Speed Reads

refugee crisis

Here's what the U.S. process for vetting Syrian refugees actually looks like

Many Republican lawmakers and governors are pushing back against the Obama administration's plan to accept up to 10,000 Syrian refugees, citing reports that a suicide bomber involved in the Islamic State terrorist attacks on Paris passed through Greece in October with a Syrian passport. They're calling for more strict measures to ensure that the U.S. doesn't admit any terrorists amid the stream of refugees. President Obama and other White House officials have bristled at the suggestion that security precautions are too loose.

So what does the vetting process actually look like? The nonpartisan fact-checking website PolitiFact has a thorough explanation, starting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' months-long process, which about 1 percent of refugees reportedly make it through. Then, the U.S. steps in:

Once a case is referred from the UNHCR to the United States, a refugee undergoes a security clearance check that could take several rounds, an in-person interview, approval by the Department of Homeland Security, medical screening, a match with a sponsor agency, "cultural orientation" classes, and one final security clearance. This all happens before a refugee ever gets onto American soil. [PolitiFact]

That whole process takes about two years on average, experts told PolitiFact.

"The process for refugees is the most extensive security screening we have for visitors," said Lavinia Limón, president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an advocacy group. "It's easier to come in as a tourist, a student, a businessman."

Read more about the screening process here.