Frequently Asked Questions About Refugee Resettlement 

There are many myths and misconceptions about refugees in the United States and the resettlement process. Find the answers to some of the most common asked questions below. 

Who is a refugee?

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. 

What are other humanitarian statuses?


An asylee is an individual who applies for and receives asylum while in the U.S. or on U.S. territory, based on the same qualifying reasons as a refugee.

Special Immigrant Visa Holder

Special Immigrant Visa holders are individuals who assisted U.S. military objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan. While they share similarities with refugees, they are a distinct immigration class.


An entrant refers to a Cuban/Haitian individual who was granted parole status or any other special status subsequently established under immigration laws. 

Certified Victim of Human Trafficking

A person certified or determined eligible under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, having experienced severe forms of trafficking. To be eligible for a T Visa, individuals must meet specific criteria.

What types of screenings and checks do refugees have to go through?

The process for a refugee to enter the United States is a extremely thorough and can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months. In fact, refugees are the most thoroughly screened people who travel into the United States. At least five different federal agencies are involved to ensure all refugees who enter the United States are appropriately vetted before entry is authorized.

Refugees must undergo 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.

What happens if there is uncertainty with a refugee's application?

Anyone who is unable to complete and pass all of the security checks, interviews, and health screenings is denied admission to the United States. 

Are refugees citizens upon arrival in the United States?

Refugees arrive with authorized entrance documents and are immediately available for employment. Refugees are eligible to apply for a Green Card one year after arrival and citizenship after five years.  

Why do refugees come to Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has eight local refugee resettlement agencies who support refugees and other eligible populations in transitioning to their new community. These agencies work closely with the federal government and national resettlement agencies to determine whether a refugee may be a good fit for our state.

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 medical services, housing, and other services that may be needed. 

Where are refugees and other eligible populations in Wisconsin from?

Wisconsin has a rich history of opening its doors to people of all backgrounds. The first refugees to arrive to our state were Hmong from Laos in the 1970s. Since then, we have welcomed refugees from over 50 different counties! After the Hmong population, some of the largest refugee groups living in Wisconsin include Burmese, Somali, Bosnian, Congolese, and Iraqi.

What services do refugees receive? How are they funded?

Local resettlement agencies and other contracted partners work together to provide culturally appropriate services to support our new neighbors in becoming self-sufficient. These include:

  • Medical Assistance 
  • Employment Programming
  • English Language Training 
  • School and Parental Support 
  • Temporary Cash Assistance 

These programs are temporary, with some lasting up to 12 months, and are primarily funded by the federal government. 

What role does the Department of Children and Families play in the refugee resettlement process?

Refugee resettlement in the United States is a federal process. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) manages the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program and is responsible for deciding which refugees are admitted to the United States and where those refugees are located. 

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) houses the Bureau of Refugee Programs, which provides an oversight and problem-solving function to assure that refugees resettled in the state by the Department of State and the national resettlement agencies get the services they need by local affiliates to succeed in making a new home in a local community. To accomplish this, DCF monitors contracts, spending of federal funding, and program services. 

How can I help refugees?

If you, your business, or your organization wish to help refugees, there are a variety of ways you can get involved. Opportunities to help include providing monetary or in-kind donations, mentoring, English language tutoring, and more!

To find out what is needed in your area, please contact your local refugee resettlement agency.