Refugees must seek admission to the United States from abroad, and thus differ from applicants for asylum who are already present in the United States or attempting to obtain admission at a port of entry and seek protection. In FY 2016, the U.S. admitted nearly 85,000 refugees, half of whom came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, and Burma.
Refugees are screened more closely than any other category of immigrant entering the United States. The vetting process for refugee status applicants coordinates information collection and referencing across a variety of federal agencies to ensure that those being admitted are not actors hostile to the United States. In all, the refugee process takes approximately two years, as the United States no longer has an “immediate sanctuary” program that allows refugees to enter before all checks are complete.