Before President Trump suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, and he has barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, the screening process for all refugees involved many layers of security checks before entry into the country.
Before President Trump suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, the screening process for all refugees involved many layers of security checks before entry into the country, and Syrians were subject to an additional layer of checks. Sometimes, the process, below, takes up to two years.
1. Registration with the United Nations.
2. Interview with the U.N.
3. Refugee status granted by the U.N.
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4. Referral for resettlement in the United States.
The U.N. decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to the United States or to another country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for less than 1 percent of refugees worldwide. Some people spend years waiting in refugee camps.
5. Interview with State Department contractors.
6. First background check.
7. Higher-level background check for some.
8. Another background check.
The refugee’s name is run through law-enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist or criminal history. Some go through a higher-level clearance before they can continue. A third background check was introduced in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14-65.
9. First fingerprint screening; photo taken.
10. Second fingerprint screening.
11. Third fingerprint screening.
The refugee’s fingerprints are screened against FBI and Homeland Security databases, which contain watchlist information and past immigration encounters, including if the refugee previously applied for a visa at a U.S. embassy. Fingerprints are also checked against those collected by the Defense Department during operations in Iraq.
12. Case reviewed at U.S. immigration headquarters.
13. Some cases referred for additional review.
Syrian applicants must undergo these two additional steps. Each is reviewed by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit.
14. Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer.
Most of the interviews with Syrians have been done in Jordan and Turkey.
15. Homeland Security approval is required.
16. Screening for contagious diseases.
17. Cultural orientation class.
18. Matched with a U.S. resettlement agency.
19. Multiagency security check before leaving for the United States.
Because of the long amount of time between the initial screening and departure, officials conduct a final check before the refugee leaves for the United States.
20. Final security check at a U.S. airport.