Office of Refugee Resettlement

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the United States

Through the Refugee Act, Congress directed HHS/ORR to provide refugees with resettlement assistance that includes employment training, English language training, cash assistance (in a manner that promotes early independence), and job placement – including providing women with equal opportunities to employment as men. ORR’s mission is to help refugees transition into the United States by providing benefits and assistance to achieve self-sufficiency and become integrated members of society as soon as possible. To this end, ORR funds and administers various programs, some of which are highlighted below.

Office of Refugee Resettlement: Unaccompanied Minors

Federal law requires the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to provide care to children referred by immigration authorities. Consistent with federal law, Administration for Children and Familie’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) places children arriving to the United States without an adult guardian in the least restrictive setting taking into account the best interest of the child, the potential flight risk and danger to self and others.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement helps unaccompanied refugee minors develop appropriate skills to enter adulthood and to achieve social self-sufficiency.


The Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program encourages reunification of children with their parents or adult relatives; however, if reunification is not possible, there are many services that are provided to these children. The following resources provide information about refugee minors and the programs and services that are here to help them.

Unaccompanied Alien Children

The Unaccompanied Alien Children Program provides unaccompanied alien children (UAC) with a safe and appropriate environment and care until discharge to sponsors in the U.S. or return to home country.

State-Administered and Wilson-Fish Programs

Under Office of Refugee Resettlement’s state-administered or Wilson-Fish (WF) programs, refugees not eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are eligible to receive up to eight months of Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA). Refugees not eligible for Medicaid are eligible to receive up to eight months of Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) upon arrival. In state-administered programs that operate a publicly administered RCA program (33 states) RCA benefits are based on cash benefit levels established by state TANF programs. In states that operate their RCA program through a Public-Private Program (PPP) model (5 States) and WF states (12 States plus one county), the RCA benefit is based on the higher of the RCA rates outlined in the ORR regulations or the state TANF rates.

The WF program is an alternative to the traditional state-administered program, and is usually administered by local resettlement agencies. The WF program emphasizes early employment and economic self-sufficiency by integrating cash assistance, case management, and employment services, and by incorporating innovative strategies for the provision of cash assistance (e.g. financial bonuses for early employment). WF programs also serve as a replacement for the State when the State government declines to participate in the ORR-funded refugee assistance program.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement also provides states/WF programs with Formula Refugee Social Services (RSS) and Targeted Assistance (TAG) funds. ORR distributes these funds based on arrival numbers and refugee concentration levels in counties with a high utilization of public assistance. Funding is time limited, and refugees can only access RSS and TAG services up to five years after arrival. These services include: employment services, on-the-job training, English language instruction, vocational training, case management, translation/interpreter services, social adjustment services, health-related services, home management, childcare and transportation.

Additionally, to assist specific groups of refugees, ORR administers the specialized programs through states/WF programs, including Cuban-Haitian, Older Refugees, Refugee School Impact, and Targeted Assistance.

ORR Matching Grant Program

The Office of Refugee Resettlement Matching Grant program (MG) is provided through the nine national resettlement agencies that provide R & P services and their resettlement affiliates in 42 states. The objective of MG is to guide newly-arrived refugee households toward economic self-sufficiency through employment within four to six months of program eligibility (which usually begins on the date of arrival in the United States). In MG, self-sufficiency is defined as total household income from employment that enables a family unit to support itself without receipt of public
cash assistance. For each MG participant, Office of Refugee Resettlement awards $2,200 to participating national resettlement agencies, which then allocate funds to their networks of local affiliates. Agencies provide a 50% match to every federal dollar.

Through the Office of Refugee Resettlement MG Program, local service providers ensure core maintenance services for a minimum of 120 days which include housing, transportation, food, and a cash allowance. Clients also receive intensive case management and employment services throughout the 180 day service period. Refugees who are unable to attain self-sufficiency by day 120 or 180 may access RCA for the remainder of the eight month eligibility period. In FY 2015, nearly 30,000 individuals were newly enrolled in the program, and of those enrolled in the program for 180 days, 82% achieved self-sufficiency. Approximately 30% of refugees who arrive in a fiscal year participate in the Office of Refugee Resettlement MG Program.


Office of Refugee Resettlement provides time-limited cash and medical assistance to new arrivals, as well as support for case management services, English as a Foreign Language classes, and job readiness and employment services – all designed to facilitate refugees’ successful transition to life in the U.S. and help them to attain self-sufficiency.

Office of Refugee Resettlement supports additional programs to serve all eligible populations beyond the first eight months post-arrival, including micro-enterprise development, ethnic community self-help and agricultural partnerships. In addition, ORR provides services for survivors of torture. See more below.

ORR Refugee Health

The Office of Refugee Resettlement addresses the health and emotional well-being of refugees by providing technical assistance on Refugee Medical Assistance and domestic refugee medical screening, supporting mental health awareness, managing the Services for Survivors of Torture and Refugee Health Promotion grant programs, and other health initiatives.

ORR Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) Program

The Office of Refugee Resettlement provides funds to 15 states which administer over 20 Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) programs. States contract with local licensed foster care agencies that provide specialized placements and services to URMs. URMs live in various placements including: traditional and therapeutic foster homes, group homes, semi-independent and independent living and residential treatment centers, and homes of relatives. URMs receive various services including: English language training, educational and vocational training, cultural preservation, social integration, family tracing, permanency planning, independent living, medical care, and mental health care. ORR regulations require states to provide services to URM in parity with the state’s Title IV-B foster care plan.

Other ORR Discretionary Refugee Service Programs

The Office of Refugee Resettlement also provides funding to non-profit agencies to carry out special initiatives or programs for refugees including: case management, ethnic community development, home-based child care business development, individual development accounts, microenterprise development, and agricultural projects.

The Preferred Communities Program is implemented through the nine resettlement agencies and focuses on building capacity to receive an increasingly vulnerable refugee population. The program supports long-term case management services to the more at risk populations including, but not limited to, women heads of household and refugees with significant medical and mental health needs. Additionally, the program has allowed resettlement agencies the flexibility to address unanticipated arrivals such as refugees arriving in underserved areas, increased Cuban/Haitian arrivals and secondary migrants.

Office of Refugee Resettlement Technical Assistance

The Office of Refugee Resettlement provides technical assistance (TA) to resettlement stakeholders through various organizations that have relevant expertise. Currently ORR’s TA providers assist stakeholders in the areas of community engagement/integration, employment, mental health, youth initiatives, services to survivors of torture, and monitoring.

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and Refugees

A definition of Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), in the context of refugee resettlement and non-emergency repatriation, may be provided here: The federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that coordinates refugee resettlement services at the national level and awards participating states funds to administer the Refugee Resettlement Program which includes Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA/RRF), Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA/MRF), and Refugee Social Services (RAP-SS). ORR plans, develops, and directs implementation of a comprehensive program for domestic refugee and entrant resettlement assistance. ORR also provides direction and technical guidance to the nationwide administration of resettlement and repatriation programs.


See Also

  • Refugee Resettlement
  • Non-Emergency Repatriation


See Also

  • Refugee Admissions Process
  • Refugee Admissions
  • Refugee Crisis
  • Office Of Justice Programs
  • Refugee Definition
  • United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee
  • US Maternal and Child Health Resources

Office of Refugee Resettlement: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Office of Refugee Resettlement. This part provides references, in relation to Office of Refugee Resettlement, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Office of Refugee Resettlement by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Office of Refugee Resettlement and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Office of Refugee Resettlement or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Office of Refugee Resettlement and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Office of Refugee Resettlement. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Office of Refugee Resettlement should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Office of Refugee Resettlement when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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