Tag Archives: refugees

SYRIA: Education in Exile

March 29th, 2019

syria

Syria’s brutal civil war that began in 2011 has created the world’s largest displacement crisis, with almost 5.7 million registered refugees, including more than 2.5 million Syrian children now living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. (In 2016, we posted an extensive piece on the Syrian conflict and its impact on the education system and the millions of its citizens who have been displaced. Click here to read more.)

The civil war has led to the creation of the Syrian Interim Government, an alternative government or a government in exile of the Syrian Opposition, which has been formed by the opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The interim government is seated in exile in Turkey. Its headquarters in Syria are located in the city of Azaz in Turkish-occupied northern Syria.

In effect, at this time, there are 2 governments in operation representing Syria: the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) led by President Assad and the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). Because of the conflict, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in SAR has placed the entire curriculum of secondary education on-line to allow for students to self-study. In this case, students will not receive a report card or transcript for each year of study. The only document they will receive is the certificate for final exams for the Secondary Baccalaureate which provides them access to tertiary education at the universities in Syria.

In direct opposition to the government of President Assad, the SIG’s MOE has instituted its own secondary curriculum for those in the Turkish refugee camps and Syrian schools in Turkey and offers its own Secondary Baccalaureate examinations. The Interim Government’s MOE is working closely with the MOE in the Turkish government to coordinate efforts between the two ministries to oversee all Syrian schools in Turkey. It is also discussing how Syrian university students living in exile can be admitted into Turkish universities to continue their education and qualify for scholarships.

Until recently, Turkey, and with some limitations, France, had been the only countries recognizing the Secondary Baccalaureate examinations administered by the Syrian Interim Government. But on March 11, 2019, the MOE under the Syrian Interim Government announced that its diplomas are being recognized by several European universities in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. The diplomas are not recognized by the Syrian Arab Government’s MOE and any Syrian returning to Syria will not be granted admission to the universities based on the SIG MOE’s Secondary Diploma.


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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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ACEI’s 5-Step Practical Guide in Helping Refugees and Displaced People without or limited Documentation

July 13th, 2018

checkoff

The displacement of people because of conflict/war and/or caused by environmental/political/economic crisis means that many may arrive at refugee camps or their adopted countries with little or no documents supporting their academic achievements.  At the 2016 NAFSA Region XII Conference in Palm Spring, CA, ACEI President & CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert presented a session on this topic with focus on “Syria: Education in Crisis and Providing Pathways for Refugees.” In her presentation, Jasmin introduced ACEI’s five-step process, which serves as a practical guide when assisting refugees and displaced people.

                                                Assess the Overall Situation

                                                Reconstruct the individual’s academic history

                                                Gather documents

                                                Assess Competency

                                                Verify

Let’s take a look at each of the five steps recommended in this model:

Step 1. Assess the overall situation

thinking

Assess the overall situation to determine if the claim for lack of documentation is legitimate (that is, is the source country at war or devastated by natural/environmental crisis that prevents the individual in securing his/her academic documents?). You may look at a variety of sources to obtain confirmation, such as:

  • Check the US Department of State website
  • Search Internet on recent news from official news sources
  • Email the institution and/or Ministry of Education in the source country
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in the source country
  • Contact the Embassy or Consulate of the country
  • Telephone the institution (seek the help of a native speak or someone fluent in the language)

Step 2. Reconstruct the individual’s academic history

inkwell

One way to obtain an understanding of your applicant’s predicament and academic achievement is by reconstruct their academic history.

  • Follow your general procedures (as you would all prospective applicants)
  • Require completion of an application
  • Require submission of official academic documents
  • Conduct an interview

Step 3. Gather Documents

folder

In the absence of complete academic documents, there are other types of documentation an individual may have in his/her possession that may include any of the following:

  • Gather any available academic and/supporting documents
  • Student IDs
  • Registration cards/enrollment slips
  • Any transcripts, certificates/diplomas even if incomplete
  • Copies of licenses
  • Certificates of professional standing/membership
  • State examinations certification
  • Proof of tuition payments/receipts from institution’s bursary
  • Sworn statements/affidavits from exiled faculty/school administration
  • Newspaper clippings/articles/announcements or printed lists of graduated students

Step 4. Assess Course Competency

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Assessment of an individual’s competency in a course or series of courses may be achieved through the following methods:

  • Interview by member of faculty
  • Assignment of special project
  • Challenge/placement examination

Step 5. Verify

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Finally, we need to verify and check everything that has been presented and collected to prepare a portfolio/dossier on the individual.

  • Confirm again the crisis situation in the country and institution with official sources (e.g. U.S. Department of State, Embassy of the country from which the individual originates)
  • Ensure that you have in-house expertise on the country/region in question and its education system
  • Compare and verify any document gathered against samples from the same country and institutions in your archives
  • Use social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter for your applicant and LinkendIn and Academic.edu for scholars from the conflict area
  • When in doubt consult with and seek advice of colleagues in your profession and/or reach out to external sources such as independent evaluation services (members of AICE-Association of International Credential Evaluators)

This is a dynamic guide and we welcome your comments and suggestions. Please share with us your experiences and any tips you may have on this subject so that we may consider adding them to the guide.

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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UC Davis Launches Digital Tool in Lebanon to Help Refugees Reclaim Right to Education

July 6th, 2018

ucdavisdocs

We wish to thank Professor Keith David Watenpaugh, Director of Human Rights studies at the University of California, Davis, for granting permission to share this post originally posted by Julia Ann Easley on June 12, 2018 in UC Davis’s Society, Arts & Culture News. Where necessary, ACEI has refreshed the post to include updates and new developments.

Jihad Qusanyeh, imprisoned and tortured as a student, will be among the first Syrian refugees to assemble a virtual “backpack” in a new project to help them reclaim their right to education. Article 26 Backpack, which uses face-to-face counseling and cloud-based technology to help refugees document and share their educational accomplishments, was launched in Lebanon beginning Friday, June 15.

The international consortium behind the project is led by Keith David Watenpaugh, a professor and director of Human Rights Studies at the University of California, Davis. Consortium members include the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, or AACRAO, and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, or AUB.

jihad

Jihad Qusanyeh – Qusanyeh, a fourth-year student of applied chemistry at the University of Damascus when he was taken prisoner for five years, wants to complete his studies. “I always aim to learn more and more for when I return to Syria,” he shared in a video recorded to include in his backpack. “I’ll use what I learn for rebuilding Syria.”

Help to overcome challenges

About 36 percent of global youth have access to higher education but only about 1 percent of eligible refugees do, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The ongoing Syrian civil war has internally displaced or made refugees of more than 12 million people, and hundreds of thousands among them were — or should have been — in university, Watenpaugh said.

Article 26 Backpack, a part of Global Affairs at UC Davis and supported by a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, is named for the article that established the right to education in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nearly 70 years ago.

Watenpaugh said the tool will help refugees overcome significant impediments to re-entering academic life or applying for employment — from problems accessing their own documents to little clarity about the transferability of their credentials.

backpack
Source credit: UC Davis

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More About the Technology Behind the Backpack – “A lot of what we do is important, but this was another level of helping our fellow human,” said Shawn DeArmond, who supervised the UC Davis web development group.“

Watenpaugh envisions broader implementation of Article 26 Backpack throughout the Middle East, particularly in the areas most affected by the war in Syria, and beyond. Moreover, he sees the Backpack’s potential to help not only refugees of war or those fleeing civil conflict, but also students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status in the United States and climate refugees.

The Lebanon launch
The first stage of the implementation was from June 15 through July 3. Watenpaugh and a team — including AUB students and faculty and AACRAO staff — visited refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley and hosted refugees elsewhere to help about 300 create backpacks.

A comic book will help introduce the Backpack to refugees. Trained students will help refugees set up backpacks at article26backpack.ucdavis.edu and upload documents including images of diplomas, transcripts and resumes. Backpackers have the option to record a video to serve as an oral statement of purpose. They control what they put in the backpack and with whom they share it.

Video Journals
Professor Watenpaugh has documented his recent Backpack Journey reflections in Lebanon through a number of videos. In this video, he asks: “What role can education play in the face of discrimination and prejudice? How can Article 26 Backpack as a humanitarian tool address this challenge?” For more, click here.

Future work
After nearly a month in Lebanon leading the initial implementation of Backpack, Watenpaugh returns to UC Davis Global Affairs to oversee the development of the next phase of this project. Work this summer will create an Arabic-language version of the tool, and in the early fall the project will be back in Lebanon to help more refugees set up backpacks.

In the future, Article 26 Backpack will integrate credential evaluation, academic counseling and job placement assistance through a feature called Compass. AACRAO, the higher education association, is building a cloud-based pool of international credential evaluators to assist refugee students and, in some cases, reconstruct academic histories that have been lost due to war.

A historian of the modern Middle East, Watenpaugh has seen up close the need for Article 26 Backpack. He has led a multidisciplinary research team that produced several major studies on Syrian students and scholars who are refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Greece and Turkey. His most recent book is the award-winning Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism.

To stay abreast of the Article 26 Backpack project, please follow Professor Watenpaugh on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Media contact(s)
Keith David Watenpaugh, Article 26 Backpack, +1 530-574-0815 cell (speaks English and Arabic), kwatenpaugh@ucdavis.edu
Mona Finucane, Article 26 Backpack, cell +1 707-673-7043 (speaks English and Arabic), mfinucane@ucdavis.edu
Annetta Stroud, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, strouda@aacrao.org
Hana Addam El-Ghali, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB, +961 71037300, ha58@aub.edu.lb
Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248, cell 530-219-4545, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

Media Resources
Press kit with photos and more
Video: Jihad Qusanyeh shares his story (3 min, 44 secs)
Comic Book Explains Project With Refugee’s Story
More About the Technology Behind the Backpack
Article 26 Backpack

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The European Qualifications Passport: Giving Refugees a Second Chance

February 16th, 2018

Chance

Something amazing and unprecedented has happened across the Atlantic. The Council of Europe will recognize the education qualifications of refugees who have fled their homelands with little or no documentation.

The Council of Europe launched the project known as the European Qualifications Passport in 2017 with the goal to help those refugees who had finished high school or completed university studies in their home countries by having their education attainment evaluated.

The European Qualifications Passport as defined by the Council of Europe is:

a document providing an assessment of the higher education qualifications based on available documentation and a structured interview. It also presents information on the applicant’s work experience and language proficiency. The document provides reliable information for integration and progression towards employment and admission to further studies.

It is a specially developed assessment scheme for refugees, even for those who cannot fully document their qualifications.”

The European Qualifications Passport follows in the footsteps of a project already in place in Norway by NOKUT that has successfully assisted refugees without academic documents to gain recognition of their academic achievements through a carefully implemented screening and assessment process. These individuals must demonstrate their level of knowledge and education in order to qualify for the European Qualifications Passport.  The first step is to complete a questionnaire which is then reviewed by an evaluator after which an interview is scheduled. The interview is conducted by at least two individuals, one of whom is well versed in the language and education system of the country where the refugee claims to have studied.

Chance_2

Below is a step-by-step chart of this assessment process provided by the Council of Europe:

process.png

View a documentary on the European Qualifications Passport here

Sample:

Sample

Many nations today are facing unprecedented pressure to tackle the migration challenge, and are seeking effective and sustainable methods to screen, assess and recognize the qualifications of refugees. The European Qualifications Passport is a remarkable achievement and a huge step forward in helping refugees by recognizing their education that will help their integration into their host country and making our world a better place.

Additional Links:

https://rm.coe.int/168070016d

https://fruitfame.com/category/miracle-fruit/european-qualifications-passport-for-refugees

https://www.coe.int/en/web/education/-/new-video-on-the-european-qualifications-passport-for-refugees

https://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/strategic-framework/skills-qualifications_en

https://acei-global.blog/2017/02/03/recognition-of-refugees-qualifications-norwegian-and-european-experiences-and-solutions/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Introducing ACEI’s 5-Step Refugee Guide

November 16th, 2017

A 5-Step Guide to Help Refugees/Displaced People without/limited Documentation

The displacement of people can occur at any time and to any one, whether as a result of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami, flood, hurricane, wild fire, or civil war, political unrest and regional warfare. In the midst of such calamities, people may be left with nothing but the clothing on their back or a handful of memorabilia and essentials. Many fleeing their homes and in some cases, their countries, may leave behind precious documents or lose them in the aftermath of a natural disaster or war. In this blog, we offer our 5-step practical guide to those academic institutions faced with assisting refugee/displaced candidates from outside the U.S.

guide

5 Steps

  1. Assess the Overall Situation
  2. Reconstruct the Individual’s Academic History

  3. Gather Documents

  4. Assess Competency

  5. Verify

Let’s dive deeper into each one of these 5 steps:

Step 1.  Assess the Overall Situation

guide2

Assessing the overall situation helps us determine if the claim for lack of documentation is legitimate (e.g. is the source country at war or devastated by natural/environmental crisis and if so, when did this occur?).

  • Check U.S. Department of State Website for alerts and country updates
  • Search Internet on recent news
  • Email the institution
  • Telephone the institution (find a native speaker or someone fluent in the language to help you with the call)

Step 2. Reconstruct Academic History

guide3.png

Assessing a refugee/displaced person’s academic history is similar to trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle where several pieces maybe missing. Reconstructing the individual’s academic history will help you have an overview of the person’s studies so that you can begin to fit the pieces together.

Here are some suggestions to help you with this process:

  • Follow your institution’s general procedures (as you would all prospective applicants)
  • Require completion of an application
  • Require submission of official academic documents (this will demonstrate to you what documents, if any, the individual has in his/her possession)
  • Conduct an interview

Step 3. Gather Documents

guide4.png

Before you rule out the possibility of available documents, set out to gather any academic and supporting documents you can from the applicant.

These documents may include any of the following:

  • Student ID cards
  • Registration cards/enrollment slips
  • Any transcripts, certificates/diplomas
  • Copies of licenses/permits to practice a profession
  • Certificates of professional standing
  • Awards/Trophies/Medals for academic achievements
  • State examinations certification
  • Proof of tuition payments/receipts from institution’s bursary
  • Sworn statements/affidavits from exiled faculty/school administrators
  • Newspaper clippings or Internet links/articles/announcements or printed lists of graduated students

Step 4. Assess Course Competency

guide5

Academic institutions have the means to assess an applicant’s competency in a course or courses.

Assessment of course competency maybe carried out through the following:

  • Interview by member of faculty
  • Assignment of special project
  • Offer challenge/placement exam

Step 5. Verify

check

The final step is to verify and check everything that you have gathered to reconstruct a portfolio of your candidate.

Here are some suggested verification techniques to consider:

  • Confirm (again) the crisis situation in the country and institution with official sources (e.g. U.S. Department of State)
  • Ensure that you have in-house expertise on the country/region in question and its education system
  • Compare and verify any documents gathered against samples from same country and institutions in your archives
  • Use social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram for your applicant and LinkedIn and websites for scholars from the conflict area. (e.g.: http://bit.ly/2zd6k1x)  
  • When in doubt, consult the advice of colleagues through your membership with professional associations in the field, and/or reach out to external sources such as independent evaluation services (Endorsed Members of AICE – Association of International Credential Evaluators).

links

Useful Links:

Association of International Credential Evaluators

ENIC-European Network of Information in the European Region-NARIC-National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union

NOKUT – European Qualification Passport for Refugees

UC Davis “Article 26 Backpack”

US Department of State

The World Factbook Central Intelligence Agency

For information and assistance with the evaluation of international academic credentials, please visit our website at www.acei-global.org or call us at 1-310-275-3530.

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Recognition of refugees’ qualifications – Norwegian and European experiences and solutions

February 2nd, 2017

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Early and effective evaluation of refugees’ qualifications and skills, including those refugees who hold qualifications but lack proper documentation, is a critical measure to ensure that refugees are able to enter the labour market or pursue further studies as quickly as possible. As a result, both society and the individual can benefit from rapid and effective integration processes.

The Lisbon Recognition Convention clearly states that the Parties are committed to the establishment of a system for recognition of qualifications held by refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation. This applies even in cases in which the qualifications obtained cannot be proven through documentary evidence (Article VII).

Since 2005, Norway has attempted to implement a special recognition procedure for this target group. In 2012, NOKUT developed a unique recognition scheme for refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation. The UVD-procedure is a centralized recognition procedure administered by NOKUT. Academics from HEIs assist NOKUT, through a thorough and structured process, to reach legally binding decisions on recognition.

In 2015, with the record-high numbers of arrivals of refugees in Europe, NOKUT saw the need re-think recognition procedures for refugees. NOKUT and UK NARIC proposed the idea of establishing a European Qualification Passport for Refugees, bearing in mind the legacy of the Nansen passport.

In the 2016 pilot project – NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees – the methodology was tested. The procedure has already become part of the Norwegian recognition scheme, with a focus on the integration of refugees.

In 2017, a similar methodology will be the basis for a pilot project in Greece, administered by the Council of Europe and Greek Ministry of Education, Science and Religious Affairs, to test out a European Qualifications Passport for Refugees. In the Erasmus+ funded project Toolkit for Recognition of Refugees, in which several European partners participate, a testing of similar methodology will carried out.

NOKUT believes the Qualifications Passport for Refugees is the optimal tool for recognition of refugees’ qualifications. In the procedure, higher education qualifications are assessed based on available documentation and a structured interview. The resulting document, in addition, summarizes and presents available information on the applicant’s, work experience and language proficiency. Bearing this in mind, the document aims at providing credible and reliable information essential to integration and progression towards employment, upskilling and admission to further studies.

stig

Stig Arne Skjerven is Director of Foreign Education at NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education) and Head of the Norwegian ENIC-NARIC, where he oversees the recognition of foreign qualifications in accordance with the Lisbon Convention and advises policy in the areas of education, recognition, labor markets and integration. Prior to his time at NOKUT, Stig Arne was the Director of Academic Affairs at Aalesund University College, Norway and a political adviser for the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad (ANSA). He has gained additional experience from various national and international committees and working groups on higher education and has presented at several international conferences and seminars on themes such as recognition, policy, marketing and recruitment. Stig Arne is currently a member of the EAIE General Council, the ENIC-NARIC Board and the Drafting Committee of the global convention of recognition of higher education qualifications.

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20 Facts on How the U.S. Resettles Syrian Refugees

November 19th, 2015

refugees
Syrian refugees in Belgrade, Serbia, are waiting for an opportunity to travel north to cross the border with Hungary, entering the EU [Source: AP]

The on-going conflict in Syria and the recent refugee crisis has given rise to anti-refugee sentiments in the U.S. with more than half of the nation’s governors calling for a ban on admitting refugees into the country.  Entry to the U.S. as a refugee is an arduous process and requires months and even years of screening before a decision regarding admissibility to the country is granted.

In her November 17, 2015 piece for the Washington Post, Carol Morello,  the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department highlighted 3 important facts about how the U.S. resettles Syrian refugees.  In this blog, we have broken down these facts even further for your perusal:

  1. # of people who died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011? More than 250,000
  2. # of people who have fled their homes? At least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes. Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population, according to the United Nations. Most are struggling to find safe haven in Europe.
  3. # of Syrian refugees accepted for resettlement in the U.S. since the conflict began in 2011: 2,200
  4. Rate of Syrian refugees arriving in U.S. per week: 45
  5. # of refugees to be accepted by the U.S.: 10,000
  6. # of Vietnamese refugees accepted each year during the height of the Vietnam War: 200,000
  7. # of months required to vet and screen a Syrian refugee before being admitted to the U.S.: 18 – 24 months
  8. % of refugees who are single males of combat age: 2%
  9. What is one factor for considering a refugee’s admissibility to U.S.? Whether they already have family in the U.S.
  10. How does the U.S. prioritize refugees? The vulnerable: women and children, the elderly, those who’ve been tortured, those who require modern medical treatment.
  11. Children represent half the refugees accepted to the U.S.
  12. Adults over 60 represent a quarter of the refugees accepted.
  13. How does the U.S. government screen and conduct background checks of refugees? Names, birthdates and fingerprints are run through databases, information is double checked against classified and unclassified records for consistency, face-to-face interviews with applicants are held at regional centers in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt. If need be, refugee specialists with U.S. departments of State, Homeland Security and the National Terrorism Center, will travel to refugee camps to conduct the interviews.
  14. Who makes the final decision of whether a refugee’s case is approved or rejected? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  15. Do governors determine where a refugee settles once admitted to the U.S.? No.
  16. Who determines where a refugee settles once admitted to the U.S.? Faith-based and non-profit groups.
  17. How do faith-based and nonprofit groups help the refugees? Through federal funds allocated to these groups, they are able to welcome the arrive refugees and assist them with their relocation by finding them housing, enrolling them in English classes, and job search.
  18. What other services and benefits do refugees receive once admitted to the U.S.? They are eligible for Medicaid and become permanent residents which permits them to work.
  19. How long does it take for refugees admitted to the U.S. to be eligible for a green card? One year.
  20. How long does it take for refugees admitted to the U.S. to apply for U.S. citizens? Five years.

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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