Resources, Programs & Services For Immigrants and Refugees

Page updated on Sep 13, 2021 at 9:11 AM

The City of Alexandria is home to more than 150,000 people from a rich diversity of backgrounds. The City is committed to providing a wide range of effective and essential safety net services to improve or maintain the well-being, safety and self-sufficiency of all its residents—including the hundreds of refugees and immigrants we welcome into our community every year. Learn about immigrants and refugees in Alexandria and City services, programs and resources to support them below.


Afghan Refugee Arrivals Information and Resources 

The U.S. is evacuating U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and at-risk Afghans from Kabul, including Afghans who served alongside American troops, diplomats and other government employees to advance U.S. military and diplomatic goals. Evacuees are being flown from Kabul to locations throughout the world for processing and screening, including Bahrain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkey, the UAE, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan. 

Those who are U.S. citizens are receiving emergency repatriation services and being flown back to locations in the U.S., including Dulles airport, where they are offered various support services.

Currently, it is believed that many of the Afghan evacuees will settle in the U.S., including Alexandria, under Special Immigrant Visas, which are given to Iraqi or Afghan nationals who have been employed by the U.S. Armed Forces as a translator or interpreter, or has been employed by a contractor of the United States government overseas. SIVs are eligible for the same resettlement benefits as refugees for up to eight months after arrival. They arrive with legal permanent resident status and can apply for citizenship after five years.  

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE THE AFGHANS TO GET TO THE U.S.?

It is currently unclear how long it will take to process the tens of thousands of evacuees. U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and Afghans who already hold an SIV are able to enter the U.S. at any time. However, it is likely that many of the evacuees are at various points in the SIV application process and it is unknown how long it will take the State Department to process their cases. 

While the great majority of refugees and future SIV holders are currently overseas and may not arrive for some time, some Afghan refugees and SIV applicants have arrived in the U.S. Those arriving in Northern Virginia were initially placed at NOVA Annadale but are now being located at the Dulles Expo Center, from where they are transferred for case processing at military bases like Fort Lee in Richmond and Fort Bliss in Texas. Of those processed at Fort Lee, only a handful decided to stay in Virginia so far.

What happens when the Afghans arrive? 

Once an evacuee receives an SIV, they can come to the U.S., where they will be served by a network of local resettlement agencies—in Northern Virginia, these are Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and Ethiopian Community Development Council—who have a cooperative agreement with the Department of State to provide specific services and assist with expenses during a refugee’s first eight months in the United States.   

Initial support after arrival includes: 

  • securing housing for the family  

  • picking up the family at the airport (or Fort Lee)  

  • arranging a home setup  

  • ensuring a culturally appropriate meal and a week’s worth of groceries are ready for the family in the home when they arrive  

During the next eight months, resettlement agencies provide continued support, such as: 

  • enrolling in employment services 
  • registering youth for school 

  • applying for Social Security cards 

  • enrolling in Medicaid 

  • medical referrals 

  • youth case management 

  • Mentoring 

  • connecting to necessary social or language services   

In coordination with publicly supported refugee service and assistance programs, resettlement agencies focus on assisting refugees to achieve economic self-sufficiency through employment as soon as possible after their arrival in the United States; refugees receive employment authorization upon arrival and are encouraged to become employed as soon as possible.  

How do services and programs provided by the City help? 

City services, programs and schools work closely with the resettlement agencies to provide support, such as facilitating Medicaid enrollment, finding employment, enrolling in school and connecting to social services. In addition, the City offers a wide range of services to immigrants and refugees; learn more about these programs and services and how to access them below.

How can Alexandria residents help? 

Immediate support needed by the resettlement agencies includes:

Volunteer Alexandria is also collecting supplies. The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is coordinating with the Department of Defense to provide support to incoming refugees at military bases; those wishing to support or donate to those efforts should visit the VOAD website for opportunities.  Additional volunteer and support opportunities are listed below. Check back frequently for updates.


Highlights of Resources, Services, News and Upcoming Events

  • The DC Bar Pro Bono Center is holding a Virtual Immigration Legal Advice and Referral Clinic September 20-23, which is open to anyone with U.S. immigration law questions, regardless of residency; you don't need to live in D.C. to utilize this free service. Call 202.780.2573 between 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. to be connected with a pro bono attorney for brief legal advice only. Representation will not be provided through this service. Learn more about the upcoming clinic and access flyers for the event in Amharic, Spanish, English and other languages. 

  • Arlington Community Outreach Program Citizenship Classes are open for enrollment. The free, virtual classes are open to both Arlington and non-Arlington residents.  Contact Susan at sstolpe@arlingtonva.us or 703.228.1198 with any questions or to register
  • Afghan Women’s Group is offered through ECDC on Zoom. This group provides an opportunity to make friends and gain support during the resettlement process and learn tips on living in the United States as an Afghan woman. Register online
  • The Career Pathways Program is actively enrolling new participants in their employment services program for refugees, SIVs, and approved asylees. Enrollees receive employment assistance with resume development, interviewing practice, case management. For more information check the website or email savannah.hill@alexandriava.gov.
  • The City of Alexandria, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and local preschool providers are working together to connect qualifying families to a free or low-cost educational program. Alexandria residents with a child turning four by September 30 can learn more information by visiting the ACPS website.
  • Lutheran Social Services is looking for more mentors for refugee youth and families. Now that mentoring is fully remote, you can do so from wherever you live! See the website for details or contact Debi Kant at kantd@lssnca.org.
  • Adult Dental Service. Dental Services for Adults covered under Medicaid will now be offered through DentaQuest starting July 1. For more information visit vahealthcatalyst.org/AdultDentalBenefit.

  • Asylee Assistance for Mandarin Speakers. Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington now has a Mandarin-speaker on staff that can assist Uyghur asylees in need of services. Ms. Lee can be reached at chia.lee@ccda.net or 571.469.2728.

  • Good Neighbor Partner Program. LSSNCA’s Good Neighbor Partner is now recruiting organizational and congregational partners to help welcome refugees to the DMV. To ease this transition and provide an extra layer of care and support, LSSNCA matches families with local congregations and groups as Good Neighbor Partners. For more information contact Shelby Kruczek kruczeks@lssnca.org. 

  • USCIS is no longer applying the Trump administration’s Public Charge Final Rule: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is no longer applying the has returned to applying the public charge inadmissibility statute consistent with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance. In other words, an applicant’s receipt of Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are no longer considered as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination. Learn more and access a set of FAQs at alexandriava.gov/DCHS.

  • Updated student financial aid eligibility coming August 2022: House Bill 2123, sponsored by Delegate Alfonso Lopez, and Senate Bill 1387, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko, make any student eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. This law will take effect August 1, 2022.

  • Medicaid has expanded coverage eligibility for certain Lawful Permanent Residents: Effective April 1, 2021, a qualified Lawful Permanent Resident who entered the U.S. on or after August 22, 1996, and who has resided in the U.S. for at least five years is no longer required to have any qualifying quarters of work to receive full Medicaid benefits. Lawful Permanent Residents who previously were ineligible due to not having required working quarters are encouraged to reapply online or call CoverVA at 855.242.8282.


Immigrants and Refugees in Alexandria

The City of Alexandria is home to more than 150,000 people from a rich diversity of backgrounds. The City is committed to providing a wide range of effective and essential safety net services to improve or maintain the well-being, safety and self-sufficiency of all its residents—including the hundreds of refugees and immigrants we welcome into our community every year.

According to New Americans in Alexandria, a 2018 report, immigrants make up 28 percent of the city’s overall population and represent 32.3 percent of the city’s working age population and 30.5 percent of its employed labor force. More than half of the city’s population growth in between 2011 and 2016 is attributed to immigrants. Below are a few more highlights from the report.

   



Resources, Programs and Services for Immigrants and Refugees

Below are services and programs provided by the City as well as collaborative partners, nonprofits and other organizations working to improve lives in our community.

Safety Net and Financial Assistance Services

The Department of Community and Human Services provides a range of services and programs to assist Alexandria residents, including immigrants and refugees, experiencing needs such as a housing crisis, medical or disability needs, or needing assistance with purchasing sufficient clothing or food for their household. You can apply online for many of the benefits listed below using  Common Help. For a complete list of services, visit alexandriava.gov/DCHS

Employment

The City of Alexandria’s Workforce Development Center (WDC)  assists individuals and businesses with their employment needs. Offering services including Career Readiness Workshops, individualized case management,  assistance with Training and Certifications, and Hiring Events open to the public, the WDC is a Certified One Stop Center for all employment services.  

There are multiple programs offered at WDC that can assist with training and certifications. Many of these programs have eligibility requirements. All of these programs have the goal of securing livable-wages so that individuals are self-sufficient through employment. Some example of these programs:

  • SNAP-ET supports Education and Training goals for individuals receiving food assistance through the  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

  • VIEW is the Virginia Initiative for Education and Work; this program assists Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients. 

  • WIOA is the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act; This federally funded program supports Adults and Youth through case management and career coaching in order for participants to reach their career goals.

 WDC also collaborates with onsite employment partners to provide additional program:

  •   Upwardly Global: Upwardly Global’s mission is to eliminate employment barriers for skilled immigrants and refugees, and integrate this population into the professional U.S. workforce. This partner offers employment services including online courses, an Employment Advisor in your industry of experience and networking opportunities for skilled immigrants

  • Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) offers employment support including resume assistance, translation services, and pre-employment training for refugees within the first 5 years of resettlement.

  • Virginia Employment Commission (VEC): Through the VEC and the Virginia Workforce Connection, job seekers can search for jobs, take career assessments, and research local labor market data. 

  • Melwood Jobs assists individuals of differing abilities or those with long term unemployment   with career exploration, case management, and job placement and retention services.  

Support Groups Include:

  • Women Immigrant Socio-economic Empowerment (WISE) group meets the last Friday of every month. The goal of this group is to encourage  women immigrants through empowering them through the resettlement process. For more information please contact Tempestt Boulware at 703.746.5871 or Lillian Correa at 703.746.5868. 

  • Ethiopian Community Development Council (EDCD) holds monthly support groups for Afghan women. The goal is to introduce women to other newly arrived women, discuss resettlement challenges and offer tips for living in the United States. For more information please contact Emily Bayens at 703.685.0510 ext. 266. 

English as a Second Language (ESL)

There are multiple options for English Language Learners in the City of Alexandria. Some options include:

  • The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV) focuses on teaching adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English so they can access employment and educational opportunities and more fully and equitably participate in the community.

  • Alexandria City Public Schools offers an Adult English Learners Program consisting of 6 levels of reading, writing, speaking, and listening in sessions held daily in the morning and evening.

  • Northern Virginia Community College offers the American Culture & Language Institute (ACLI).  ACLI helps students achieve their goals of language proficiency for self-improvement, academic studies, and professional development. 

  • Forum Intensive English Center also offers English classes including 7 intensive levels ranging from basic to college preparation. 

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS)

Students are admitted to ACPS programs without regard to immigration status. Below are a few of the ACPS resources that may be of help to immigrants and refugees. For a full list of programs and services, visit www.acps.k12.va.us.

  • Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Center.  The FACE Center involves families in the educational experience of students. Through free information, resources, workshops and fun activities for students and their families, FACE helps connect families to the academic achievement of their children.

  • Free and Reduced Lunch Program. Children need healthy meals to learn. ACPS Nutrition is pleased to offer FREE Breakfast and/or Lunch for eligible students, regardless of citizenship status, as part of the federally funded National School Lunch Act and Child Nutrition Act, and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). Learn more about the program and eligibility guidelines.

  • Anne R. Lipnick Special Education Parent Resource Center.  The Anne R. Lipnick Special Education Parent Resource Center (PRC) assists parents to become partners in their child's education. Focusing on the child's needs, we promote training parents to be advocates for their children while establishing cooperative partnerships between families and schools.

Children and Parenting

Immigrating to the U.S. can be a traumatic and difficult experience for both parents and children. In addition, parenting culture in the U.S. can be new and confusing to some immigrants and refugees. Below are resources for parents and children as they adapt to life in the U.S.

  • Center for Children and Families. Programs and services for children, youth and families. 

  • RAISE. Includes resources for dealing with childhood trauma and information about Alexandria’s Trauma-Informed Care Network.

Health and Wellness

Adults With Disabilities and Older Adults

Aging and Adult Services offers a wide range of programs for older adults and adults with disabilities with special emphasis given to those who have a low income. Services range from financial assistance, rent relief, transportation and help finding employment to caregiver resources and food delivery. For a complete list visit alexandriava.gov/Aging.

Public Safety

Learn more about the agencies and programs that help maintain the safety and overall quality of life for all Alexandrians, including immigrants and refugees. 

Public Charge Rule 

United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is no longer applying the August 2019 Public Charge Final Rule. As a consequence, among other changes, USCIS will apply the public charge inadmissibility statute consistent with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance. In other words, USCIS is not considering an applicant’s receipt of Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.

On March 9, 2021, the Seventh Circuit lifted its stay and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois’ order vacating the Public Charge Final Rule went into effect. When the vacatur went into effect, USCIS immediately stopped applying the Public Charge Final Rule to all pending applications and petitions that would have been subject to the rule. USCIS continues to apply the public charge inadmissibility statute, including consideration of the statutory minimum factors in the totality of the circumstances, in accordance with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance that was in place before the Public Charge Final Rule was implemented. In addition, USCIS will no longer apply the separate, but related, “public benefits condition” to applications or petitions for extension of nonimmigrant stay and change of nonimmigrant status.

Therefore, receiving Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), or federally-subsidized housing no longer impacts an immigrant’s application for Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status. In addition, factors such as an immigrant’s medical history, age, income and assets, education level, family size, and English proficiency are no longer considered. Immigration officials will now use the 1999 public charge interim field guidance, which only considers income-maintenance benefits, including SSI, TANF, and state/local cash assistance programs, as well as institutionalization for long-term care funded by the federal government.

To learn more about the rule, see Public Charge Rule FAQs.

Refugee Resettlement Agencies

There are three main Refugee Resettlement Agencies serving the Northern Virginia region. These include Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, and the Ethiopian Community Development Center. The purpose of these organizations is to assist refugees with their resettlement into the United States. Services include Reception and Placement in which families are met at the airport upon arrival, provided housing and  Welcome Money, and assisted with cultural orientation to living in the United States. Additionally, these agencies provide employment services to improve the self-sufficiency of individuals through employment.  More information can be found on each agency’s website:

Community Partners

Below are some community organizations that provide services to immigrants and refugees. We are always adding to this list, so check back for new additions.

  • Alexandria Housing Development Corporation. AHDC provides reduced-rent apartments for lower-income households in Alexandria. As well, AHDC provides some additional resident services to current residents. Most rental units go for a few hundred dollars less every month than many market-rate counterparts. 

  • Alive! ALIVE! provides basic needs support to residents, regardless of citizenship status, who need food, monetary assistance, housewares and furniture. The organization also offers a certified Child Development Center preschool for children ages 3-5 on a sliding fee scale. 

  • Casa Chirilagua. “Chirilagua” is the name given to the Arlandria neighborhood in Alexandria by its Central American residents. Casa Chirilagua provides ESL and Spanish literacy classes, after school and college preparation programs and more.

  • Just Neighbors. Just Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that offers expert immigration legal services to at-risk immigrants, refugees and asylees in Virginia. In a small, compassionate and welcoming environment. Just Neighbors attorneys and volunteers focus on the pressing immigration needs of individuals and families, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as securing proper legal status, obtaining work authorization, and advocating on behalf of immigrants in Virginia. 

  • MAP Clinics. A network of weekly health care clinics that provide community-based health care to uninsured or underinsured residents, regardless of citizenship status, using an interprofessional treatment team approach. Visit the MAP Clinic website for a  list of clinic locations and hours.

  • Tenants and Workers United. Programs supporting working class communities, people of color, immigrants, youth and women. 

City of Alexandria Immigration Enforcement FAQs

Read the City’s Immigration Enforcement Frequently Asked Questions.

Volunteer Opportunities 

Afghans who are arriving in the U.S. will be arriving in several locations, including the Northern Virginia area. Learn how you can help families and individuals arriving from Afghanistan through local refugee resettlement agencies and other opportunities below. Check back for additional opportunities as they develop.

Ongoing Opportunities

The City of Alexandria partners with the local refugee resettlement agencies, which offer a wide variety of on-going opportunities to support and help immigrants and refugees, including:

  • Rent to refugees

  • Employ a refugee

  • Advocate for refugees

  • Sponsor or mentor a refugee or refugee family

  • Teach English and citizenship classes or help a refugee practice English

  • Donate food to pantries, household goods

  • Serve in free medical clinics

  • Job coach and mentor

For more information on these and other opportunities, visit:

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