Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate

Leadership

Jennifer B. Higgins is the associate director of Refugee, Asylum and International Operations (RAIO).

What We Do

We are responsible for:

  • Conducting protection screenings;
  • Adjudicating asylum and refugee applications; and
  • Adjudicating other immigration benefits both domestically and internationally.

We are vigilant about fraud detection and national security, relying on careful vetting, innovative screening mechanisms, and sound adjudication.

We also maintain effective intergovernmental partnerships, consult with other countries to build the capacity of their protection systems, implement bilateral information-sharing agreements for identity management and confidentiality, and help advance the U.S. government’s strategic priorities in the international and refugee protection arenas.

Locations

Our global presence includes:

  • Headquarters offices in the National Capital Region;
  • A Refugee and International Operations field office in Washington, D.C.;
  • 11  international offices; and
  • Eight domestic asylum offices, three asylum sub-offices, and an asylum vetting center.

Our officers travel within the U.S. to process asylum-related claims and deploy abroad to adjudicate refugee status applications. 

Organization

RAIO leverages its domestic and overseas presence to assess eligibility for humanitarian and immigration benefits throughout the world while combating fraud and protecting national security.  Two divisions oversee RAIO’s primary adjudicative programs:

The International and Refugee Affairs Division (IRAD) administers the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), along with the Department of State and other USRAP partners. IRAD also manages RAIO’s international offices and overseas workloads. Officers in IRAD:

  • Interview refugee applicants identified for possible resettlement to the United States;
  • Conduct protection screenings for certain migrants interdicted at sea; and
  • Adjudicate immigration petitions and applications, such as requests for parole for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

IRAD works regularly with anti-fraud, law enforcement, intelligence, and national security colleagues to protect adjudication integrity.

The Asylum Division adjudicates affirmative asylum applications for people who are already in the U.S. and, generally, are not already in removal proceedings.  The Asylum Division also adjudicates applications to suspend deportation or cancel removal under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). 

Additionally, the Asylum Division conducts credible fear screenings for people placed in expedited removal; reasonable fear screenings for people subject to final administrative removal orders or reinstatement of prior removal orders; screenings for people processed under the Migrant Protection Protocols; and screening functions under bilateral asylum cooperative agreements.

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