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The IRC in Seattle, WA

The International Rescue Committee provides opportunities for refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and other immigrants to thrive in America. Each year, thousands of people, forced to flee violence and persecution, are welcomed by the people of the United States into the safety and freedom of America. These individuals have survived against incredible odds. The IRC works with government bodies, civil society actors, and local volunteers to help them translate their past experiences into assets that are valuable to their new communities. In Seattle and other offices across the country, the IRC helps them to rebuild their lives.

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Who are refugees?

Refugees are people fleeing violence and persecution—in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and other countries in crisis. They are seeking safety and the chance to move their lives forward.

Why are refugees arriving in Seattle?

The United States has a long tradition of sheltering those fleeing conflict and persecution. Once refugees have been identified by the United Nations refugee agency and cleared for resettlement, the U.S. government works with the IRC and eight other national resettlement agencies to help them restart their lives in America. Out of the nearly 20 million refugees in the world, fewer than 1 percent are considered for resettlement worldwide.

Refugees may be placed in a city where they have relatives or friends, or where there’s an established community that shares their language or culture. Other considerations include the cost of living and a community’s ability to provide medical services. However, as legal U.S. residents, refugees may live in any city and state they choose.

Learn more about how refugee resettlement works.

How does the IRC help refugees in Seattle?

Our programs are designed to ensure refugees thrive in America—whether ensuring children are enrolled in school, adults become self-reliant through employment or starting businesses, or families receive acute medical care they need to recover from trauma or illness. The IRC helps those in need to rebuild their lives and regain control of their future in their new home community.

Refugees are greeted and welcomed at the airport by IRC case workers and volunteers to ensure their transition is as comfortable as possible. The IRC also makes sure newly arrived refugees receive:

  • A furnished home
  • Help with rent
  • Health care
  • Nutritious, affordable food
  • English language classes
  • Help building job, computer, and financial literacy skills
  • Education for their children
  • Social services and community support
  • Legal services towards residency and citizenship

Our programs in Seattle:

  • Resettlement: Meeting the basic needs for food, shelter and legal rights in the early, critical stages of resettlement.
  • Economic Empowerment: Protecting, supporting and improving household livelihoods and financial security.
  • Community Integration and Development: Strengthening communities and preparing individuals to participate fully in American society.
  • Health and Wellness: Promoting wellness and ensuring access to healthcare services that address physical and psychological needs.
  • Protection: Promoting durable solutions and ensuring life-saving protection of vulnerable populations.
  • Children, Youth and Education: Providing educational and developmental opportunities that build the essential academic, personal and social skills needed to succeed.
  • New Roots: Focus on food access and nutritional needs of families upon arrival in the U.S., and builds on the agricultural experience of many new refugee and immigrant families by providing access to land, materials, and education for program participants to grow healthy food.

What services does the IRC provide to the wider community?

The IRC provides Immigration and Citizenship Services to the wider community, giving both refugees but also other immigrants assistance in a range of routine immigration matters, such as applying for “green cards”, employment authorization and citizenship.

The IRC’s New Roots program is available to all qualifying immigrants in Seattle, enabling them to celebrate their heritage and nourish themselves and their neighbors by planting strong roots—literally—in their new communities.

How can I help refugees in Seattle?

There are many ways that you can get involved with the IRC’s work in Seattle. You can:

Donate: Give a tax-deductible financial contribution either via the website or sent to our office.

Volunteer Process and Opportunities: Read the steps you need to go through to become an IRC volunteer and see our current list of volunteer opportunities here.

Internship Opportunities: See our current list of internship opportunities here.

Group and Short Term Volunteer Opportunities: Interested in getting your team involved in IRC project? Click here to see list of current group opportunities.

New or Gently Used Items Needed for Refugees: We’re collecting items for newly arrived refugees. See how you can help.

Spread the Word: Consider hosting your own Fundraising Campaign (on- or offline). Stay connected via our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, and ask others to do the same!

GenR: Are you a young professional looking to become a force for change for your local refugee community? Join GenR: Seattle! Email [email protected] to learn more.

Other Ways to Get Involved: Employ refugees, connect us to affordable housing options.

What do refugees contribute to Seattle?

Once they acclimate to their new environment, refugees often thrive and contribute to their communities, building careers, purchasing homes, gaining citizenship.


Welcome from our director

We couldn’t do this critical work without help from the Greater Seattle community. For forty years, we have helped thousands of refugees, immigrants, and survivors of human trafficking from every part of the world restart their lives in Washington State. Your contributions of monetary, in-kind, and volunteer support is crucial to achieving our goal—to help as many individuals and families as possible to rebuild their lives, and reach the end of their journey from harm to home.

Nicky SmithNicky Smith is director of the IRC's Seattle office.

Our impact

In one year, the IRC and our partners in the United States helped:


refugees and special immigrant visa recipients resettle in the U.S.

Learn how refugees are selected and securely vetted to come to the U.S.

How resettlement works

refugees, asylees and other immigrants with supportive programs.

The United States has a long tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution and war.

See where we work in the U.S.

refugee-owned small businesses get off the ground.

Learn why refugees are good for the economy.

Watch our video

News and features