Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Operational Guidance To Resettlement Agencies

Reception and Placement of Refugees Admitted to the United States for Resettlement


April 12, 2001

(revised November 6, 2006; October 18, 2007; November 9, 2009; March 1, 2010)


The following guidance is intended to describe with greater specificity the Reception and Placement (R&P) Program services included in the Cooperative Agreement between the Government of the United States and the Agencies with whom the Department of State partners in the provision of R&P services for newly arriving refugees. This guidance provides the minimum standards for R&P services delivered during the applicable service delivery period for arriving refugees; Agencies that do more than what this guidance calls for are to be commended and encouraged to continue with such practices.

The Department of State expects Agencies to undertake best efforts to ensure that housing for refugees meets locally accepted standards for health and safety, and that other minimum service standards are met, but also recognizes that compliance with some aspects of this guidance may not always be possible. Compliance requires the cooperation of the refugee and his or her family members. In cases when non-cooperation by the refugee or his or her family member(s) makes compliance difficult or impossible, the Agencies should ensure that the refugee(s) and relative(s) are counseled and that any such counseling is noted in the case file. Likewise, there may be other barriers to full compliance that are beyond the control of the Agencies. In such instances, the circumstances should be documented.


§ Acceptability:

§ Housing should be safe, sanitary, and in good repair.

§ Safety:

§ All areas and components of the housing (interior and exterior) should be free of visible health and safety hazards and in good repair, including, for example:

§ No visible bare wiring;

§ No peeling or flaking interior paint for dwellings built before 1978;

§ No visible mold; and

§ No detectable dangerous or unsanitary odors.

§ Affordability:

§ To the extent possible, the family should be able to assume payment of rent at the end of the R&P period, based upon projected family income from all sources. The family should be left with sufficient resources for other essential expenses (food, transportation, utilities, etc.) after rent payments are made.

§ Space:

§ Housing should provide minimum habitable area for each occupant in accordance with locally accepted standards.

§ There should be an appropriate number of bedrooms or sleeping areas for the family.

§ Housing should include the following:

§ Identified and accessible emergency escape route(s);

§ Fire extinguishers in accessible locations where required;

§ Working locks on all windows and outside doors;

§ Appropriate number of working smoke detectors;

§ Windows in working order;

§ Adequate heat, ventilation, lighting, and hot and cold running water; and

§ Electrical fixtures in good repair.

§ Appliances/fixtures:

§ Kitchen: each residence shall be equipped with stove, oven, and refrigerator in good repair.

§ Bathroom(s): each residence shall be equipped with sink, flush toilet, and shower or bath in good repair.

§ Garbage and Extermination:

§ There should be easily accessible storage or disposal facility for garbage.

§ There should be no evidence of current rodent or insect infestation.

§ Disability Accommodation:

§ In cases of refugees with disabilities, housing should be free of, or permit the removal of, architectural barriers and otherwise accommodate known disabilities, to the extent possible.


The following items should be provided:

§ Furniture:

§ Bedding (described as bed frame and spring, or equivalent, and mattress) appropriate for age and gender composition of family. (Only married couples or small children of the same sex may be expected to share beds.)

§ One set of drawers, shelves, or other unit appropriate for storage of clothing (in addition to closet, unless closet has shelving to accommodate clothing) per family

§ One kitchen table per family

§ One kitchen chair per person

§ One couch per family, or equivalent seating (in addition to kitchen chairs)

§ One lamp per room, unless installed lighting is present

§ Kitchen items:

§ One place setting of tableware (fork, knife, spoon) per person

§ One place setting of dishes (plate, bowl and cup) per person

§ Pots and pans: at least one sauce pan, one frying pan, one baking dish

§ Mixing/serving bowls

§ One set of kitchen utensils (such as spatula, wooden spoon, knife, serving utensils, etc.)

§ Can opener

§ Baby items as needed

§ Linens and Other Household Supplies:

§ One towel per person

§ One set of sheets and blankets for each bed

§ One pillow and pillowcase for each person

§ Alarm clock

§ Paper, pens and/or pencils

§ Light bulbs

§ Cleaning supplies:

§ Dish soap

§ Bathroom/kitchen cleanser

§ Sponges or cleaning rags and/or paper towels

§ Laundry detergent

§ Two waste baskets

§ Mop or broom

§ Trash bags

§ Toiletries:

§ Toilet paper

§ Shampoo

§ Soap

§ One toothbrush per person

§ Toothpaste

§ Personal hygiene items as appropriate


The following items should be provided:

§ Available on arrival: culturally appropriate, ready-to-eat food, plus one day’s worth of additional food supplies and staples (including baby food as necessary).

§ Within one day of arrival, food or food allowance at least equivalent to the food stamp allocation for that family unit and continued food assistance until receipt of food stamps or until individual or family is able to provide food for himself, herself or themselves.


§ Agencies should confirm that each adult refugee has an appropriate amount of pocket money throughout the first 30 days from any source. The purpose of pocket money is to allow independent spending at the refugee’s discretion.


§ Appropriate seasonal clothing required for work, school, and everyday use as required for all members of the family, including proper footwear for each member of the family, and diapers for children as necessary.


§ Transportation provided by the agency must be in compliance with local motor safety law (seatbelts, child seats, number of occupants per vehicle, etc.)


§ For cases without U.S. ties: An Agency or other designated representative should visit the refugee within 24 hours of arrival to ensure that all immediate basic needs have been met.

§ For cases with U.S. ties: An Agency or other designated representative should visit the refugee within 5 calendar days of arrival to ensure that all immediate needs have been met.


For each adult refugee, Agencies should:

§ Conduct intake interview within 5 working days of arrival;

§ Conduct housing and personal safety orientation within 5 working days; and

§ Complete orientation on other topics within 30 days of arrival.

All orientation and intake interviews should be conducted in a language-appropriate manner.


Agencies should ensure, to the extent possible within the prescribed time frames, that each adult refugee:

§ Applies for social security card within 10 working days of arrival;

§ Applies for cash and medical assistance, as appropriate, within 7 working days of arrival;

§ Applies for food stamps, if necessary, within 7 working days of arrival; and.

§ Meets school enrollment requirements and registers children for school within 30 days of arrival.


§ Agencies should conduct at least one additional home visit, other than the home visit cited above, to each case within 30 days of arrival.


Agencies should:

§ Assist refugees to enroll in employment services and ESL, as appropriate, within 10 working days of arrival; and

§ Assist non-employable refugees to enroll in other services, as appropriate, within 10 working days of arrival.


Agencies should:

§ Ensure that every refugee has a health assessment within 30 days of arrival. If factors beyond the control of the Agency make this impossible, the Agency shall inform PRM; and

§ Ensure that refugees with acute health care requirements receive appropriate and timely medical attention.

[] Furniture, household items and clothing listed need not be new, but must be clean, in good condition, and functional.


7 Responses to “Operational Guidance To Resettlement Agencies”

  1. pjslife said

    Thanks for this information; it is not easy to find. I am friends with someone that was granted asylum 3-4 weeks ago and is receiving ‘resettlement’ services from a VOLAG. I haven’t been able to find out if he is entitled to the same services as refugees or if his are different because he came here as an asylum seeker. He was placed in a studio apartment with non-working air conditioning in 100 degree heat. After one week of me supporting him talking to his caseworker, I went with him to the leasing office and we were able to move him that day. He was given a twin bed with no sheets. No other furniture or lamps. He had some kitchen items but not much. I don’t think he’s received any clothing from them. He kept asking his caseworker about furniture for his apartment and was told he “might” get a table and chairs. We provided him with sheets, a nightstand, 2 lamps, a can opener, and 2 pieces of wall art. He was told he can’t receive cell phone assistance because he is in the “Match Grant” program. He has not been able to find out exactly what services he should be receiving, or what items they are required to give him. If it hadn’t been for me, he’d be sleeping on a bare mattress in a hot, dark apartment with only a kitchen or bathroom light providing light. To me it seems he has slipped through the cracks.

    • [***CORRECTION*** to earlier statement that asylees are entiled to same things as refugees — Asylees are not eligible for the State Department services that are associated with the initial refugee resettlement program. Asylees are, however, eligible for programs funded by the ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement). They may also be eligible for other federal or state funded programs and services.]

      He should be able to purchase cell phone service with the $200 per month cash assitance required by Matching Grant. See Matching Grant info below:

  2. pjslife said

    Thanks for the information. It has been a confusing process. His Resettlement Caseworker wouldn’t answer any of his questions about whether or not he would get those items, only saying that he deals with Food Stamps. After a couple weeks of having our friend try and ask and get answers, I felt it was unacceptable to leave him in the dark, sleeping on a mattress with no sheets. My husband put in calls to the Supervisor and to the State, but has not been able to talk to anyone. Our friend was involved in an Asylum Seekers’ program for his first year here, and his caseworker from that program has been his main contact for Resettlement, which seems odd since it’s an entirely different program and an entirely different pool of money. There is still much on the list that our friend has not been given, so I’ve sent it to him to try and ask again about when he can expect to receive those items. Thanks for the service you do here. Resettlement is not easy for refugees, and from my experience, the people in the agencies are mostly concerned with their careers and not the experience of their clients (management).

  3. pjslife said

    The State finally called back today. According to them, asylees are not entitled to all of the same services as refugees, because the State does not reimburse VOLAGS for asylees. She said it’s up to the Caseworker if they want to provide those things listed in the Operational Contract, but usually refugees get more services than asylees. It’s ridiculous how confusing it is.

  4. john said

    It’s not that confusing unless you’re an *****. Asyless are eligible participate in some Orr activities if they choose, don’t forget an aslee came under their choice. As a visitor, student, vacation… and then only decided to change their status and stay permanently. Most likely they had means to travel and most likely have stayed with a friend. The “saint” who helping him with furnature… is what he should do,
    . And not encourage the aslee for handouts from a strapped resettlement office trying there best to a comic ate refugees assigned to them. Step up and do your part as a neighbor and stop ********,

    • As a reminder to all readers, please keep your comments smart and civil. Don’t attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent.

      By the way, there is nothing intuitive about how the rules work for asylees vs. refugees. No one should be expected to just know. If a resettlement agency placed an asylee in an apartment then it is reasonable to think that they are operating under State Dept. resettlement rules. Little would one expect that the State Dept. contracts play no part.

  5. pjslife said

    Every person’s situation is different. I don’t want to give too many details, but my friend did not have the means to come to the US; he was taken in by an underground network that helps people slated for death by their government. I think everything Christopher said is reasonable; they put him in an apartment so it’s a natural question to know where their help ends. I was only looking for the answer to that question and it did prove very difficult to get. I’d read countless web pages describing asylee assistance, but the information was vague. My friend tried to get the answer and was unsuccessful. Once we reached out to the State Department, they articulated the policies very clearly, policies that are very difficult to find.

    My friend has done everything by the book. He waited to receive work authorization before working; he went through proper channels to apply for and receive asylum. He’s been very grateful for all of the help he’s received from the VOLAG. My quest for an answer was not to condemn VOLAGS; it was to find out where the holes are in his benefits so we could step in.

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