Eligibility for Benefits and Services

All refugees are eligible for Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)-funded benefits and services. Asylees are eligible for ORR-funded benefits and services beginning on the date of final grant of asylum either by the Department of Homeland Security/United States Center for Immigration Services (USCIS) or by the Immigration Court of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) of the U.S. Department of Justice. Asylum applicants (those in the application process but have not yet received a final grant) are not eligible for ORR-funded assistance and services.

In addition to refugees and asylees, several other categories of individuals are eligible for federal refugee benefits and services. These include:

  • Victims of a severe form of trafficking who have received certification from ORR in accordance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
  • Cuban and Haitian Entrants
  • Special immigrant visa holders from Iraq or Afghanistan

Unaccompanied alien children and survivors of torture are eligible for specific ORR programs but not the “core” refugee benefits and services, which include domestic health assessment.

Refugees determined ineligible for the State-Federal programs that support families in need – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid – are eligible for Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Medical Assistance for their first eight months in the U.S. These refugee programs are 100% federally supported. After the eight-month period, refugees have the same eligibility requirements for State benefits as other legal residents. Refugees are permitted to work in the U.S. and many refugee service programs focus on helping refugees find employment and become self-sufficient. Refugee children can receive public education in the U.S.

For more information about refugee program-eligible immigration categories, visit the ORR website here.