The categorization of displaced people is grounded in criteria enshrined by international and regional conventions as well as receiving states’ asylum and immigration policies. However, drawing distinctions between displaced people remains a controversial issue because the causes of displacement are more diverse than the categories assigned. Whilst various categories confer different rights and entitlement, the forcibly displaced are often obliged to aspire to particular identities driven by their resettlement livelihood objectives. This paper is based on a study carried out in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo and Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. The paper argues that the institutional and policy environments in the locations where resettlement is sought determine the way displaced people identify themselves in displacement and how they appraise their circumstances and their consequent adaptive livelihood reconstruction strategies. Furthermore, it is shown here that formalized displacement categorization adds complexity to the way displaced people must deal with their circumstances and negatively impacts on livelihood adaptation. Whilst categorization may serve perceived institutional needs, this study finds that displaced people’s self-identification makes them resilient and enables survivability.