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Holding a Globe

Who is a refugee?
Generally, a refugee is a person who has fled his/her country because of fear of persecution. The United States (U.S.) incorporated into its laws the definition of a refugee as written in the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (adopted in Geneva, Switzerland in 1951). This Convention defines a refugee as a person who, "...owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

What is the difference between refugees and immigrants?
Refugees have fled their home country because of persecution; immigrants have left their home countries for non-persecution reasons.

What is an alien?
An alien is a person from another country residing legally in the U.S. This person does not hold a U.S. citizenship. An alien may either be a refugee or an immigrant.

What is a classified alien?
A classified alien is a refugee or an immigrant who, upon entry into the U.S., is determined to have a medical condition. The medical conditions are classified as B1, B2 and Class A (occurs rarely). A classified alien may either be an immigrant or a refugee. Classifications based on medical condition are during the refugee or immigrant's required health examination in a country outside the United States.

Where are most of the world’s refugees?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports the latest number of refugees of concern at 10.4 million in early 2011. Additionally, 4.7 million refugees reside in camps in the Middle East administered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Refugees of concern reside throughout the world, with more than half in Asia and some 20 percent in Africa.

How do refugees come to the United States?
Some refugees travel to the United States on their own and apply for asylum when they arrive on U.S. soil. Many have lost everything before leaving their countries. Every year, the United States also admits refugees through an overseas admissions program. The staff of U.S. based, non-governmental organizations and the UN's refugee agency help U.S. government officers identify refugees in need of resettlement.

What services and benefits does the government provide for refugees who are being resettled in the U.S.?

  • Zero-interest loan to travel to the U.S.
  • 8 months of Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA)
  • Food stamps
  • Housing assistance, furnishings, food and clothing
  • Social Security card
  • School registration for children
  • Referrals for medical appointments and other support services
  • Employment services
  • Case management through community-based, non-profit organizations
  • Adjustment of status from refugee to legal, permanent resident



Last Updated: 07-08-2013

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