U.S. Refugee Admissions Program:  Reception and Placement

Unlike asylees, who arrive in the United States on their own, refugees selected for resettlement through U.S. Refugee Admissions Program are eligible for Reception and Placement (R&P) assistance.  Each refugee approved for admission to the United States is sponsored by one of nine resettlement agencies, several of which are faith-based, participating in the R&P Program under a cooperative agreement with the Department of State.

Where are Refugees Resettled?

Representatives from the resettlement agencies meet frequently to review the biographic information and other case records sent by the Department of State’s overseas Resettlement Support Centers (RSC), seeking to match the particular needs of each incoming refugee with the specific resources available in U.S. communities.  Through this process, they determine which resettlement agency will sponsor and where each refugee will be initially resettled in the United States.

Many refugees have family or close friends already in the United States, and resettlement agencies make every effort to reunite them.  Others are placed where they have the best opportunity for success through employment with the assistance of strong community services.  Agencies place refugees throughout the United States.  Through its local affiliates, each agency monitors the resources that each community offers (e.g., interpreters who speak various languages, the size and special features of available housing, the availability of schools with special services, medical care, English classes, employment services, etc.).

What Do the Resettlement Agencies Do?

The sponsoring resettlement agency is responsible for placing refugees with one of its local affiliates and for providing initial services.  The Department of State’s standard cooperative agreement with each of the resettlement agencies specifies the services the agency must provide.  The R&P Program provides resettlement agencies a one-time payment per refugee to assist with expenses during a refugee’s first three months in the United States, but the program anticipates that sponsoring agencies will contribute significant cash or in-kind resources to supplement U.S. government funding.

What Happens When Refugees Arrive?

Upon arrival in the United States, all refugees are met by someone from the local resettlement affiliate or a family member or friend.  They are taken to their apartment, which has basic furnishings, appliances, climate-appropriate clothing, and some food typical of the refugee’s culture.  Shortly after arrival, refugees are helped to start their lives in the United States.  This includes applying for a Social Security card, registering children in school, arranging medical appointments, and connecting refugees with necessary social or language services.

Refugees are eligible for public assistance when they first arrive.  Nevertheless, the U.S. government seeks to promote early economic self-sufficiency through employment to speed integration into American society.  Refugees receive employment authorization upon arrival and are encouraged to become employed as soon as possible.

Beyond R&P

The R&P Program is limited to the first three months after arrival, but the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement works through the states and other non-governmental organizations to provide longer-term cash and medical assistance, as well as language, employment, and social services.

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