Who is considered a refugee?

According to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”  This definition does not include people who have fled economic hardship or are victims of natural disasters.  These individuals are often deserving of humanitarian assistance, and may be admitted to the United States as immigrants, but they are not refugees.

How do refugees come to the United States?

Being admitted to the United States as a refugee is a long and complex process. Resettlement is only available to a small number of refugees worldwide (less than one half of one percent) and is only considered when there appears to be no other durable solution. Everyone who is admitted to the United States as a refugee has a stamped I-94 card indicating indefinite legal status as a refugee, and is assigned to a Voluntary Agency (such as World Relief) for resettlement services. Refugees are eligible to apply for citizenship after five years in the United States. To learn more about refugees and the resettlement process, visit the Cultural Orientation Resource Center website or participate in World Relief Seattle’s educational experience, the Refugee Simulation Project.

What are refugees like?

Refugees come from extremely diverse backgrounds, so it is crucial to avoid unhelpful generalizations when describing them. Refugees are young and old; they are single, married and have families. They are both highly educated and pre-literate. They come from rural farming villages, mega-cities and everything in between. Some speak English fluently; others only know a few words. Some have lived in refugee camps for decades; others have fled their home country recently. Refugees are doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, environmental scientists, subsistence farmers, business executives, mechanics, elephant trainers, homemakers, activists, novelists, civil engineers, pastors, and shopkeepers.

Perhaps the only helpful generalizations to make are that refugees share the difficult experience of being forced to flee their home and are eager to learn, support their families and contribute to their adopted community. Check out our refugee stories page to get a first-hand perspective on some of the people we serve.

Are refugees legally allowed to work?

Yes. Refugees have legal status in the United States and are legally able to work immediately and indefinitely. Refugees are work-authorized and E-Verify ready. Learn more about how your business can benefit from hiring a refugee.

Is it possible that refugees may have a communicable disease?

All refugees are screened before and after their arrival to the United States, and any conditions from mild to major are noted for follow up. Refugees with highly communicable diseases generally have their entry to the U.S. denied or delayed.

Where are refugees coming from now?

Currently, the three biggest refugee groups arriving in Western Washington are from Iraq, Bhutan and Burma (Myanmar). There are also refugees arriving from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, the former Soviet Union and many other countries. See how you can get involved in the lives of these brave, resilient individuals.

Where do refugees live once they arrive?

The biggest concentration of refugees in Washington State is in South King County. Although World Relief Seattle originally resettled refugees in the city of Seattle, increases in the cost of living eventually prompted a move beyond the city limits to more affordable communities. For the past several years, World Relief Seattle has primarily resettled refugees in and around the southern suburb of Kent due to the availability of housing, job opportunities and public transportation. Nevertheless, we do resettle refugees in communities throughout Western Washington, according to their individual needs and connections. World Relief also has local offices in Spokane and Tri-Cities, as well as in communities across the nation. After initial placement, refugees are free to move about the country. However, until they become citizens, refugees must report any change of address to the Department of Homeland Security within 10 days. Online change of address (AR-11) form.

Where is the World Relief Seattle office?

Our office is located in central Kent, WA (about 20 miles south of downtown Seattle) close to a major transit hub and highway 167. Our address is 841 Central Ave N, Suite C-106; Kent, WA 98032. Visit the Contact us page for more info.

How is World Relief Seattle funded?

We are funded both through government contracts (federal and state) and private donations from individuals, churches, businesses and foundations. The majority of federal funding is passed along directly to refugee clients in the form of direct assistance (such as household supplies and temporary rent assistance). We depend on the generosity of donors for much of what we do as a ministry.

I want to join in! What can I do?

You can make an impact through volunteering, donating, advocating and praying. Learn more about exciting ways you, or your church, or business can get involved in World Relief Seattle.

* Some of this information was adapted and reprinted with permission from the Center for Applied Linguistics.


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