Meet a Syrian refugee family living in New Jersey

The process of how refugees enter the United States — especially when they're fleeing Syria — is suddenly getting a lot of attention in light of terrorist attacks in Paris in last week. But resettlement of refugees from that war-wracked country and others has been taking place for years.

For fiscal 2016, the proposed ceiling on refugees is 85,000, though only a minority of those individuals will come from Syria. Of the political refugees accepted by the United States in fiscal 2015, roughly a third came from Africa, more than a quarter from East Asia and more than a third from "Near East/South Asia," which includes the Middle East, according to the nonpartisan American Immigration Council.

For refugee families from Syria and elsewhere coming to the United States, an early priority of the federal government is to get those individuals integrated into the U.S. economy as soon as possible.

Syrian refugees Hussam Al Roustom and wife Suha in Jersey City, N.J.
Source: CNBC
Syrian refugees Hussam Al Roustom and wife Suha in Jersey City, N.J.

Upon arrival at the airport, cleared refugee families receive documents from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, including an employment authorization document, meaning they can start working right away if they are able to find a job.

A State Department spokesperson told CNBC that the agency provides a grant of $2,025 per refugee to nine resettlement agencies for all refugees (regardless of their nationality), which is designed to help them for the first 30 to 90 days.

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The total funding provided by the Department of State in fiscal 2015 for refugee admissions programs was $406.7 million. That includes not just the nine domestic resettlement agencies, but also programs such as overseas operations. The president's fiscal 2016 budget request for the Department of State's portion of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is $442.7 million.

Of the 85,000 refugees who will be let into the country in fiscal 2016, 10,000 are expected to be from Syria.

The resettlement agencies in the United States help with finding the families jobs, housing and taking them to social services where they apply for health care in the form of Medicaid. Mahmoud Mahmoud, a representative from Christian aid organization Church World Service, one of the resettlement agencies, told CNBC that "social services allows for Medicaid for up to eight months."

Once a refugee has a job, he or she starts paying taxes and those benefits expire, according to Mahmoud.

The State Department spokesperson underscored that while state and local governments can play a role in the process, the resettlement program is administered by the federal government.

"Once a refugee arrives in the United States, he or she is protected by the Constitution and federal law and is required to apply to adjust status to become a legal permanent resident within one year of arriving in the United States," the spokesperson said.

"He or she is also free to move anywhere in the country, although certain state benefits may be available to the refugee only in the state of resettlement."