Joe Biden is keeping the number of refugees allowed in each year to the US to historic lows, disappointing campaigners and some Democrats.
The maximum number allowed in will be 15,000, a number set by Mr Biden’s predecessor as president, Donald Trump.
Just two months ago President Biden put forward a plan which would raise the ceiling to 62,500.
Reports say he is concerned about the optics of letting in more people amid an influx at the US-Mexico border.
On Friday, Mr Biden signed an order designed to speed up refugee admissions to the US – since October just over 2,000 have been admitted.
The order also changes the allocation of who is allowed in, with more slots being provided to arrivals from Africa, the Middle East and Central America, and an end to restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
But there will be no change to the 15,000 cap. Nearly 85,000 were resettled in the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The White House has indicated the limit may still be raised, and spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the delay was because it “took us some time to see and evaluate how ineffective, or how trashed in some ways the refugee processing system had become”.
A US official told Reuters the administration was concerned at looking “too open” with rising numbers of migrants arriving at the Mexican borders.
The decisions left some Democrats aghast. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez called the figure “appallingly low”. Dozens of other party members wrote to President Biden ahead of the decision urging him to raise the cap.
The International Rescue Committee said it was “deeply disappointed” and urged the US to return to “global leadership” on refugees.
UN figures show there are more than 80 million refugees worldwide, with 85% of them hosted in developing countries.