Refugee and Immigration Services

Lutheran Services of Georgia resettles hundreds of refugees each year, assisting them to make a smooth transition to life in the United States, to achieve economic self-sufficiency, and to become socially integrated into their new communities. Our Refugee and Immigration Services programs also provide supportive and supplemental services to the refugee community in Atlanta, including refugees and asylees who were not resettled by LSG. All programs are operated through our Atlanta office.

Our multicultural Refugee and Immigration Services staff consists of 12 members who between them speak a total of 12 languages. We assist refugees from anywhere in the world without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, age, or gender. We have resettled people from dozens of countries around the world, including Bosnia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the former Soviet Union, Somalia, Sudan, Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia, Zaire, and Zambia.

We take responsibility for gathering resources, finding housing and employment, and providing general cultural orientation to the refugees that we resettle. Families or friends previously resettled by LSG co-sponsor many of our refugees, with our assistance. Georgia families, churches, and civic organizations co-sponsor other families. We also accept refugees who do not have a pre-assigned co-sponsor.

LSG is one of 26 affiliate offices of the national voluntary agency, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee and Immigration Services (LIRS), which assists refugees through a cooperative agreement with the US Department of State.

Donations needed for Refugee Apartments: Wish list of household items

Click here for the Refugee and Immigration Services Intern/Volunteer Application!

Lutheran Services of Georgia resettles between 300 and 450 refugees each year. Refugees have fled from danger at home and cannot return because they may be persecuted, tortured, or murdered due to membership in a particular social group. Our resettlement program assists refugees from anywhere in the world without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, age, or gender.

We are responsible for the refugees first 180 days in the US, and most of our services are provided within the first four months. We create the refugee familys first home, help them to secure the documents they and their children need for work and school, develop work opportunities for them, and guide them through their first experiences in a new culture. Our ultimate goal is to help the family achieve economic self-sufficiency and successful integration into their new community and new country. We are all enriched as refugees make the transition from new arrivals to contributing members of our community.

Pre-arrival

When an arrival is confirmed, a case manager or co-sponsor locates an apartment and pays the deposit and first months rent. We stock the apartment with all of the furnishings the family will need, including mattresses, a table and chairs, a couch, linens, dishes, and cooking utensils. Most items are donated, many by our local Lutheran congregations.

Arrival

One of our staff or a co-sponsor greets the new arrivals at the airport (often in the middle of the night!) and takes them to their new home. We ensure that they have eaten, or know how to prepare some of the food in their new home, and that they know how to contact us in case of an emergency. They are also given a small cash grant.

Orientation

The next few days are a whirlwind of activity, as the newcomers are helped to obtain social security cards, health services, and school registration, as well as to meet other basic needs. The family is introduced to the public transportation system, and learns where to shop for groceries and other necessities. At least one additional home visit takes place during the first 30 days.

Referrals

The newcomers may be referred to other LSG programs, including English Language Instruction, Matching Grant Early Self-Sufficiency Program, and Employment Services. If they have special needs, they may also be referred to mainstream programs and services.

Becoming employed

Most important is the assistance refugees receive in finding employment that can help achieve rapid economic self-sufficiency. Our Employment Services and Matching Grant programs ensure that almost 100% of LSG's resettled adult refugees are employed within 8 weeks of their arrival. We are proud to add that some have gained employment within our agency and provide a valuable source of support and understanding to our future clients.

Funding

The US Office of Refugee Resettlement provides the funding for the Refugee Resettlement Program.

LSG provides pre-employment and job placement services both to the refugees we resettle, and to refugees resettled by other agencies who encounter difficulty locating work in Metro-Atlanta. We can assist refugees who have been in the US for up to 5 years. Once refugees are working, they are transformed from anxious new residents not sure where to turn next, to confident, dependable people who contribute economically and socially to their communities.

Refugees and asylees are legally eligible to work in the US, and have the required social security cards and I-9 documents. Refugees and asylees tend to be loyal employees who are grateful for the opportunities they are offered. The generally have excellent attendance, are often willing to work overtime, and may remain in the same job for years. In addition, their diverse backgrounds can bring cultural enrichment to your workplace.

Refugees work backgrounds vary from unskilled to highly skilled professionals. Some come to this country with extensive experience and training as engineers, nurses, physicians, technicians, teachers, and community workers. Because of differences in licensing or training, these individuals may require some additional education or training to meet U.S. standards. In the interim, most take less skilled positions.

Many of the refugees we assist take entry-level jobs in assembly, transportation, hospitality, production, and warehousing. We work with employers to ensure that the refugees and asylees we send you have knowledge, skills, and aptitudes that are a good match for your employment needs. If needed, we can assist in training and orientation of your new employee, and we can provide a translator for the initial training period (average 1 to 2 days) at no cost to company. You also may qualify for certain tax credits and training incentives.

Initial interview and assessment

This identifies a refugee's educational background and work history, focusing on transferable knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. The refugees level of English proficiency is also considered.

Pre-employment services

This begins with a comprehensive orientation that focuses on teaching appropriate work habits. Topics covered include how to engage in a job search, how to dress appropriately, and how to behave during an interview. Refugees also learn how to be a good employee, how to follow work-related rules, tips for keeping a job once they are hired, and how to resign from a job appropriately.

Job development and placement

Includes contacting potential employers and obtaining firm commitments to hire refugees to fill appropriate positions, scheduling appointments for refugees to meet pre-screened employers, assisting with transportation to interviews and drug testing as required, and assisting with interpretation services as required.

Post-employment follow-up

Ensures that both the refugee and her/his employer are satisfied with the employment match. If misunderstandings between an employee and employer are discovered, LSG Employment Counselors serve as mediators, helping the employee to understand her/his new workplace culture.

It is important that all adult refugees who are in good health begin to work as quickly as possible. There is an extremely limited amount of financial support that LSG is able to provide to newly arrived refugees. (Financial assistance provided by LSG.) In addition, most people are happiest when they are self-supporting and not dependent on others for their basic necessities.

Most refugees are not fluent English speakers when they arrive, and many speak no English at all. Some may not know how to read, even in their own languages. Few or none have been exposed to US workplaces, and they may not understand US notions of timeliness, cleanliness, appropriate dress, and appropriate behavior. For those reasons, most refugees are first placed in warehouses, in factories, or in hotels as support staff (housekeepers, dishwashers, laundry room personnel, etc.).

We applaud the employers who are willing to hire and train these new arrivals. Thanks to them, our refugees develop new skills, learn how to get along at work, and take giant steps toward becoming self-supporting.

However, these first jobs may pay low wages, may not provide any benefits such as health insurance and paid sick days, and/or may not be appropriate to full range of the refugees knowledge, skills, and aptitudes. Over time, as refugees gain familiarity with US workplace culture and customs, they often seek improved working conditions.

The Employment Upgrade Program assists refugees with work experience in the US to find employment that is appropriate to their backgrounds, and that offers benefits needed by them and their families.

Employment Upgrade also assists individuals who have professional backgrounds or higher skill levels. Through recertification they are helped to achieve employment in their areas of expertise.

Early Self-Sufficiency Program

The Matching Grant Program is a voluntary program designed to help newly arrived refugees, asylees, Cuban and Haitian entrants and some other groups attain economic self-sufficiency quickly. The program supplies financial incentives to encourage people to begin work within the first four months after arrival, without accessing public cash assistance.

In addition to our regular case management services, participants in the Matching Grant Program receive intensive employment services. Services include orientation, arranging employment interviews, job placement, follow-up and post-employment support services. Participants are assisted to set their own goals and work toward those goals.

Eligibility

The Matching Grant Program is open only to employable adults and their children. Enrollment into the Matching Grant Program must be within 31 days from the date of arrival into the country for refugees, Amerasians and Cuban and Haitian entrants and the date of the final grant of asylum for asylees.

Participants remain eligible for food stamps and Medicaid, but not for cash assistance. Instead, they receive monthly cash stipends during the job search period. The stipends more than equal what participants and their families would have received on public assistance. Stipends are paid for up to four months from the date of arrival.

In addition to their stipends, participants receive cash bonuses for finding work quickly. They may also be eligible for donations of furniture and household items over and above what we generally provide for new refugees, although this is subject to availability.

A participant in the Matching Grant Program must agree to accept any reasonable job offered, even if it is not in her or his profession. Between 85 % and 90% of participants in the Matching Grant Program become employed within 120-180 days of arrival in the US. LSG Employment Services continue to work with Matching Grant participants who desire to up-grade their jobs.

Funding

The Matching Grant Program is funded by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), and administered by national voluntary agencies, including Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). Our agency receives its federal funds through LIRS. We are required to match the ORR grant with cash and in-kind contributions of goods, time, and services from the community.

Contributions

Your contribution of time, services, cash, or material goods counts twice for LSG, and may be tax deductible for you! We will receive funds through LIRS to match the value of your contribution. For example, several people have donated used cars. We give these cars to refugees who can then use the car as transportation to a job and for their families. The Matching Grant Program receives matching dollars for value of the car, and the book value of the car becomes a tax deduction for the donor.