USCIS Marks World Refugee Day by Conducting Naturalization Ceremony for Former Refugees


To commemorate World Refugee Day, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducted special naturalization ceremonies at locations around the country beginning June 18, 2012. The new citizens are all former refugees who settled in the United States, most through USCIS’s process for refugee immigration.

World Refugee Day features events held around the world, coordinated by United Nations officials, intended to raise awareness of refugee issues and promote laws and cultural shifts to help refugee populations. It began with a resolution of the UN General Assembly on December 4, 2000. The first World Refugee Day occurred on June 20, 2001.

The UN defines a “refugee” as a person fleeing his or her home and country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a social group. The term can also apply to people “in exile” due to a natural disaster. The UN estimates that there are 15.2 million refugees worldwide, out of a total of 42.5 million “forcibly displaced people.”

USCIS has a more specific definition of “refugee” for U.S. immigration purposes. In addition to the well-founded fear requirement, an individual must be located outside the U.S., must not be “firmly resettled” in another country, must be “of special humanitarian concern” to the U.S., and must be admissible under current immigration law. The definition excludes anyone who perpetrated the persecution of others in any way. According to USCIS, more than 3 million refugees have legally immigrated to the United States since 1975.

The naturalization ceremonies held around the country served to commemorate World Refugee Day and promote the United States’ “humanitarian mission” to help refugees. At a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 21, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) presided, and nineteen former refugees attained citizenship. The nineteen reportedly hailed from nine countries with histories of humanitarian issues. Most of the home countries are in Asia: Afghanistan, Iran, Laos, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Two African countries, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, were represented, as was Bosnia and Herzegovina in Europe.

An individual seeking to come to the United States as a refugee must go through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). USRAP gives priority to people referred to it directly by the UN, a U.S. Embassy, or certain designated non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). It may also recognize certain areas or groups of “special humanitarian concern” to be given priority. People referred to USRAP must apply to a USCIS officer abroad, followed by medical exams and assistance with travel arrangements. A person who is approved for refugee status may include certain family members. Upon arrival in the U.S., refugees may obtain work authorization immediately. They may also apply for a green card, for no fee, after one year in the country.

The United States immigration system is often complicated and confusing. For a free and confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced Ohio immigration visa lawyer, contact Gus Shihab online, or by calling (800) 625-3404 today.