How long will I be eligible for federal benefits?

Some background about this question:

  • The benefits available to Iraqi refugees and SIV’s can be divided into 3 categories:
    • Immediate Needs
    • Cash & Medical Assistance
    • Social & Employment Services1

I. IMMEDIATE NEEDS:

  • Reception & Placement (R & P) Program: The R & P Program is administered by the Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration (PRM)
    • ELIGIBILITY: Iraqi refugees and SIV holders are eligible for basic needs support and services when they arrive in the U.S. These services are not means-tested, the resources and income of the applicant are not taken into account in determining eligibility
      • Refugees automatically receive these benefits.
      • SIV holders do not automatically receive these benefits, they must sign up to receive them, while they’re still outside the U.S., within 10 days of receiving their visas.
        • SIV holders who do not accept these benefits make their own travel arrangements. They may resettle anywhere in the U.S.
    • DURATION: The R & P Program is typically available for 30 days, however, support may continue for up to 90 days if basic needs have not been met.
    • The R & P Program provides the resettlement agencies2 with a one-time sum of $1,800 per refugee to help cover the refugee’s costs during the first few weeks.  Most of these funds go toward the refugees’ rent, furniture, food, clothing, as well as to pay the cost of agency staff salaries, office space and other resettlement related expenses that are not donated or provided by volunteers3.

II. CASH & MEDICAL ASSISTANCE:4

A) Federal Public Benefit Programs:

  • ELIGIBILITY: Iraqi refugees and SIV holders may be eligible for federal public benefit programs, depending on the program, the state, family composition (for certain benefits), income and resources and how long they’ve been in the U.S. in SIV status.
    • The programs are means-tested, the resources and income of the applicant are taken into account in determining eligibility.
  • DURATION: Some of the federal public benefit programs have time limits.
  • The federal benefits programs include:

B.) Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) & Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA)8

  • ELIGIBILITY: Iraqi refugees and SIV holders who are not eligible for TANF or Medicaid may be eligible for RCA and RMA if they are within eight months of arrival in the U.S. or within 8 months of grant of Special Immigrant Status if applying for adjustment of status (if they’re applying to adjust their status (to become permanent residents) from within the U.S.).
  • DURATION: up to 8 months.
  • Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)is a program with benefits similar to TANF. (Adults without dependent children are the most frequent cases of individuals who do not qualify for TANF, but who do qualify for RCA))
    • ELIGIBILITY: Iraqi refugees and SIV holders who are not eligible for TANF and SSI may be eligible for RCA if they are within eight months of arrival in the U.S. or within 8 months of applying for adjustment of status (if they’re applying to adjust their status (to become permanent residents) from within the U.S.).
    • DURATION: up to 8 months.
    • To participate in RCA, refugees and SIV holders must register for employment services. Generally, they must accept the first suitable job offered, unless they can show good cause for not accepting the position.
  • Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) is a program with benefits identical to Medicaid.
    • ELIGIBILITY: Iraqi refugees and SIV holders who are not eligible for Medicaid may be eligible for RMA if they are within eight months of arrival in the U.S. or within 8 months of grant of Special Immigrant Status, if applying for adjustment of status (if they’re applying to adjust their status (to become permanent residents) from within the U.S.).9
    • DURATION: up to 8 months for Medicaid and CHIP (depending on the state, eligibility for CHIP can be up to age 19 or 21).

III. SOCIAL & EMPLOYMENT SERVICES

  • The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) also funds social services for Iraqi refugees and SIV holders.
    • The services, which include job preparation, English language classes, and assistance with job interviews, are designed to find refugees employment within 1 year of enrollment.
    • ELIGIBILITY: The social services are not means-tested, the resources and income of the applicant are not taken into account in determining eligibility.
    • DURATION: Up to five years.
  • Additional services provided by ORR include citizenship and naturalization preparation assistance and referral and interpretation services, which may be offered beyond 5 years.10

Notes

  1. “Iraqi Refugees and Special Immigrant Visa Holders Face Challenges Resettling in the United States and Obtaining U.S. Government Employment,” Report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), March 2010 []
  2. PRM has agreements with 10 domestic resettlement agencies to resettle refugees []
  3. PRM, “Refugee Resettlement in the U.S.” []
  4. Lawful permanent residents are generally barred from receiving certain public benefits for their first 5 years in the U.S. However, refugees and SIV’s are exempt from the five year waiting period. Building on earlier legislation, the DOD (Department of Defense) Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2010 included a provision which allows Iraqi SIV holders to be eligible for public benefits to the same extent, and for the same period of time, as refugees. Relevant agencies are in the process of issuing guidance to further define the application of this provision to Iraqi SIV holders. ORR State Letter #10-02, “Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrants Are Now Eligible for ORR Benefits and Services to the Same Extent and for the Same Time Periods of Time as Refugees” []
  5. TANF is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children & Families (ACF) []
  6. SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration []
  7. SNAP is administered by the Department of Agriculture []
  8. RCA and RMA are funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children & Families (ACF), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) []
  9. There is a special rule for refugees/SIVs who are already receiving Medicaid, who then lose Medicaid and are still within 8 months of arrival in the U.S. They must be put on RMA up to the 8 month mark. []
  10. Once refugees or permanent residents obtain citizenship, their eligibility for SSI, TANF, Medicaid, CHIP, or SNAP is the same as the eligibility for any U.S. citizen. Their eligibility for ORR social services ends when they obtain citizenship. []

Here are 4 more ideas sent in by users like you:

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  • The R&P funds are $900 per capita (per family member). The refugees receive pocket money based on the agency guidelines. Additional assistance may be available based on family’s living expenses and need.

    However, neither SIVs nor other refugees receive $900 outright. Only anchor cases (refugees joining family or friends) will receive the $900 per capita paid in two installments, once upon arrival and second half after anchor has assisted client to access services (ex. application for public benefits with Department of Social Services, receipt of Social Security card, ESL enrollment and enrollment in employment services). The R&P funds given to anchors are also meant to be spent on rent, utilities, household items, clothing and personal items during the first three months after the refugee’s arrival.

    Answer shared by DChu — March 16, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

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  • DChu is largely right…but while the $900 *must* go to the individual, the other $900 can actually be split. $700 go to the resettlement agency, and the remaining $200 can be used flexibly. Some agencies choose to retain those funds to put into a special pool of money to support ‘especially needy’ refugees, others choose to devote them to administrative overhead, and still others choose to give them directly to the refugees. It really varies from site to site.

    Answer shared by Tim Slade — July 7, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

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  • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Answer shared by Mike Mallory — June 9, 2012 @ 5:44 am

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  • I don’t know why siv holders can not apply SSI.
    Siv holders are the people that they work with USA forces in combat and they got ingured in Afghanistan and in Iraq
    And they work honestly shoulder to shoulder for USA mission in above countrys instead of per motion.
    They have been demoted I don’t know why? ???
    Most of these people leave USA and they wento back to there countrys

    Answer shared by Dad Mohammad — October 20, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

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