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Refugee Assistance Program

Department of Social and Health Services

Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance
Telephone: (206) 568-5500

Federal Website: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/

Local Link: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/eligibility-z-manual-ea-z/refugee-assistance-program 


Participation: More than 5,000 refugees and immigrants are served annually by ORIA’s programs statewide.

Who is Served: ORIA provides services to all Individuals who are allowed to immigrate to the U.S. as refugees, certain Amerasians, Cuban/Haitian entrants, victims of severe forms of trafficking, persons granted asylum, and Iraqi/Afghani Special Immigrants are eligible for services.  Immigrants receiving public assistance are also eligible for ORIA’s services.

Section 101 (a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act defines the term “refugee” to mean any person who is persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her home country because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Program Description:

The Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance (ORIA) in DSHS administers refugee programs in partnership with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.  The Washington State Refugee Coordinator is the Office Chief for ORIA and is responsible for ensuring the coordination of public and private resources for refugee resettlement statewide. 

ORIA’s mission is to transform the lives of refugees and immigrants in Washington State by administering resources that support a broad range of services that promote economic self-sufficiency and integration. 

Services include:

  • Cash, Food, and Medical Assistance
  • Employment and Training Programs (LEP Pathway Employment Services, Skills Training, ORIA BFET, RESN)
  • English Language Programs
  • Health Screenings, Mental Health Services and Preventative Health
  • Naturalization Assistance
  • Refugee Social Services
  • Support services for children, youth, and elders

Other Program Characteristics: The program emphasizes:

  • Services are to be provided in a manner that is linguistically and culturally compatible with the refugee’s background.
  • English language instruction is to be provided in a concurrent, rather than in a sequential manner with other program services.
  • Equal opportunities are offered for training and instruction to refugee women as men.

Program History: The program began in 1975 to help refugees successfully resettle in Washington. Since its inception, Washington State has welcomed more than 130,000 refugees representing 70 diverse nationalities.  Over the last five years, 12,573 refugees have resettled in Washington State.  ORIA’s services are delivered through contracts with community-based organizations, voluntary refugee resettlement organizations (VOLAG’s), state and local government agencies, and private agencies.

Planning Cycle: Annual

Outcome Measures: ORIA tracks and measures the following performance outcomes:

  • Number of refugees who are placed in jobs, their wages, and ability to access health care;
  • Employment retention for clients at 30 and 90 days after placement;
  • Number of clients who achieve economic self-sufficiency and exit the public assistance programs;
  • Number of full level gains for students of English as a Second Language;


Funding and Regional Division: ORIA administers refugee programs by using the DSHS regional structure for planning and service delivery. Federal funding is allocated by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) based on the number of refugee admissions to the state. ORR also makes funding available to states through a competitive procurement process.

State Funding: $2,366,000 (July 1, 2014- June 30, 2015) State General Funds for employment and English as a Second Language training and $1,657,000 State General Funds for citizenship services for refugees and immigrants.

Federal & State:  $5,600,000 (July 1, 2014– June 30, 2015) from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Federal Funding: $12,344,877 (Oct. 1, 2013- Sept. 30, 2014) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Statutory Authority: Federal - Refugee Act of 1980, (P.L. 106-104); the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act; Title 45 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 400; State - RCW Chapter 74.

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