September 23, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – The United States admitted less Sudanese refugees last year than any other year since 2002 but also received the largest number of Sudanese non-immigrants during the same time period, according to the US 2011 Yearbook of immigration statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In 2011 only 334 Sudanese refugees entered the US compared to 558 the year before. This contrasted sharply with figures that ranged between 1,848 and 3,500 during 2003-2006. The latter represents the time period during the height of the conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur which Washington unilaterally labeled as genocide.
The United Nations estimates that more than 2 million Darfuris fled the conflict including to the neighboring state of Chad.
Under US law a refugee is defined as someone who resides outside the US; is of special humanitarian concern to the US, demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group; is not firmly resettled in another country; is admissible to the United States.
Every year the US president establishes the overall admissions levels and regional allocations of all refugees for the upcoming fiscal year. The US gives priority to referrals made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a United States Embassy or a designated non-governmental organization (NGO).
The US may also prioritize certain groups as being of special humanitarian concern to be admitted as refugees.
Once a refugee enters the US they are required to file for permanent residency within one year and are eligible for US citizenship within five years.
The DHS report also showed that 3,585 Sudanese entered the US on non-immigrant visas in 2011 compared to 2,840 in 2010.
Visas for Sudanese nationals face additional scrutiny due to the country being designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. Furthermore, the US embassy in Khartoum has started issuing non-immigrant visas locally only in July 2010. Prior to that Sudanese citizens had to apply for non-immigrant visas in Cairo.
Non-immigrant visas include those issued for tourists, businessmen, temporary workers, students and diplomats.