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Refugee Program

The U.S. Refugee Program

Refugees are individuals or groups of people in grave danger because their home government is either unwilling or unable to protect them, or may be actively persecuting them. They are from all over the world, from large urban areas to rural refugee camps.

Refugee family

The U.S. government allows certain categories and numbers of refugees to come to the U.S. each year in order to begin a new life. There are many federal agencies involved in that process:

Once a refugee is granted permission to come to the U.S., and has been granted a legal immigration status, a host of community organizations and state agencies take over the resettlement and acculturation process.

Voluntary organizations called "Volags" are contracted by the Department of State to do the initial resettlement. The Volags perform such essential tasks as picking up the refugees at the airport, finding them a place to live and helping to furnish their home with basic necessities. This initial Volag resettlement process lasts 90 days.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement provides up to eight months of cash and medical assistance to newly arriving refugees. These federal funds are administered through the states. Refugees may be able to receive any other assistance that is offered to U.S. citizens, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and food assistance in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

States may provide other services beyond the initial eight months, such as assistance with job search, employment acculturation, English language classes, and citizenship and naturalization help.