Danilo Zak at the Immigration Forum explains refugee resettlement works. Here are some highlights. He describe sthe U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and the backlogs at various stages of the pipeline. He also identifies possible solutions to quickly rebuild the pipeline, which Trump attempted with some success to destroy.
Go here for historical trends in refugee flows into the U.S.
Several pathways into refugee status are available depending on the case. Biden has submitted a plan to allow individuals (you, me, our family) to sponsor refugees.
There are Resettlement Support centers around the world. Non-governmental organizations help run them. The centers conduct an initial interview with the applicant, collecting biographic and biometric information and sharing it with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to initiate security checks.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee officers do to the centers and conduct in person interviews. The interview constitutes an official refugee status determination and results in either an approval to move on with the process or a denial.
Applicants are subjected to a multitude of security and medical checks to ensure they pose no national security risk to the U.S. The security screenings check against a series of biographic and biometric lists kept by the U.S. Department of Defense, DHS, the FBI, and international law enforcement organizations like Interpol. Medical checks tend to occur near the end of the process, as they are only valid for six months and refugees must travel to the U.S. before they expire.
Approved refugees are connected to a sponsoring resettlement agency in the U.S. with capacity to welcome them. take out a loan to pay for their flights to the U.S. The government provides resettlement agencies a one-time payment of $2,175 per refugee resettled to cover housing and other basic needs for the first three months in the U.S.
There are no concrete estimates concerning how long it takes to go through this process. Prior to the Trump administration, the average processing time was regularly listed at 18 to 24 months. Since 2017, however, the implementation of additional vetting and security protocols, the Trump administration slashing resources to various parts of the system, and the sweeping impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have all almost certainly increased wait times.
United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees currently estimates the process from referral to resettlement for refugees it is responsible for to take between two and 10 years.