RSC staff with goods they collected for Kenyans affected by the 2005-6 drought and famine.
Photo: Quinn Kariuki
How Resettlement Support Works
Refugees can only access the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program through 1) referral as a member of a group of special humanitarian concern to the United States, 2) an individual referral from an authorized agency or, 3) for some nationalities, by a close family member in the United States.
Authorized agencies include the UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), a non-governmental organization, or a U.S. embassy.
The staff of the Nairobi, Kenya-based CWS Resettlement Support Center (RSC) work with refugees at several steps along the path to departure for resettlement in the United States. This work is carried out in partnership with the UNHCR, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and U.S. embassies.
All new applications for processing are received electronically at the Correspondence Department and verified. After vetting, the applications proceed to Pre-CIS Data Entry for thorough searching before a case number is assigned and the file is opened. Then the Correspondence Department verifies these cases and forwards them to the library’s active files.
The Correspondence Department also responds to inquiries from the voluntary agencies, Congressional offices, U.S. ties, and refugees. Local refugee resettlement affiliates send their inquiries through the relevant national voluntary agency office, and the response is provided to both the local affiliate and the national office.
Pre-CIS Staff/Circuit Rides
Pre-CIS staff at CWS RSC/Nairobi carry out circuit rides to camps and other locations throughout sub-Saharan Africa to interview refugees and further prepare case files to be presented in the interview with the USCIS.
The Circuit Ride section plans and prepares schedules for the interviews. Once the schedules are completed, they are forwarded electronically to the VOLAGS, IOM and UNHCR. IOM and UNHCR posts the names of scheduled applicants at various places at the camp. The RSC field team travels extensively conducting interviews for cases that will be presented for CIS interview.
After a refugee has received final approval for resettlement by the USCIS, CWS RSC/Nairobi staff work to prepare the refugee for departure. This includes obtaining security clearances, requesting a medical exam from IOM, offering Cultural Orientation to assist refugees in acclimating to resettlement in the United States, processing assurances, and preparing a packet of travel documents for each refugee family for IOM purposes.
Refugees who are denied by CIS have 90 days to appeal the decision. Refugees are allowed to appeal only once within this timeframe.
The Departures Section works closely with IOM. Before a case is released to IOM for departure arrangements, the case files are packeted and sealed. The Departures Section must check and verify that the cases have met all the requirements. On the travel packet Departures prints labels with the departing refugees’ names, photos and the resettling agency. The Departures Section ensures that cases have received all security clearances before they depart. The Departures Section keeps track of the statistics of all departures to the United States.
Cultural Orientation is among the last overseas processing steps that refugees in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program pass before they depart for the United States. A team of 16 trainers with experience in the United States conduct classes in Nairobi and in the field to prepare refugees for the initial period of their resettlement in the United States by offering them training with three guiding objectives:
- Informing them of the systems and processes that affect/will affect their resettlement.
- Developing in the participants realistic expectations of the United States.
- Imparting the necessary skills and attitudes that enable positive acculturation.
A standard Cultural Orientation session consists of three six-hour days of training for an average of 25 participants per class. An additional day for Somali youth ages 15-26 has been added to the program. Mindful of the brevity of time they have with the refugees, the team creatively employs experiential training methods, adapted appropriately to the various groups that CWS RSC/Nairobi serves.