A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin due to well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
Determination of refugee status is made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) after a person has had to flee their country due to war, persecution, and or violence. United Nations member states are then requested to host refugees for resettlement. The United States is one of more than 144 signatories of the United Nations agreement on refugees. Refugees are granted refugee status before traveling to the United States. Both the President and Congress determine the maximum number of refugees that may be admitted into the United States each fiscal year.
For a more detailed look at the UNHCR, please click here.
Refugees travel to the United States with authorized entrance documents and are immediately available for employment upon arrival. One year after arrival, refugees are eligible to apply for permanent residence (green card). Additionally, refugees can apply for citizenship after five years of residence in the United States. Information about refugee travel and documentation can be found on the Department of State’s website through our Resources tab.
The process for a refugee to enter the United States is a lengthy and thorough process and can take anywhere from 18-24 months. During the process, at least five different federal departments (National Counterterrorism Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Department of State, and the United States Department of Defense) are involved to ensure all refugees who enter the United States are appropriately vetted before entry to the United States is authorized.
During the admission process, refugees must undergo intensive and extensive security checks, interviews, and two separate health screenings (one in the country of origin and one upon arrival in the United States). Upon arrival, all documentation must be completed and available to United States Customs and Border Protection officials.
Refugees accepted into the United States undergo a high level of scrutiny. Below is a link to a document that provides a more detailed outline of the application and resettlement process.
Refugees are vetted with strict scrutiny and cannot enter the United States without passing multiple security checks and an intensive interview process.
Refugees have a long history of resettling in the United States. From 2002 to 2022 approximately 1,024,322 have successfully resettled in the United States.
The United States has a long tradition of sheltering those fleeing conflict and persecution. Once refugees have been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and cleared for resettlement, the United States government works with the International Rescue Committee and eight other national Resettlement Agencies to help them restart their lives in America.
Refugees may be placed in a city where they have relatives or friends, or where there is an established community that shares their language or culture. Other considerations include the cost of living and a community’s ability to provide medical services. However, as legal United States residents, refugees may live in any city and state they choose.
The Kansas Office for Refugees (KSOR) works to form partnerships with Resettlement Agencies (RAs), volunteer organizations, community leaders, non-profits, and employers to ensure that refugees are successfully integrated into their new communities.
KSOR partners with the following RAs: Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas, International Rescue Committee in Wichita, and the Manhattan Afghan Resettlement Team.
KSOR contracted medical screening providers can be accessed here.
Please refer to the Programs page to learn more about the programs the Kansas Office for Refugees administers.
KSOR partners with local Resettlement Agencies (RAs) and administers funding based on the number of eligible Office of Refugee Resettlement refugees that each agency. In listening to these local RAs, KSOR contributes to greater statewide impact, scale, and more sustainable outcomes, as those RAs are the main agents of response and recovery.
Kansas Office for Refugees serves Refugees, Asylees, Survivors of Human Trafficking, Holders of Special Immigrant Visas, Cuban and Haitian Entrants, Humanitarian Parolees, and other vulnerable populations.
A person who has fled their country of origin due to well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
A person who has been granted asylum by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Holder or SQ/SI Parolees
SIV or SQ/SI parole is granted by the United States Department of Homeland Security to certain Iraqi or Afghan nationals for their service to the United States government.
Cuban and Haitian Entrants
The United States Government grants special status to Cuban and Haitians who flee their countries to live in the United States. They are eligible for refugee services once they are paroled or are granted asylum.
Ukraine and Afghan Humanitarian Parolees
Due to the tragedies in Ukraine and Afghanistan, nationals and residents of these countries can apply for humanitarian parole status once they are in the United States. The parole status is for two years. Ukrainian nationals or citizens apply through the Uniting for Ukraine program.
Survivor of Human Trafficking
Victims receive a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services due to being a victim of any form of trafficking. Both foreign and domestic survivors of Human Trafficking are eligible for refugee services.
If you, your business, or your organization wish to find ways to help or provide services, please visit the websites of the Kansas Office for Refugees’ partners listed below.
- For Manhattan: Manhattan Afghan Resettlement Team
- For Northeast Kansas: Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas
- For Southwest Kansas: Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas
- For Wichita: International Rescue Committee in Wichita
Opportunities to help include, but are not limited to: mentoring, household setup, organizing events, English language tutoring, and much more. Additionally, donations are accepted through local offices (check with local partners to see what items they need before bringing any donations).