Refugee Services Frequently Asked Questions
A refugee is a person who has fled their country of nationality or habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. The term refugee does not include any person who was involved or participated in the persecution of any persons on account of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
Refugees are authorized to work upon arrival in the United States. Once a refugee has obtained a social security card, he or she may obtain employment. A refugee does NOT need to obtain an Employment Authorization Card (Form 1-776). For more information on the I-766, click here. Once a refugee has been in the United States for one year, the refugee may apply for a Permanent Resident Alien Card.
English proficiency level varies among refugees. The Bureau can work with employers to find creative ways to overcome the language barrier.
Refugees are persons who have fled their country or origin due to fear of persecution. Immigrants are persons who voluntarily leave their country of origin for any number of reasons. Refugees and immigrants have different legal status in the United States. For more information on U.S. policy towards refugees and immigrants, visit the Department of Homeland Security website.
Through arrangements with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we are able to provide a wide range of services to refugees. These include employment services, case management services and a wide variety of other social services. For more information visit the Refugee Services webpage.
Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services (BRS) has served refugees in Iowa since 1975 when Tai Dam refugees began arriving after fleeing SE Asia. BRS has helped refugees resettle in Iowa from many countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bhutan, Sudan, South Sudan, Burma (Myanmar), Afghanistan, Ukraine, Somalia, Iraq, Eritrea, Rwanda, Liberia and more.
Yes. Refugees are subject to the same employment, property, sales, and other taxes as any U.S. citizen. Refugees cannot vote, however.
When refugees arrive in the U.S., they are provided essential housing, food and basic necessities by a resettlement agency or sponsorship program. Refugees are eligible for certain government assistance programs for a limited amount of time. Refugees do not receive money from the government to buy cars, homes, or other items.
Through Refugee Support Services BRS helps refugees apply for family benefit programs available at the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and connects refugee families with community resources.
HHS programs include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Family Investment Program (FIP)/ TANF (temporary assistance for needy families)
- Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) for refugees in their first year in the United States. BRS is the only agency in the state that provides direct services to RCA participants.
No. There are 24 countries worldwide participating in refugee resettlement. The major resettlement countries include Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States.
Refugees have made many contributions to the U.S. Refugees are business owners, community leaders, teachers, social workers, nurses, doctors, artists, musicians, and much more. Albert Einstein, Freddie Mercury, Madeline Albright and Gloria Estefan were refugees. To learn more about prominent refugees, click here.
All refugees coming to the U.S. are required to have an overseas medical examination, which identifies applicants with conditions that need to be treated before departure. The examination is performed by a panel physician following CDC guidelines. Refugees may receive vaccines at this exam depending on vaccine availability in the host country.
The overseas medical examination includes a Fit to Fly Pre-Embarkation Check, in which panel physicians perform two pre-embarkation checks within 48 hours of departure. Clinicians assess fitness for travel, perform pre-travel screenings, and administer presumptive treatment for malaria and intestinal parasites depending on country of origin.
After arriving in Iowa, refugees complete an Initial Refugee Health Assessment, also known as a post-arrival medical screening. This differs from the overseas medical examination and other screenings in its purpose and scope. The refugee health assessment is a comprehensive examination designed to assess refugees’ health conditions, including acute and chronic health conditions. The assessment aims to reduce health-related barriers to successful resettlement, introduce refugees to the U.S. healthcare system, and protect the health of Iowa residents and the U.S. population.