Refugee Assistance Program

Revised April 18, 2013


This category contains rules and procedures for the Refugee Assistance Program and contains the following sections.


Refugee - Immigration Status Requirements

Revised March 15, 2012


This section describes immigration eligibility requirements for a client to receive refugee assistance benefits. 

WAC 388-466-0005  Immigration status requirement for refugee assistance.

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-466-0005 

For general information on RCA and RMA eligibility see WAC 388-466-0120WAC 182-507-0130 and PROGRAM SUMMARY, WAC 388-400-0030 (2)(a) for RCA and (b) and WAC 388-400-0035  (2)(a) for RMA.

Important Terms

  1. Refugee Assistance began in 1975 as the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program under the authority of the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. The Refugee Act of 1980 broadened the program to cover all persons, regardless of national origin, who enter the U.S. to escape persecution. Program benefits are 100 percent federally funded and include cash (RCA) and medical (RMA) assistance.

  2. Refugee status is granted by the INS to persons unwilling or unable to return to the person's country of nationality because of persecution or fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

  3. An Amerasian is a person born in Southeast Asia of an American parent and a native parent and who has been granted qualifying status by the INS. When this term is used as a refugee status category for RCA/RMA, it includes spouses and children of Amerasians.

  4. An Asylee is a person who is physically present in the U.S. or at a border or port of entry and who has been granted political asylum by the U.S. Attorney General. An applicant for political asylum does not meet the immigration status requirement for Refugee Assistance until asylum has been granted.

  5. A Parolee is a person who has been granted permission to enter the U.S. for humanitarian or public interest reasons. Parolee status is granted at the discretion of the U.S. Attorney General and may be revoked at any time.  A person granted parolee status under section 212(d)(5) of the INA does not qualify as a refugee.

  6. A Permanent Resident is a person who is granted the right to reside permanently in the U.S. as an immigrant by the INS. Refugees are eligible to apply for permanent resident status one year after date of entry into the U.S.

  7. A Voluntary Resettlement Agency (VOLAG) is a private agency that enters into a grant, contract or cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State to provide for the reception and initial placement of refugees. This assistance may include social services, cash, food, help in finding housing, etc.  See a list of VOLAGs in Washington State. 

  8.  A victim of severe forms of human trafficking (an adult or a child) is an alien who has been trafficked into the U.S. and forced into the international sex trade, prostitution, slavery and forced labor through coercion, threats of physical violence, psychological abuse, torture and imprisonment.

  9.  Certification of victim of human trafficking is conducted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Department of Health and Human Services. After consulting with Attorney General ORR may certify an adult victim of trafficking who is willing to assist with the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases and either:

    1. Has made a bona fide application for a T visa; or

    2. Is a person whose continued presence the Attorney General is ensuring to effectuate a prosecution of traffickers.

Children victims of human trafficking do not need to be certified.


Refugee Documentation

Coming Soon! 

Asylum Documentation 

The following documents are acceptable proof of client's asylee status and entry date:

  1. I-94 Arrival / Departure Card noting that the individual has been admitted:

    1. Under Section 208 of the INA; or

    2. With admission codes AS-!, AS-2, or AS-3; or

    3. With Visa 92 (V-92).

  2. I-571 United States Refugee Travel Document.  This document does not distinguish between refugees and asylees so contact INS to verify whether the individual is an asylee.

  3. I-688-B Employment Authorization Document with the provision of law 274a.12(a)(5).

  4. I-730 Asylum Approval Letter from an INS Asylum Office.

  5. I-766 Employment Authorization Document with the code A05.

  6. Written decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  The entry date will be the date on the decision.

  7. An order from an immigration judge granting asylum under Section 208 of the INA.  The entry date will be:

    1. The date on an Immigration Judge Order if INS has waived right to appeal decision; or

    2. The 31st day from the date of an Immigration Judge Order if INS has reserved the right to appeal but chose not to.

The order has a section that specifies whether the INS has waived or reserved its right to appeal.  See Table I for further clarification. 

 Table I

Documentation and Situation


Benefit Eligibility (referring only to asylum status)

Entry Date (date asylum granted)

Immigration Judge Order with notation that appeal was waived by INS

No additional verification needed

Eligible for RCA

Date on Immigration Judge Order

Immigration Judge Order with notation that appeal was reserved by INS

No action can be taken until 30 days after the date on the Immigration Judge Order; on or after the 31st day, call Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) case status line at (800) 898-7180 to see whether INS has appealed

If INS did not appeal, the individual is an asylee and eligible for RCA

30 days after the date on the Immigration Judge Order (31st day); Example: Immigration Judge Order dated September 1, 2000; INS did not appeal; Entry date is October 1, 2000

If INS appealed, the individual is not an asylee and not eligible for RCA

No entry date as asylum not yet granted; client is not eligible for RCA;

**Note the client is a PRUCOL alien so consider eligibility for SFA.


Although the EOIR case status line is updated every 24 hours you may find that it does not contain the needed appeal information on the 31st day. The EOIR reports it may take up to 5 days after the appeal deadline for the information to be relayed to the case status line.

 Asylum Entry Date for Family Members

The entry date for an asylee’s family members will depend on whether the family was included on the asylee’s original application for asylum and whether they were inside or outside of the United States when the individual applied. See Table II below for clarification.

Table II


Entry Date (i.e. date asylum granted)

Family members included in principal asylee’s application

Same entry date as principal asylee

Family members outside of the United States; I-730 process; Visa 92

Date that the family members enter the United States; date of entry should be noted on I-94 card.

Family members in the United States; not included on principal’s asylum application; I-730 process

Date that the I-730 application is approved; INS should issue an I-94Arrival/Departure card with this date; I-730 approval letter is also acceptable documentation.


Documentation for Victims of Human Trafficking

The term "victims of human trafficking" is defined Important Terms ( 8. and 9.) above.

  1. Only the original certification letter or similar letter for children is acceptable instead of required INS documentation, such as I-94 Card. Victims of severe forms of trafficking are not required to provide any other documentation of their immigration status that confer eligibility for benefits.

Although they are not required for benefits purposes, victims of trafficking may have a variety of immigration documents, including an I-94 Arrival/Departure Card with a stamp showing parole under section 212(d)(5), an employment authorization document, or proof of deferred action or an order of supervision. These documents also may be used in proving identity. 
  1. For refugee benefit purposes the individual's "entry date" is the certification date, which appears in the body of the certification letter or letter for children.

  2. Providing that they meet other eligibility requirements, victims of severe forms of trafficking (both adults and children) are eligible for the benefits to the same extent as refugees, though under immigration laws they do not have refugee status.

  3. By the time of the application and eligibility interview many victims of trafficking may not yet have standard identity documents, such as driver's license. To confirm identity in these cases, worker should call the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510 for assistance.

  4. Certification letters or letters for children issued before November 6, 2001 contain eight-month expiration date. The trafficking certification re-determination and re-determination of eligibility for benefits must be conducted at the end of the 8-months period. Certification letters issued on or after November 6, 2001 do not have an expiration date.

Special Immigrants

Immigrants from Iraq or Afghanistan who were granted Special Immigrant status under section 101 (a)(27) of the INA are eligible for up to 8 months of refugee assistance (RCA and RMA).  Their eligibility period starts from the date of entry into the United States or, if it occurred after the U.S. entry, the date the Special Immigrant status was granted as indicated on the I-551 (green card). For more information on documentation, Immigration Status codes, benefit eligibility and step-by-step process, please see desk aid Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants Benefits.

If you have any questions regarding eligibility or on how to process a case, please contact Tom Berry or Olga Walker, in the CSD Office of Programs and Policy.

Tom (360) 725-4617 or by e-mail at
Olga(360) 725-4641 or by e-mail at

Worker Responsibilities -  - WAC 388-466-0005 

  1. Verify immigration status and entry date on the refugee’s INS documentation. See CITIZENSHIP AND ALIEN - Decision Tree, for entry status designations. Immigration status may also be verified using other documents or written collateral statements from the INS.

  2. Retain a photocopy of original certification letter for victims of human trafficking or similar letter for children and return original to applicant. Before authorizing benefits verify the validity of the document by calling the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510 and also notify ORR about application for benefits.

  3. Follow local office policies and procedures for referring refugees to the Refugee Social Service Specialist.

  4. Follow local office policies and procedures for notifying the VOLAG regarding applications for assistance by refugees.

    1. The client must be informed that the VOLAG will be contacted regarding his or her application for assistance.

    2. When a refugee applies for cash assistance, the VOLAG notification should include a request for any information concerning offers of employment including whether the applicant has voluntarily quit employment or has refused to accept an offer of employment or a training opportunity within 30 days prior to the date of application (see Employment and Training Requirements WAC 388-466-0150 ).


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Refugee Cash Assistance

Revised March 15, 2016


This section describes the general eligibility requirements for client to receive refugee cash assistance benefits. 

WAC 388-466-0120  Refugee cash assistance (RCA)?

  • Clarifying Information and Worker Responsibilities

WAC 388-400-0030 Who is eligible for refugee cash assistance? (Program Summary)

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-444-0120

For more information on RCA priority requirements see SUMMARY, Applicants for RCA, if otherwise eligible, can not be denied benefits or services because they have not yet received a social security number (SSN). Social Security Administration procedures often prohibit asylees and Cuban and Haitian entrants from applying and receiving SSN for several months after they received their status and became eligible for RCA.

RCA recipients with earnings have the same 50% earned income disregards as TANF clients.

Matching Grant Program Recipients.  Refugees and similarly classified immigrants agree not to apply for ongoing cash assistance from RCA or TANF so they can get services through the Matching Grant program.  The Matching Grant program is an employment and training program funded by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and administered by voluntary refugee resettlement agencies (VOLAGs).  The VOLAG provides cash assistance and employment services designed to find the Matching Grant participant a job within the immigrant's first four months in the US.  In order to qualify for the program, the participant must agree they will not apply for other ongoing cash assistance benefits. However, the participant should still be eligible for Basic Food. Note that one-time cash payments from a VOLAG are not part of the Matching Grant Program.


Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-444-0120

  1. Determine eligibility for TANF before determining eligibility for RCA.
  2. Complete a program change when a change of circumstances makes a RCA recipient eligible for TANF (for example, a recipient with no other dependents becomes eligible for TANF because she has a verified pregnancy).
  3. Refer all refugees who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled to SSI facilitator for help with application to Social Security Administration for SSI benefits.
    1. Terminate RCA if necessary and authorize SSI medical when SSI is approved.
  4. Determine eligibility for other cash programs such as CEAP (Consolidated Emergency Assistance Program), or General Assistance program when RCA eligibility ends due to the expiration of the eight-month time limit.
  5. Matching Grant Program Recipients. 

If an applicant indicates they are receiving benefits through the Matching Grant program, verify the amount of cash the applicant receives and budget it toward their Basic Food request.

If the Matching Grant recipient decides to apply for RCA or TANF:

a.  Determine the applicant’s eligibility using standard application processing procedures; and
b.  Notify the VOLAG immediately that the client is requesting cash assistance through a DSHS-administered program.

Refugee - Income and Resources

Revised March 25, 2011


WAC 388-466-0140  Income and resources for refugee assistance eligibility.

  • Clarifying Information and Worker Responsibilities

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-466-0140

One time cash assistance provided to a client by VOLAG may not be considered as earned or unearned income because it covers the initial cost of resettlement, not ongoing expenses.


Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-466-0140

Establish one assistance unit for:

  1. All adult refugees legally responsible for each other.

  2. An unmarried person without dependents.

  3. A child who is a member of his or her parent's TANF / SFA assistance unit and who reaches the age of 18 before the end of eight months after arrival to the US.  Establish a separate assistance unit for the child effective the first of the month following the month of the child's 18th birthday.

Refugee - Employment and Training Services

Revised December 31, 2013


WAC 388-466-0150 Refugee employment and training services.

  • Worker Responsibilities

Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-466-0150

Financial Services Specialist

  1. Follow local office policies and procedures to determine whether the client is exempt from work participation requirements. Refer a client, claiming incapacity, to SSI facilitator.

  2. Determine, using information provided by VOLAG, by the client, or any other source if an RCA applicant who is not exempt from work and training requirements, has voluntarily quit employment or refused an offer of employment or a training opportunity without good reason within the last 30 days;

    1. If the client claims good reason, refer the client to Refugee Social Service Specialist to determine if good reason exists.

    2. If good reason does not exist, the client is ineligible until the later of:

      1. The 30th day following the date of the job quit or refusal of the employment or training opportunity; or

      2. The date the client complies with work and training requirements.

    3. The eligibility of the other unit member, if exists, is not affected by the client's voluntary quit.

  3. Impose a sanction for an RCA recipient who is not exempt from employment and training requirements, if notified by the Refugee Social Service Specialist that the client is not complying with those requirements without good reason,

    1. The sanction period is:

      1. Three months for the first violation; or

      2. Until the end of the client’s RCA eight months time limit for the second violation.

    2. See LETTERS for reason codes and protocol requirements.

    3. Continue RMA while the client is in sanction and would otherwise be eligible for RCA.

    4. The eligibility of other assistance unit members, if any, is not affected by the client’s sanction status.

  4. Follow local office policies and procedures on referring clients to the Refugee Social Service Specialist to participate in work and training or for other services. Exempt clients must be allowed to participate in work and training activities if they choose to do so.

Refugee Social Service Specialist

  1. Completing the DSHS 14-191(X), Personal Employment Plan, for the refugee; and

  2. Referring the refugee to:

    1. A contracted employment provider; or

    2. Other training or services specified in the PEP.

  3. Determining whether good reason exists for refusal or non-compliance with employment and training requirements;

  4. Initiating a conciliation period to ensure that the refugee understands the consequences of noncompliance; and

  5. Notifying Financial Services when good reason does not exist.

Refugee Medical Assistance

May 2, 2014


This section describes program rules for the refugee medical program. 

WAC 182-507-0130 Refugee medical assistance (RMA). 

WAC 182-507-0135 Immigration status requirements for refugee medical assistance. 

  • Clarifying Information

Clarifying Information

  1. Recipients of RCA are automatically eligible for RMA. A person who is eligible for RCA may choose not to receive cash assistance and still receive RMA.
  2. RMA eligibility is established on the basis of an applicant's income and resources on the date of the application, rather than averaging income over the application processing period.
  3. A student enrolled in an institution of higher education and carrying a full-time academic workload is considered a full-time student. A full-time student is not eligible for RCA. A full time student is eligible for RMA only if educational activity is a part of his/her personal employment plan. 
  4. RCA clients continue to be eligible for RMA until the end of their eight month eligibility limit if they become ineligible for RCA due to the receipt of earned income, unearned income, or resources.
  5. An applicant who is not eligible for RCA because of income may be eligible for RMA. Applicants must meet monthly income standards up to 200% of FPL (see STANDARDSWAC 182-519-0050 ).
  6. Recipients of ongoing cash assistance from the Matching Grant Program may be eligible for RMA if they meet all other program requirements.  For more information about the Matching Grant Program for refugees, see WAC 388-466-0120, Clarifying Information #4.

Individuals from Iraq or Afghanistan who were granted Special Immigrant status under section 101 (a)(27) of the INA, their spouses and unmarried children under 21 are qualified aliens and are eligible for federally funded benefits to the same extend and for the same time period as refugees. Their eligibility period starts from the date of entry into the United States or, if it occurred after the US entry, the date the Special Immigrant status was granted as indicated on the I-551 (green card). 

For more information on documentation, Immigration Status codes, benefit eligibility and step-by-step process, please see desk aid Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants Benefits.


ACES Procedure: 

Refugee Medical 

Refugee - VOLAGs in Washington

Revised January 20, 2016


A Voluntary Resettlement Agency (VOLAG) is a private agency that enters into a grant, contract or cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State to provide for the reception and initial placement of refugees. This assistance may include social services, cash, food, help in finding housing, etc.  

Diocese of Olympia
1610 S King Street
Seattle, WA  98144
(206) 323-3152

International Rescue Committee - IRC
100 S King Street, Suite 570
Seattle, WA  98104
(206) 623-2105, Ext 101

Jewish Family Services
1601 16th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
(253) 272-8433

Lutheran Community Services NW
223 N Yakima Avenue
Tacoma, WA  98403
(253) 722-5695

Lutheran Community Services NW
3600 Main Street, Suite 200
Vancouver, WA 98663
(360) 694-5624

World Relief
841 Central Avenue N, Suite C-106
Kent, WA 98032
(253) 277-1121

World Relief
1522 N Washington, Suite 204
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 484-9829

World Relief
2600 N Columbia Center Blvd, Suite 206
Richland, WA 99352
(509) 734-5477, Ext 100