Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
January 9, 2013


Since 1975, some 115,000 refugees from Latin American and Caribbean countries have been resettled in the United States. Roughly 77,000 have come from Cuba, with other significant numbers from Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua and El Salvador. In FY 2012, 2,078 refugees in the region were resettled, including 1,948 Cubans and 126 Colombians.

A Refugee Coordinator posted to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana covers in-country processing of eligible Cubans as well as small numbers of non-Cubans. A regional Refugee Coordinator posted to U.S. Embassy Bogotá coordinates refugee admissions from the rest of the region. The Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS) conducts regular refugee adjudication “circuit rides” to Cuba, Ecuador and Costa Rica, and, as needed, to other countries in the region. Transportation to the United States is arranged by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Cuba Program

While the in-country resettlement program began in 1984, the program is now a component of the 1994 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords under which the U.S. issues some 20,000 travel documents annually to Cubans for permanent resettlement in the United States. Cubans eligible to apply for admission to the United States through the in-country refugee program under the Priority 2 (P-2) category include:

  • Former political prisoners;
  • Members of persecuted religious minorities;
  • Human rights activists;
  • Forced labor conscripts during the period 1965-1968;
  • Persons deprived of their professional credentials or subjected to other disproportionately harsh or discriminatory treatment resulting from their perceived or actual political or religious beliefs; and
  • Persons who have experienced or fear harm because of their relationship – family or social – to someone who falls under one of the preceding categories.

Cubans outside Cuba may be considered for resettlement if referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or a U.S. Embassy.

Colombian Refugees

In FY 2002, the U.S. began to resettle vulnerable Colombian refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) located in Ecuador and Costa Rica. Most Colombian refugees have fled the armed conflict as a result of persecution for political opinion at the hands of either left-wing guerrilla or right-wing paramilitary groups. PRM and its partners continue to assess the asylum environments for refugees throughout Latin America.126 Colombian refugees were admitted to the United States in FY 2012.

FY 2013 Admissions Program

The FY 2013 ceiling for refugee admissions from Latin America and the Caribbean is 5,000. Of these, the vast majority will be Cubans processed through the in-country program.