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Frequently Asked Questions about Refugee Resettlement

How do refugees get here?
Refugees are people who have fled their home countries due to persecution involving their race, religion, national origin, political ideology, or being a member of a certain social group. Refugees are screened and processed to come to the US under the auspices of the US State Department.

How long does LSS New American Services provide services to refugees?
The resettlement period established by the US government is six months. LSS Services to New Americans, operating under contract with the US government, provides the most concentrated array of services during the initial weeks following arrival. Refugees are encouraged to become self-sufficient as soon as possible—including learning English and becoming employed. In most cases the need for services diminishes after the first three or four months. However, LSS Services to New Americans frequently provides services above and beyond what is required.

What services does LSS provide for refugees?
LSS New Americans Services provides Case Management, Health Case Management, Cultural and Community Orientation, Employment Services, English for Speakers of Other Languages instruction, and supplemental support through the Volunteer Program.

Are refugees allowed to work?
Yes, in fact refugees are encouraged to be employed within four to six months after arrival.

Do refugees pay taxes?
Yes, when refugees start working, they start paying into the tax system.

Do refugees choose to come to the United States?
No one ever chooses to become a refugee, and refugees are grateful for the opportunity to start their lives over in safety and security. Some may be predetermined to come to the US to join family members who have come before them, while the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) refers others to the U.S.

How much financial assistance do refugees receive?
The Federal government provides $425 per refugee to cover the costs of housing, household goods, food, and pocket money for the first 30 days. Beyond that, refugees may qualify for other public assistance programs such as Match Grant (an early employment program), TANF, or Refugee Cash Assistance.

How long can refugees stay in the US?
Refugees may stay in the US indefinitely. They are provided with a pathway to citizenship and usually can apply within five years.

What rights do refugees have?
Refugees have the same rights and responsibilities as US citizens. However, they cannot vote until they become a citizen, and they cannot hold certain elected offices.

What level of English do refugees have?
Refugees have varying levels of English proficiency when they arrive
—ranging from little or no proficiency to fluency. Most often even those who have very good English need assistance perfecting pronunciation and learning “American” English.

What types of jobs do refugees get?
Due to language barriers—or professional skills that do not easily transfer to the US job market—many refugees start out in entry-level jobs while they are working on their language skills or other job-related certification. Refugees are required to take the first job that becomes available to them.

Can refugees go back home?
Refugees have freedom of movement. However, if they return to their home country they may jeopardize their refugee status. Refugees must apply for a Refugee Travel Document through Immigration to travel outside of the U.S.

Are there medical conditions that exclude refugees from coming to the US?
Yes, there are certain medical conditions that are excludable. These include active (not positive) TB, extreme mental retardation, and Hansen’s disease.

Can refugees become citizens, and if so, when?
Yes, refugees may become US citizens after they have been in the country for five years. They must first apply for permanent residency after one year in the US.

Can refugees file for their families to join them?
Yes, refugees from specified countries may file for certain relatives to join them in the United States. LSS New American Services assists refugee clients with this process whenever possible.

Can refugees afford their apartments?
While it is certainly very difficult to start over again, the majority of refugees transition to self-sufficiency within a short time after arrival. Like others with limited income who are just getting on their feet, setting priorities is crucial for refugees. LSS New American Services assists refugee families with applying for subsidized housing when appropriate.

Does LSS New American Services work with volunteers?
Yes, the work of LSS New American Services depends heavily on local volunteer, in-kind, and private financial support to assist refugees in the resettlement process. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator in your area to find out how you can get involved.

• New Hampshire – Elaine Kidd, 603-224-8111
• Western MA – Mohammed Najeeb, 413-787-0725
• Central MA – Lisa Brennan, 508-754-1121

Are refugees an economic drain on the community?
The economic impact of refugees on local communities is very small. Refugee Resettlement is a federal program designed to temporarily host refugee families while they transition to self-sufficiency. Because the program is only partially funded by the government, LSS New American Services depends on local volunteers, in-kind support, and cash donations. City and county benefit programs are not used with regularity, but may be accessed as a last resort.

How many refugees access city welfare?
The majority of refugee families do not access city welfare. However, like others in the community who may face significant financial challenges, refugee families are eligible to apply for such assistance. Overall, refugee families represent less than 10 percent of those applying for city welfare.

Are refugees the same as other immigrants?
Yes and no! All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. Refugees are allowed into the US by the federal government for humanitarian reasons, and receive temporary financial support. Other immigrants come to the US under different criteria and must show that they will be self-supporting before they enter the US.

Do refugees take away jobs from US citizens?
Historically, no. Due to language barriers and employment skills that may not transfer easily to the US job market, many refugees initially take entry-level positions that do not require English proficiency. Also, many refugees work two or more entry-level, low-wage jobs so that they may become financially stable and independent.