On October 8, 2021, President Biden officially set an annual ceiling of 125,000 for refugee admissions to the United States during Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. This number represents the maximum number of refugees that may be admitted to the United States through September 30, 2022. The President set the annual refugee ceiling after consulting with members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.

The President allocated the admission numbers among the following regions:

Region Allocation
Africa 40,000
Near East, South Asia 35,000
East Asia 15,000
Latin America/Caribbean 15,000
Europe and Central Asia 10,000
Unallocated Reserve 10,000

U.S. immigration law defines refugees as people outside of their country of nationality who are unable or unwilling to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.[1] Individuals outside of the United States seeking admission as refugees are processed through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program which is managed by the Department of State in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services.

Congress also plays a critical role in the refugee process through the annual appropriations process by funding resettlement and integration programs for refugees. The President’s announcement signals government agencies and humanitarian organizations involved in identifying, processing and resettling refugees on how to scale resources and operations for the fiscal year.

Refugee resettlement in the United States decreased significantly over the past few years due to a shift in the last Administration’s priorities and due to the coronavirus pandemic. In FY 2021 and in FY 2020, less than 12,000 refugees were admitted annually.

This summer, approximately 50,000 Afghans were evacuated to the United States. According to DHS, most of these Afghan nationals are being paroled into the United States, on a case-by-case basis, for a period of two years. (Once paroled, these Afghans may be eligible to apply for an immigration status, such as asylum.[2]) The parole process is distinct from the refugee admissions process.


[1] The President stated that individuals in the following areas may be processed for refugee status within their respective countries (referred to as ‘in-country processing’): Cuba; Eurasia and the Baltics; Iraq; El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; and persons identified by a U.S. Embassy in any location.

[2] An asylee is defined as a person who meets the definition of a refugee but is already present in the United States or is seeking admission at a U.S. port of entry.