The District of Columbia Office of Refugee Resettlement (DCORR) coordinates and administers the Refugee Resettlement Program which includes services to federally recognized refugee populations to help them build new lives in the United States. After protection has been granted and an individual has established residence in the District of Columbia, DCORR provides a variety of support services to eligible clients, including employment services, cash assistance, health assistance, medical screenings, case management, youth programming, and more through local services providers. Such programs and services promote early economic self-sufficiency for eligible refugee populations and provide vital support to local stakeholders and service providers to create an inclusive and welcoming resettlement environment in which refugee populations thrive by achieving economic and social well-being and advancing integration efforts.
The United States Refugee Act of 1980 provides the legal basis for the current U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and is administered by the Department of State (DOS) along with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and offices in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A refugee applicant must be referred for resettlement in the United States by the USRAP. ORR-eligible individuals who have completed the federal resettlement process (for refugees and SIV-holders from Afghanistan, the State Department Reception & Placement program) are able to access services through its partners.
Refugee Social Services
DCORR’s top priority and the primary goals of employability services is to assist refugees with achieving economic self-sufficiency as soon as possible after arrival in the U.S. DCORR grantees provide employment services and other supportive services to refugees and other eligible populations to address barriers to employment such as social and cultural adjustment, job search skills, and work experience. Refugee employment assistance is available via the contracted service provider, Catholic Charities Refugee Services Center which has demonstrated a proven track record of assisting employable refugee populations rapidly achieve economic and social self-sufficiency.
Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)
Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) is a time-limited cash assistance program for refugees who are not eligible for any other cash assistance. RCA is available to eligible refugee populations for up to 12 months from the date of admission to the U.S., date of final grant of asylum or date of certification as a victim of trafficking. Refugee Cash Assistance recipients must meet program eligibility requirements and must also register with the Refugee Social Services Provider for continued receipt of RCA benefits. To apply for or find out more about RCA benefits, please contact the DHS Economic Service Administration (ESA).
DCORR works in collaboration with contracted service providers to ensure that newly arrived refugees, asylees, and other ORR-eligible populations receive a comprehensive health assessment and appropriate follow-up care, and referrals. Program goals include:
- A health assessment for new refugee and asylee arrivals within 90 days of U.S. arrival or the date asylum was granted.
- To prevent and/or control the spread of communicable diseases among, and resulting from, the arrival of new refugees.
- To protect the public health of District of Columbia residents
- Enable refugees to successfully resettle by identifying health conditions that may threaten their well-being.
- Assist new refugees with navigating the U.S. healthcare system.
DCORR service providers are responsible for ensuring all refugees receive a Medical Screening (MS) upon arrival to the United States. MS appointments determine if new arrivals have medical conditions that require immediate attention. Children also receive immunizations required for school enrollment. Clients are referred to a primary care physician for preventive health and ongoing care. DCORR partners with Community of Hope to provide health education services for eligible refugees, provide opportunities to increase health literacy, coordinate and support the navigation of health care; and organize wellness groups, including for mental wellness and peer support.
Refugee Health Promotion (RHP) is a set-aside program that promotes the health and well-being of refugees and other ORR-eligible populations by providing opportunities to increase health literacy, coordinating health care, and organizing wellness groups. To accomplish this goal, ORR encourages the involvement of the Refugee Health Coordinator (RHC) to ensure a coordinated approach for the planning, implementation, and monitoring of RHP activities.
Refugee School Impact
The Refugee School Impact program provides services to strengthen academic performance and to aid the social adjustment of newly arriving refugee youth. The program provides specialized services and supports for school-aged refugee children, particularly those who have recently arrived in the District, support for families learning to navigate the U.S. education system, and capacity development for school systems. The program seeks to help refugee youth and their families connect to their school and larger community, cultivate cultural awareness for both the refugees and the communities in which they resettle, promote civic engagement, and enhance language skills.
Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM)
DCORR administers the URM program and contracts with the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate foster care to URM youth without parents in the United States (U.S.), or who enter the U.S. unaccompanied by a parent. Refugee children who enter the U.S. with family, but later experience a family breakdown may be eligible for the URM program. ORR determines program eligibility, and youth must be under 18 years of age to enter the program.
Two lead resettlement agencies, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, assist ORR with the URM program by conducting several important functions. They identify eligible children in need of URM services; determine appropriate placements for children among their national networks of affiliated agencies; and conduct training, research, and technical assistance on URM services. Affiliates of these two voluntary agencies contract with state refugee programs to become URM service providers. The District’s URM program is supported by Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA), an LIRS affiliate.
The U.S. Repatriation Program provides temporary assistance to United States (U.S.) citizens and their dependents that are identified by the U.S. Department of State as needing to return from a foreign country to the U.S. If an American citizen in a foreign country becomes ill, is without funds or needs to be returned to the U.S. because of a threatening situation in a foreign country, a loan, and necessary services are provided through the Repatriation Program.
To participate in this program, contact the U.S. Embassy in the foreign country in which you are currently residing. For additional information, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a refugee is an individual who has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Individuals who meet this definition may be considered for either refugee status under Section 207 of the INA if they are outside the United States, or asylum status under Section 208 of the INA if they are already in the United States. Program services focus on new arrivals and those who have been in the U.S. five years or less. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) serves the following eligible populations:
- Refugees or individuals paroled as refugees
- Cuban and Haitian Entrants
- Certain Amerasians
- Unaccompanied Refugee Minors
- Certified Victims of Human Trafficking
- Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant (SI) Visa Holders
- Lawful Permanent Residents (with previous refugee status)
- Afghans who received SI/SQ or Humanitarian Parole (per Afghanistan Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022)*
- Ukrainians who received Humanitarian Parole (per the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022)**
*Afghanistan Supplemental Appropriations (ASA) Act, 2022, effective September 30, 2021, Congress authorized ORR-eligibility for citizens or nationals of Afghanistan paroled into the United States between July 31, 2021, and September 30, 2022.
**Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act (AUSAA), 2022, and effective May 21, 2022, Congress authorized ORR-eligibility for specific Ukrainian populations and other non-Ukrainian individuals displaced from Ukraine between February 24, 2022, and September 30, 2023.
Additional Resources for Refugees
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- The National Immigration Forum
- Asylum information from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Ten (10) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- US Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act of 1996
- Immigration Reform Act of 2007
- US Department of State Visas Services