WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security just announced new screening measures for refugees designed to improve national security in the United States.

The new measures are a result of a 120 day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admission Program where government officials looked at how they could increase vetting of refugees.

A new memo states that refugees with connections to 11 countries pose a higher risk to the United States and will therefore receive more scrutiny. The memo stops short of naming the countries but Reuters reports most of the countries are in the Middle East and Africa.

The Department of Homeland Security will complete an additional review of each of the named 11 countries to asses them for threats.

DHS is expected to temporarily prioritize the applications of refugees from countries outside of the 11 that have been identified.

Refugees from those identified countries may still be allowed in to the United States on a case-by-case basis only if their admission would be in the national interest of the United States and pose no threat to security or welfare. The review of these countries is expected to last 90 days.

According to DHS refugees will undergo additional procedures for seeking resettlement in the united States.

Application Process

  • Increased Data Collection: Additional data will be collected from all applicants in order to enhance the effectiveness of biographic security checks. The changes are expected to make it easier for immigration officers to find out if applicants are being truthful and whether they’re engaged in criminal or terrorist activities.
  • Enhanced Security Identity Management: Security systems will be in place to identify potential fraud by strengthening the ability of officers to identify duplicate identities or identity documents.

Interview and Adjudication Process

  • Fraud Detection and National Security: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will send trained Fraud Detection and National Security officers to refugee officers to help identify potential fraud and security issues.
  • New Guidance and Training: USCIS is strengthening its guidance on how officers check to see if a refugee is eligible to move to the United States. The new guidance also clears up how officers handle refugees with certain crimes that make them ineligible to come to the United States.
  • Expanded Information Sharing: The Department of State and USCIS are exchanging more information so officers can ask questions to catch those who are trying to cheat the system or pose a threat.

System Checks

  • Updating Security Checks: If applicants change key information about themselves including new or altered biographic information, that information will be subject to renewed security checks.
  • Security Advisory Opinions: SAOs are essentially deeper investigations into a refugees background. Refugees from the 11 countries we spoke about before all undergo SAOs. Under the new rules the government is expanding the classes of refugee applicants that are subject to SAOs. Fraud detection will also include enhanced reviews of applicants which will include checks of social media.

Additional Review Process of SAO Countries

The 11 countries that have been identified by DHS as having a higher risk to the United States will see added scrutiny to refugees applying to come into the country. The SAO list of countries was created after the September 11th terrorist attacks and last updated in 2015.

Refugee applications from these countries will be completed on a case-by-case basis for the time being but DHS admits there will be delays in that process as they look in to each country individually.

Additional Scrutiny for Following-to-Join Processing

Following-to-Join is a process where a accepted refugee can petition for his or her spouse or unmarried children under 21 to join them in the United States. According to DHS those refugees applying for Follow-to-Join undergo less scrutiny before being allowed in to the country. Under the new rules those family members will undergo the same enhanced scrutiny that all refugees will undergo.

DHS estimates that each year refugees file for approximately 2500 family members to join them in the United States.

Those applicants typically have seen less security screenings but the new rules will change that so these applicants face the same amount of security screenings.