Services for Refugees

Interpretation:  Bilingual staff may assist limited- and non-English speaking refugees, living in the state, for certain services. A Language Line is also available for assistance with languages not spoken by bureau staff.

Case Management:  Case Management assists refugees by developing and coordinating a service delivery plan for the refugee. This includes making necessary referrals, preventing duplication of services, maintaining regular contact with the refugees to review their situation, and assisting refugees in progressing toward their employment goals.

Employment Services:  Employment Services are designed to enable a refugee to obtain employment and to improve his/her work skills. Services may include: developing an employability plan, job development, job search assistance, job counseling and job placement. Refugee Services also provides follow-up services and assistance to employers who have hired refugees.

Job Skills Training: The Department has partnered with a number of agencies to develop refugee specific job training skills classes. For more information about existing classes, or inquiries about developing new classes, contact Loren Bawn.

Transportation: Transportation is available to refugees for employment related appointments. The Bureau offers transportation to work, for a limited time and on a limited basis, to refugees who are hired by employers where there is no public transportation, no opportunity for carpooling and where other means of transportation (such as riding a bike or walking) are not appropriate.

Hiring Refugees

Who is a Refugee? A refugee is a person who has been interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security and has been authorized to come to the United States permanently. They are unable or unwilling to seek the protection of their country of nationality because of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

Refugees have a vast array of skills, education and experience. They are highly motivated, productive and hardworking.

Refugees Are Work Authorized: 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). 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.

Overcoming the Language Barrier: English proficiency level among refugees varies. Some have no English capabilities, while others may be fluent in speaking, reading and writing English. Employers who have hired refugees have discovered that limited English proficiency is not an insurmountable barrier to refugees becoming valuable employees. The Department works with employers to find creative ways to overcome the language barrier.

Some strategies for overcoming the language barrier include:

  • Interpretive services
  • The placement of an English speaker who can then serve as an interpreter for other refugees hired from the same language group
  • Job shadowing by bilingual bureau staff to explain essential duties
  • Reviewing job functions to determine if speaking English is truly critical to the job or how the job might be altered to minimize the need for English
  • Development of on-site English As A Second Language classes
Refugee Services (Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
1-800-362-2780 (Toll Free) 
515-875-5600 (Des Moines Area)
If you are an employer with job opportunities and are looking to hire good, reliable workers, please call 515-875-5615. See how the Bureau of Refugee Services may be able to meet your needs.