Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance

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Update October 22, 2019: Federal judges have ordered that the Department of Homeland Security cannot implement and enforce the final rule on the public charge. The court orders also postpone the effective date of the final rule until there is final resolution in the cases.

Important information on changes to immigration rules on public benefit

The State of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services understands that the federal Department of Homeland Security has published final rules that could apply to people who receive specified public benefits. We have reviewed the rules and want to provide accurate, reliable information for individuals and families who may be impacted by changing policies. Here is what we know:

  • Programs and services administered by the State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services will remain in place and are accessible to people who are eligible.
  • DSHS continues to protect the confidentiality of clients’ personal information and does not share this information unless required by state or federal law.
  • The changes may impact certain people applying for lawful permanent residency (green cards) or admission to the United States – including diversity visa immigrants and applications to renew, change or extend visas in the United States.
  • The rule does not impact lawful permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship or naturalization.
  • This new rule does not apply to all immigrants. It does not apply to people who are refugees and asylees, Amerasian immigrants, Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Holders, Cuban/Haitian Entrants, humanitarian parolees, victims of human trafficking (T- Visa), victims of criminal activity (U-Visa), Special Immigrant Juveniles or VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) self-petitioners.
  • Previously, officials would only count a client’s use of cash assistance or long-term medical institutionalization when considering their immigration application. The changes will add certain federal health care, nutrition and housing benefits.
  • The rule will not apply retroactively to benefits that were received before the rule’s effective date. These additional federal benefits will only be considered if a person applied for, was certified for or received benefits after the rule becomes effective. As a result of the court rulings blocking the rule, we do not know the date it may become effective.
  • The changes will not apply to all types of federal benefits. For a list of benefits that are included or excluded, see the Frequently Asked Questions. NO changes are being made to state benefits, although state and local cash assistance will continue to be considered.
  • It does not count the use of benefits by a person’s family members. The use of benefits by children or other household members will not be counted against an individual applying for lawful permanent residency (green card) or admission to the United States.

Individuals and families who have questions or concerns about the impact of using public benefits on their immigration status should contact an immigration attorney. Resources may be available through one of the organizations listed on the Governor’s website. Additionally, you may contact one of the following organizations for help:

  • CLEAR Hotline: 1-888-201-1014
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP):
    • NWIRP Seattle Office: 206-587-4009
    • NWIRP Yakima Valley (Granger) Office: 509-854-2100
    • NWIRP Wenatchee Office: 509-570-0054

Expansion of Refugee Elders Program

The Washington Office of Refugee & Immigrant Assistance is pleased to announce an expansion of our Refugee Elders Program.  By the end of September 2019, ORIA will invest $250,000 in services to refugees and other eligible immigrants who are 60 years of age or older.  Services can offer a variety of assistance, including helping refugee elders access mainstream aging services, providing education workshops and other direct services, developing opportunities for refugee elders to connect with their communities and much more.  ORIA is now accepting Letters of Interest from organizations wanting to participate in this program.  Letters are due on August 15, 2019, and can be submitted via email to  Questions may be submitted to that email address as well.   For more information, please refer to the attached announcement.

New pilot Refugee Youth Mentoring Program

The Washington Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance is now accepting applications from community partners to participate in the new pilot Refugee Youth Mentoring Program.  With this application, ORIA will invest $425,000 of federal funding into one or more organizations to engage refugee youth ages 18 to 24 in meaningful mentorship opportunities. The full application is due on August 7, 2019 at 5:00 pm.  There is an information session scheduled for July 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm, details are in the application packet

On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Washington Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance hosted an information session to answer questions related to our open application for the new Refugee Youth Mentoring Program.  We want to thank everyone who participated.  As requested, ORIA has compiled a list of all of the questions asked and provided the most accurate answers possible at this time.  With this email, we share with you the Q&A and the PowerPoint presentation from the information session.

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What We Do

About ORIA

The Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance (ORIA) is located within the State of Washington, Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Economic Services Administration (ESA), Community Services Division (CSD). Our goal is for refugee and immigrant families and individuals to succeed and thrive in Washington State.

Can We Help You?

Washington Welcomes Refugees

Washington is home to a very large, diverse and dynamic refugee and immigrant community and has historically ranked as one of the top ten resettlement states in the U.S.

We have strong community partnerships and provide culturally appropriate services through contracts with community-based organizations, voluntary refugee resettlement agencies, local community colleges, and government agencies.

Access Our Services

Complete an application online. Find out if you are eligible and apply for services on-line using our Washington Connection portal.

Visit your local DSHS Community Services Office (CSO). If you are receiving public benefits, ask your DSHS Caseworker about ORIA services.

The Department of Social and Health Services has many other programs and services to help you. To learn more about DSHS services and how to apply for public benefits click here.

Self-sufficiency through support, education and training.