The purpose of this document is to provide practical advice to our volunteers who are working in the homes of refugees. We will provide resources and scenario based situations to help guide you through this exciting, but sometimes challenging journey. This document will stay on our volunteer portal, but we will let you know when we update it with new information.
SELECTIVE SERVICE- 10/9/17
QUESTION: I am helping my family fill out Greencard application (or citizenship paperwork) and it asks if the male in the family is registered for selective service. What do I do?
ANSWER: Any male between the ages of 26 and 31 years of age must register for selective service, even if they have refugee status. Often, Selective Service registration is done automatically when someone gets their first driver’s license, so most people do get registered.
If you are not sure if the client is registered, you can check on the Selective Service information online website: https://www.sss.gov/Registration/Check-a-Registration/Verification-Form. You just need their DOB, name, and Social Security number.
If the client that you are working with is not registered, they can also register online: https://www.sss.gov/Home/Registration.
If the client is not registered, he will need to get a status information letter that explains why he did not register. He can also print the status information letter from here: https://www.sss.gov/Portals/0/PDFs/Status.pdf. The mailing information is on the form.
However, the letter isn't sufficient in and of itself. Technically, immigration officers can deny citizenship applications for failure to register for the Selective Service. He needs to write a letter stating that he didn't register for the Selective Service because he didn't know that it existed, that he didn't go to school in the USA where he might have been informed of his obligation, he didn't speak English when he arrived, that his failure to register was neither knowing nor willful, etc. (this is for people who need this information for a citizenship application.
IMMIGRATION QUESTIONS - 3/7/17
QUESTION: What do you do if the refugee you are working with asks you to help them with their green card? Or they ask you for help getting a relative a visa?
ANSWER: If the client has been in the country for less than 6 months, then you should tell them to contact their case worker from the resettlement agency. If the client has been here longer than 6 months, you should contact Eleanor Sullivan. She is the BIA representative at Commonwealth Catholic Charities. BIA representatives can offer immigration law advice at little or no cost, and Eleanor is the best place to start. For more information: http://cccofva.org/services/resettlement-services/immigration-services/. Unless you have immigration law experience, it is not safe for you (or the client) to provide immigration advice.
SNAP (FOOD STAMP) PROBLEMS - 3/6/17
QUESTION: What if the refugee I am working with shows me a letter that says their SNAP benefits have been cancelled?
ANSWER: This happens often. There are many reasons for this. More often than not, it is because the there is a paperwork issue. This can usually be easily fixed by calling the client's TANF/SNAP caseworker and finding out what forms need to be turned in. That said, SNAP benefits are usually very generous when families first arrive. Once someone in the family begins working, they are reduced, usually more than the family is expecting. This is often a harsh reality for a family as they try to figure out how to budget their money. If their SNAP benefits are cut due to increased, income but the family says that they don't have enough funds to pay for food, you can connect them to a local foodbank. Here is a good list of resources about food pantries in Richmond: http://www.foodpantries.org/ci/va-richmond.
AGENCIES THAT SUPPORT REFUGEES -3/27/17
QUESTION: ReR has matched me with a family to mentor or tutor. I was at this family's home and met another refugee family that needs help. Should I begin helping them, too?
ANSWER: ReEstablish Richmond receives referrals from many different sources. Our policy is that we do not match volunteers with clients unless we have a referral. Therefore, if you meet another family who needs help while you are helping the client we matched you with, please let us know. It is important for us to be informed so that we can make sure this new family is not already being supported by another agency. When multiple agencies are supporting families and do not know about it, it can often cause more chaos than help.
VISA EXPIRATION - 3/17/17
QUESTION: The family I am working for has a Special Immigrant VISA (SIV) that has an expiration date. Does this mean that they cannot say in the U.S. or that they cannot work?
ANSWER: No, the expiration date on the actual Visa does not mean that the status expires. Many employers and even SIVs are confused about this. The expiration date on his Visa just means the client had 6 months time to enter the United States. As soon as the client comes into the USA, that expiration date on his Visa no longer means anything. TheVisa now serves as a temporary green card for the client beginning from the day the passport was stamped, and lasting for a year. SIV holders are now a Permanent Resident, and as a Permanent Resident, his work authorization never expires. The problem is just that employers don’t understand that.
Social Services Documents - 4/17/17
QUESTION: The family I am working with has social services assistance but needs to provide documentation so that they can continue receiving assistance. What kinds of documentation are they looking for?
Employment Verification- Sometimes, a letter or paystub from employer will work. However, sometimes, the case worker requires a specific form to be filled out by employer. You may have to check with the case worker to find out exactly what is needed.
Proof of Residence: Apartment lease is the best. However, many places will accept the most recent bank statement or utility bill with current address on it.
Proof of school enrollment of children: You can call the school and ask them to provide a letter. However, you can also send a copy of the children's report card.
Notes about documentation and social services benefits:
If the family you are working with has had benefits cut because they did not provide proper documentation, please contact us at ReEstablish Richmond. We have relationships with case workers and can often communicate with them more quickly.
While we can communicate with the case workers, we may ask you as a mentor to help collect documentation. Your cell phone is your friend when helping with letters/documentation. Take pictures or scan documents and email them so they can be easily printed or emailed to appropriate people.
SOCIAL SERVICES CASE WORKERS - 5/22/17
QUESTION: Who are case workers at social services?
ANSWER: All refugees living in Henrico will intially be connected with a case worker from social services. This person is in charge of TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid. Contact this person if there is a problem with getting these monetary benefits.
Also, if the family receives TANF, they will 2 additional Caseworkers:
VIEW- Contact this case worker if there is a problem or question about Employment, transportation, or an emergency financial need. VIEW case workers monitor whether people in the household are working and helps make sure that they can get to work. Clients have to submit am employment verification to this case worker whenever there is a change in employment. If this is not done, they can cancel TANF benefits.
CHILDCARE- If the family has TANF, they have to be working, studying , or working towards work at least 35 hours per week. The Childcare worker will help set up and pay childcare benefits if the client is working. She will also require an employment verification form.
PAYMENT OF TRAVEL LOAN - 5/22/17
QUESTION: The family I am working with showed me a bill that they need to pay back their travels. They asked me to help them write a letter saying they can't pay the bill. What should I do?
ANSWER: Refugees who use IOM (international office of Migration) to help them arrange their travels must pay back the loan. Most refugees take out a loan to travel here once their refugee status is approved. The amount they have to pay back seems to be pretty low, and there seems to be no penalty if people pay late. Sometimes IOM will ask that they pay a higher amount each month once the family has been here for a while. If there is a good reason why the family cannot pay this increased amount, they can write a letter stating why. It is hard to find information about this, but it seem sthat writing a letter works. It is an appropriate thing for you to help the family write the letter if they need it.
DRIVER'S LICENSE - 8/1/17
QUESTION: What if my client already has a license from his/her country?
There are two options:
1) He informs the DMV before taking the written test that he has a license from home country and he would like to go straight for his license (skipping the permit). Then he can take the road test that same day, or he may wait for up to six weeks. However, if he waits to take the road test, in the time between him passing the written test and him taking the road test, he will not have any legal documentation to drive.
2) He goes for the learner's permit without the immediate license, and he must hold the learner's permit for 60 days before taking the road test.
VIEW CASE WORKER - 9/5/17
QUESTION: The family I am working with has a VIEW case worker. How can she/he help my family?
Answer: VIEW (Virginia Initiative for Employment Not Welfare) is a program that helps people gain meaningful employment. Refugee families who receive TANF money (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) must also participate in the VIEW program. Participation looks different for different families, but for most, it means that both Mother and Father must work/study/or look for work for at least 30 hours per week in order to get TANF money. Families participating in VIEW will be assigned a VIEW case worker.
The main purpose of the VIEW case worker is to help the family break down barriers to employment. They will only support things that help adults get employment. Here are some things that VIEW case workers can do:
help find and apply for jobs
help pay for behind the wheel driving lessons
once a family is working, VIEW case workers connect families to Vehicles for Change, an organization that connects families with a used car that has been inspected and is in good running order
connect to childcare (there is a separate caseworker that sets up childcare)
give client gas cards OR bus tickets to help them get to and from work
If it is an emergency, they can help pay rent and or utilities (limited to one month per year)
VIEW case workers cannot help pay for school fees or other things related to children