How hard is it as an immigrant to enter the U.S.?


Constantly hearing from Trump that immigrants flow at will into the U.S. I checked to see what vetting those people currently undergo to enter the country.

It did not seem possible that the U.S. had been left unprotected and was waiting to Trump to swoop in and save us from attack.

Here, according to the Heritage Foundation, is the current process.

With several high-profile terrorist attacks around the world, including Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., many have raised serious concerns about how thoroughly individuals entering the U.S. are screened.

With President Trump’s ban, in particular, a lot of focus has been paid to the refugee process. Americans are understandably worried that terrorists might use any and all opportunities to enter the United States.

So what does the refugee vetting process look like?

First, most applicants apply for refuge through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR. The office then forwards some applications to the U.S. State Department, which prepares these applications for adjudication by Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Once an applicant is referred to the State Department, biometric and biographic checks are done against various U.S. security databases at multiple points throughout the process.

Multiple agencies systems and databases are incorporated in this process, including:

The State Department
-Consular Lookout and Support System
-Consular Consolidated Database
-Department of Homeland Security
-TECS (a DHS security system)
-DHS Automated Biometric Identification System

National Counterterrorism Center/FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center
-Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment
-Terrorist Screening Database

Federal Bureau of Investigation
-Extracts of the National Crime Information Center’s Wanted Persons File, Immigration Violator File, Foreign Fugitive File, Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (and the Interstate Identification Index)
-Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System / Next Generation Identification


Drug Enforcement Administration

Department of Defense

-Automated Biometric Identification System

In addition, the refugee process requires a security advisory opinion to be completed by the FBI and the intelligence community on many refugee applicants who are considered higher risk. Similarly, interagency checks are constantly being done in connection with a wide range of U.S. agencies.

In additional to these background checks, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducts a refugee interview. These interviews cover everything from refugee and immigration matters to security and country specific questions.

For example, Syrian refugee officers must undergo a one week training course on Syria-specific issues, including classified information. Additional scrutiny is already being applied to Syrians through the enhanced review for Syrian applicants’ process that puts additional security and intelligence resources at the disposal of adjudicators.

Only at this point can an application be approved. For those that are approved, health screenings and orientations begin. The State Department and Office of Refugee Resettlement within the Department of Health and Human Services work with voluntary resettlement agencies to arrange for resettlement services and assistance.

After an average of 12-18 months, this process ends with entry into the U.S.