How Much Does It Cost to Resettle a Syrian Refugee in the U.S.?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The short answer: It’s about $15,714.

The long answer: It’s complicated.

Last year, the U.S. took in 70,000 refugees. Secretary of State John Kerry wants that number to increase to 100,000 next year. At least 10,000 of those refugees will be from Syria.

The process of bringing refugees to the U.S. is handled by three agencies: the State Department, which leads the program, USCIS at the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Together, the three agencies spent about $1.1 billion last year. That’s $1.1 billion for 70,000 refugees, which comes to about $15,714 per person. Here’s how a State Department official described it:

That includes the cost of overseas processing and the domestic resettlement pieces, so from the beginning all the way to programs for which refugees are eligible up till five years after admission.

And, as the official pointed out, the process is long: It takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months or even longer to process a case from referral or application to arrival in the U.S.

The Syrian refugees who are likely to come to the U.S. in the next fiscal year are in various stages of that process.