Refugee - Immigration Status Requirements

Revised May 12, 2020


This section describes immigration eligibility requirements for an applicant to receive refugee cash assistance (RCA) benefits. 

WAC 388-466-0005  Immigration status requirement for refugee cash assistance.

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-466-0005 

For general information on refugee cash assistance (RCA) eligibility see WAC 388-466-0120WAC 182-507-0130 and PROGRAM SUMMARY, WAC 388-400-0030 (2)(a) and (b) for RCA and WAC 388-400-0035  (2)(a) for RMA.

Important Terms

  1. Refugee Assistance began in 1975 as the “Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program” under the authority of the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. The Refugee Act of 1980 broadened the program to cover all persons, regardless of national origin, who enter the U.S. to escape persecution. Program benefits are completely federally funded and include cash (RCA) and medical (RMA) assistance and social support services.
  2. Refugee - a person who is forced to flee their home country and is unwilling or unable to return because of persecution or well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Refugee status is granted to a person by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides whether the applicant can be admitted into the U.S. as a refugee. Refugees arrive to the United States through the Department of State’s Refugee Admissions Program.
  3. Amerasian - a person born in Southeast Asia of an American parent and a native parent and who has been granted qualifying status by the USCIS. When this term is used as an immigration status category for RCA/RMA benefits, it includes spouses and children of Amerasians.
  4. Asylee - a person who is physically present in the U.S. and has been granted political asylum through the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the USCIS. An applicant for asylum does not meet the immigration status requirement for Refugee Assistance until their asylum application has been granted.
  5. Parolee - a person who was granted permission to enter the U.S. for humanitarian or public interest reasons. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the discretion to grant Parolee status and may revoke it at any time.  A person granted parolee status under section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) does not qualify as a refugee.
  6. Lawful Permanent Resident - a person granted the right to reside permanently in the U.S. as an immigrant by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS. Refugees are required to apply for permanent resident status one year after their date of entry into the U.S.
  7. Refugee Resettlement Agency - a private agency that enters into an agreement with the U.S. Department of State to provide for the reception and initial placement of refugees. Assistance to refugees may include social services, cash, food, help in finding housing, etc.  See a list of Refugee Resettlement Agencies in Washington State. 
  8. A victim of severe forms of human trafficking (an adult or a child) is a non-citizen who has been trafficked into the U.S. and is subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage, or involuntary labor.
  • The Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) at the Department of Health and Human Services certifies victims of human trafficking.  Adult victims of human trafficking (age 18 and over) who are certified can receive federally funded services and benefits to the same extent as refugees.

To receive certification, an individual must:

  • Be a victim of human trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2009;
  • Be willing to assist with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; and
  • Have completed a bona fide application for a T visa, or have received Continued Presence status from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Child victims of human trafficking (under age 18) are immediately eligible for benefits after they receive a “letter of eligibility” from OTIP.  They do not need to apply for a T visa or Continued Presence status. 
  1. Cuban and Haitian Entrants are defined as:
    1. Any individual granted parole status by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a Cuban/Haitian Entrant (Status Pending) or granted any other special status subsequently established under the immigration laws for nationals of Cuba or Haiti, regardless of the status of the individual at the time assistance or services are provided; and
    2. Any other national of Cuba or Haiti
      1. who:
        1. was paroled into the U.S. and has not acquired any other status under the INA;
        2. is the subject of exclusion or deportation proceedings under the INA; or
        3. has an application for asylum pending with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and
      2. with respect to whom a final, non-appealable, and legally enforceable order of deportation or exclusion has not been entered. 45 CFR § 401.2.

Cuban and Haitian Entrants, along with Cubans in certain other categories, are eligible to apply for adjustment of status after one year in the U.S., at which time a full medical exam is required by USCIS.​

  1. Special Immigrant Visa Holders (SIVs) are Iraq and Afghanistan nationals who served with the U.S. government in their home countries, were granted special status by the U.S. Department of State, and are admitted to the U.S.  After admission into the U.S., all SIVs are granted Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status.  They may arrive through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and receive initial reception and placement services from a refugee resettlement agency. 

Refugee Documentation

The following documents are acceptable proof of an applicant’s refugee status and their entry date into the U.S.:

  1. I-94 Arrival/Departure card or computer print-out of an I-94 form, or a foreign passport noting that the individual has been admitted
    1. Under Section 207 of the INA; or
    2. With admission codes RE-1, RE-2, RE-3, RE-4, RE-5; or
    3. With Visa 92 (V-92).
  2. Transportation letter issued to a refugee at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; or
  3. I-766 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with code A03A04, or 274a.12(a)(3); or
  4. Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card (or Green Card) with code RE6, RE7, RE8, RE9; or
  5. Form I-571 Refugee Travel Document; or
  6. Any other proof issued by USCIS or other authoritative document verifying refugee status.

Cuban/Haitian Entrants’ Documentation

An applicant must provide at least one document verifying that they are a national of Cuba or Haiti. An expired document is still valid for that purpose. Additionally, the applicant must provide proof of their immigration status and entry date. The following documents are acceptable proof for that purpose:

  1. I-94 Arrival/Departure card or a copy of the electronic I-94 record noting that the individual has been admitted under §212(d)(5).
  2. A code of CH6 on a USCIS form I-551 (also referred to as a “Green Card” or a “Registration Card”).
  3. A Cuban/Haitian passport with a §212(d)(5) stamp dated on or after October 10, 1980.
  4. I-766 Employment Authorization Document (card) with the code A04, C08, C10, or C11.

Or any other documents verifying that a person is one of the following:

  • Paroled into the U.S. as a Humanitarian, or Public Interest Parolee, or
  • Paroled into the U.S. under Sec. 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980, or
  • Paroled into the U.S. under the Cuban Adjustment Act (P.L 89-732), or
  • Applied for Asylum, or
  • Placed into Removal Proceedings under Sec. 240 of the INA.

Asylum Documentation 

The following documents are acceptable proof of an applicant’s asylee status and U.S. date of entry:

  1. I-94 Arrival / Departure Card or a copy of the electronic record noting that the individual has been admitted:
    1. Under Section 208 of the INA; or
    2. With admission codes AS-1, AS-2, or AS-3; or
    3. With Visa 92 (V-92).
  2. I-571 United States Refugee Travel Document.  This document does not distinguish between refugees and asylees;
  3. I-688-B Employment Authorization Document with the provision of law 274a.12(a)(5);
  4. Asylum Approval Letter from USCIS;
  5. I-766 Employment Authorization Document with the code A05;
  6. Written decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  The entry date will be the date on the decision;
  7. An order from an immigration judge granting asylum under Section 208 of the INA.  The date on the immigration judge’s order is the applicant’s U.S. entry date.

The date that the applicant’s asylum status was granted is their date of entry into the U.S. for purposes of benefit eligibility.

Asylum Entry Date for Family Members

The entry date for an asylee’s family members depends on whether the family was included on the asylee’s original application for asylum and whether they were inside or outside of the U.S. when the individual applied for asylum. See Table I below for clarification. 

Table I


Entry Date (i.e. date asylum granted)

Family members included in principal asylee’s application

Same entry date as principal asylee

Family members outside of the United States; I-730 process; Visa 92

Date that the family members enter the U.S.; date of entry should be noted on I-94 card or electronic record.

Family members in the U.S. not included on principal’s asylum application; I-730 process

Date that the I-730 application is approved; U.S. Department of Homeland Security should issue an I-94 Arrival/Departure card with this date; I-730 approval letter is also acceptable documentation.

Documentation for Victims of Human Trafficking

Only the original certification letter or similar letter for children is acceptable proof of an applicant’s Victim of Human Trafficking status and their U.S. date of entry. Victims of severe forms of trafficking are not required to provide any other documentation of their immigration status that confer eligibility for benefits.

For benefit eligibility purposes, victims of trafficking may have a variety of immigration documents, including an I-94 Arrival/Departure Card with a stamp showing parole under section 212(d)(5), an employment authorization document, proof of deferred action, or an order of supervision. These documents may be used in proving identity. 

For benefit eligibility purposes the individual's "entry date" is the certification date, which appears in the body of the certification letter or letter for children.

Victims of severe forms of trafficking (both adults and children) are eligible for the benefits to the same extent as refugees, providing that they meet all other eligibility requirements.

By the time of the application and eligibility interview many victims of trafficking may not yet have standard identity documents, such as a driver's license. To confirm identity in these cases, the worker should call the toll-free Department of Health and Human Services Trafficking Victim Verification Line at 1-866-401-5510.


  • Certification letters issued on or after November 6, 2001 do not have an expiration date.
  • Certification letters or letters for children issued before November 6, 2001 contain an eight-month expiration date. The trafficking certification re-determination and re-determination of eligibility for benefits must be conducted at the end of the 12-months period. 

Special Immigrant Visa Holders (SIVs)

Immigrants from Iraq or Afghanistan who were granted Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status under Section 101(a)(27) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) are eligible for assistance programs to the same extent as refugees.  Their eligibility period starts from the date of entry into the U.S. or, if SIV status was granted after entry into the U.S., the eligibility period starts as indicated on their I-551 document (also called a “green card” or “permanent resident card”).

For more information on documentation, Immigration Status codes, benefit eligibility and step-by-step process, please see desk aid Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants Benefits.

Immigration questions should follow established internal procedures. 

Worker Responsibilities -  - WAC 388-466-0005 

  1. Verify immigration status and entry date on the applicant’s immigration documentation. See CITIZENSHIP AND ALIEN - Decision Tree, for entry status designations.
  2. Retain a photocopy of the original certification letter for victims of human trafficking (or similar letter for children) and return the original to the applicant.
  3. Follow instructions in the CSD Procedure Handbook for referring refugees to the Social Service Specialist.
  4. Follow instructions in the CSD Procedure Handbook for notifying the Resettlement Agency regarding an application for assistance.
    1. The applicant must be informed that the Resettlement Agency will be contacted regarding their application for assistance.
    2. When an applicant applies for cash assistance, the Resettlement Agency notification should include a request for any information concerning offers of employment including whether the applicant has voluntarily quit employment or has refused to accept an offer of employment or a training opportunity within 30 days prior to the date of application (see Refugee employment and training servicesWAC 388-466-0150).
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