What Is Resettlement?

Who resettles refugees in missoula, MT?

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is the refugee resettlement field office in Missoula, MT.

The IRC works in more than 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities helping millions of people each year to survive and rebuild their lives, leading the way from harm to home.

Soft Landing Missoula partners with the IRC as it helps each refugee access core services such as food, shelter, medical care, employment, and education.

Who is a refugee as it relates the the US resettlement program?

Soft Landing Missoula offers an informative, at-a-glance PDF that helps explain who is considered a refugee. Download now. Read on for further explanation.

The US State Department defines a refugee as someone who has fled from his or her home country and cannot return because he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

There are currently around 20 million registered refugees world wide. Note: This does not include the movement of people fleeing to the European Union--they are not U.N. registered refugees and therefore do not qualify to apply to be resettled in the US.

In 2015, the U.N. reported that 51% of global refugees were children, and this percentage is climbing.

Who are the refugees in the United States?

Only about 1% of refugees worldwide are unable to return home eventually and need third country placement. The other 99% are assisted in returning home or integrating into the local countries that host them as refugees.

Refugees who are placed in the US first apply through the United Nations and are prioritized based on need, such as children with medical conditions, the elderly, single mother households, LGBT refugees, and victims of torture.

The Department of State's Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration oversees admission into the U.S. Refugees are put through a stringent 18-24 month vetting process that includes medical and security screenings. The majority of this process takes place outside of the US. Once refugees enter the US, they are eligible to work and to receive federal benefits. The majority of refugees entering the united states are women, children, and families.

Due to the nature of war and persecution, the countries of origin for refugees resettled in the US changes yearly. In 2015, the highest numbers of refugees that America resettled came from Burma, Iraq, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bhutan--in that order.


What is the vetting process?

The process for a refugee to come to the US involves one of the the strictest vetting process for any person to cross a border worldwide.

Refugees are the most vetted non-citizens in our country. All refugees undergo thorough and rigorous security screenings prior to arriving in the United States, including but not limited the following:

  • multiple biographic and identity investigations
  • FBI biometric checks of applicants' fingerprints and photographs
  • in-depth, in-person interviews by well-trained Department of Homeland Security officers
  • medical screenings
  • investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center
  • and other checks by U.S. domestic and international intelligence agencies.

Supervisory review of all decisions, random case assignment, inter-agency national security teams, trained document experts, forensic testing of documents and interpreter monitoring are in place to maintain the security of the refugee resettlement program. Syrian refugees are also undergoing iris scans to confirm their identity through the process. (Refugee Council USA)

Since 1975, the United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees from around the world, including 169,000 from Bosnia and more than 100,000 from Iraq. Three quarters of a million of those refugees entered the U.S. since 2001. During this time, there have been no recorded terrorist acts in the United States by a refugee.

What is a refugee resettlement field office?

People who achieve US refugee status are placed in over 200 locations throughout the country by one of nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) called Voluntary Agencies (VA). VAs have a cooperative agreement with the State Department to resettle refugees and connect them to available reception and replacement services for the first 90 days they are here. They are essentially responsible for helping refugees navigate the complicated process of resettlement and help them to apply to services that they qualify for, as well as arranging housing, helping to secure employment, providing translation and language services, and other programs to help refugees thrive in their new home.

In Missoula, MT, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is the refugee resettlement field office.

What services are available for refugees and who funds them?

The Federal government provides services to help refugees achieve rapid integration and economic self-sufficiency. Each refugee receives a one-time Federal grant (currently around $1,125) from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration that is managed by the resettlement agency to provide initial housing, food and clothing, orientation, counseling, assistance in enrolling children in school, English language training, and assistance with access to other social, medical, and employment services for the first 90 days in the US. This is supplemented with funds from the Voluntary Agency itself, which may also rely on private donations to enhance these benefits. 

Refugees may also be eligible for other social services through the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement such as TANF, medical assistance, micro enterprise development services, childcare assistance, interpretation and translation, services for older refugees, citizenship and naturalization, social adjustment and others. Local governments and nonprofits will have access to federal funding designed to assist refugees, ie: immigration services and English as a Second Language programs.

“Declining public benefit participation suggests that refugees’ economic self-sufficiency increases with time in the United States. The refugee resettlement program’s key goal of promoting early employment is largely being achieved. Refugees are more likely to be employed than the U.S.-born population. Also, the median annual household income of refugees with at least 20 years of U.S. residence was $31,000 higher than the median income of those with five years or less of residence.(Source: Migration Policy Institute)

How will Missoula benefit from a resettlement office?

Missoula has already enjoyed the benefits of a successful resettlement campaign that helped hundreds of Hmong (and other) refugees from the late 1970s into the 90s. They have become our co-workers, neighbors, and friends, and are now part of the fabric that makes Missoula what it is today.

Increasing diversity in Missoula will boost cultural literacy and enrich lives. It will also prepare our children to thrive in a global economy. Diversity has also been shown to increase creativity and stimulate economic growth in communities.

Local governments and nonprofits will have increased access to federal funding, which will enhance existing program capacity, such as immigration services and English as a Second Language (ESL).

Montana is facing a skilled labor shortage and an aging workforce. Many small businesses are currently unable to find the staff they need to thrive and grow. 

Missoula has had a long history of promoting peace. We have an opportunity to be a leader in this humanitarian cause.

For More information about refugee resettlement, check out these websites:

Embrace Refugees

Welcoming Refugees

International Rescue Committee

International Rescue Committee FAQ About Refugees and Resettlement

Refugee Council U.S.A. History of the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program

Refugee Admission Statistics by Country

Office of Refugee Resettlement

US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration

US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Cultural Orientation Resource Center Resource Library


All photography courtesy of the International Rescue Committee (IRC).