlement of international refugees continues to be of great intricacy and complications.
The United States has historically led the world in terms of refugee resettlement, and today remains the top resettlement country.
Beyond accepting refugees for resettlement from countries of first asylum, the United States also grants humanitarian protection to asylum seekers who present themselves at U.S. ports of entry or claim asylum from within the country; in FY 2015 (the most recent data available), the United States granted asylum to 26,124 individuals.
Arriving refugees are placed in different communities based on factors including family ties, refugee needs, and receiving community language services, health care, education, housing availability, cost of living, and job opportunities.
The U.S. refugee resettlement program focuses on the most vulnerable populations and those with the best prospects for long-term integration. Individuals with critical medical conditions or disabilities and families with young children are typically prioritized for resettlement.
FY 2016 marked the first time since 2007 when the United States resettled more Muslim refugees than Christians. In that year, 84,944 refugees were admitted; of these, 46 percent (38,900) were Muslim and 44 percent (37,521) were Christian (see Figure 6). More than half of Muslim refugees were from Syria (32 percent) or Somalia (23 percent), or 12,486 and 9,012 refugees respectively. Other top groups included those from Iraq (20 percent, 7,853), Burma (8 percent, 3,145), and Afghanistan (7 percent, 2,664).
Refugees must apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status—also known as getting a green card—one year after being admitted to the United States. As lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees have the right to own property, attend public schools, join certain branches of the U.S. armed forces, and travel internationally without an entry visa, and may apply for U.S. citizenship five years after being admitted as a refugee.
Until 2005, there was an annual limit of 10,000 on the number of asylees authorized to adjust to LPR status. No annual limit exists on the number of refugees eligible to adjust to LPR status.
While the U.S. continues to lead in refugee resettlement initiatives, there becomes a greater need for building upon innovation and efficiencies within the process.