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What Federal Benefits and Services are Available to Afghan Parolees?

Photo credit: A. Oberstadt/IRC

Update (10/4/21): In response to the rapid evacuation and resettlement of Afghans, per the Afghanistan Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022, and effective as of September 30, 2021, Congress has authorized the following: Citizens or nationals of Afghanistan paroled into the U.S. between July 31, 2021 through September 30, 2022 are eligible for mainstream benefits, resettlement assistance, and other benefits available to refugees, until March 31, 2023 or the end of their parole term, whichever is later.  Note that this is also the case for spouses or children of these individuals as defined by 8 U.S.C. § 1101(b) who are paroled into the U.S. after September 30, 2022. If an unaccompanied child, as defined under 6 U.S.C. 279(g)(2), the client is eligible to apply for the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program.  For humanitarian parolees, the eligibility date for ORR benefits and services is October 1, 2021 (if the individual has already entered the community) or their date of entry into the community, whichever is later. For more information:

Note: Eligibility requirements may evolve rapidly. Switchboard will update this post as more information becomes available. For updates on Afghan evacuees’ eligibility for ORR-funded services, please monitor ORR’s Policy Resources page.

Programs and Services Available to Afghan Parolees

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Nutrition Programs provide nutritionally balanced meals to children, primarily in schools or child care settings. Through the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program, children whose families have no or low incomes may be eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals. Citizenship is not a requirement for children in Child Nutrition Programs. Consistent with Federal law, schools participating in those programs must provide school meal benefits to all students regardless of citizenship status. However, States have flexibility with regard to citizenship requirements in certain Child Nutrition Programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Milk Program. Eligibility and application information for each State can be found by contacting the State agency responsible for administering Child Nutrition Programs via the Food and Nutrition Service Contact Map.

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides eligible low-income pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding women; infants; and children up to age five with nutritious foods to supplement their diets as well as additional benefits, including nutrition education and referrals to health and other social services. Consistent with WIC Policy Memorandum #2010-4, refugee status is not considered in establishing eligibility for the program. It is therefore not necessary to determine whether or not an applicant is a refugee. Legal residency and United States citizenship are also not Federal requirements for participation in the program, although State agencies may choose to impose such requirements. For more information, reach out to your State contacts via the Food and Nutrition Service Contact Map.

U.S. Department of Education (DOE) programs: All school-age children, including humanitarian parolees, have a right to enroll in public school and to receive appropriate supports as English learners, if needed. Public elementary and secondary schools also must communicate about enrollment, classes and school programs and activities in a language that parents, guardians, and sponsors can understand (see Confronting Discrimination Based on National Origin and Immigration Status). Once children and youth are enrolled in schools, they can be supported by several programs of the Department including Title I, Title III, and Title IV.

  • Title I provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income backgrounds to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.
  • Title III helps to ensure that English learners (ELs) attain English language proficiency and meet challenging state academic standards.
  • Title IV provides financial aid programs for postsecondary education students.  These programs provide grant, work-study, and loan funds to students attending college or career school.

In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act and prior Federal pandemic recovery laws make Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds available to States and LEAs. School districts may use these significant resources to help meet the unique needs of humanitarian parolee students under provision ARP 2001(e)(2)(F).

DOE, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE): Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education. Adults can enroll in Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education programs, which provide services designed to help adult English language learners, including professionals with degrees and credentials in their native countries, achieve competency in the English language and acquire the basic and more advanced skills needed to function effectively as parents, workers, and citizens in the United States.

Health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations that provide comprehensive primary and preventive care for medically underserved populations across the country.  Services are available on a sliding fee scale with nominal fees (e.g., often $10 to $20 or less) for individuals with incomes below 100% percent of the poverty level.  To the extent they have capacity beyond serving their existing patients and fulfilling their broader obligations to provide care in their communities, health centers can provide initial tuberculosis (TB) screenings, immunizations, and other primary health care services to Afghan arrivals. To find a local health center, and to learn about current availability for health services and any applicable charges, please visit the Health Resources & Services Administration’s Find a Health Center search engine.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. SAMHSA provides additional resources via the Survivors of Disasters Resource Portal, including tip sheets in multiple languages and a disaster-specific resource collection designed to help survivors and families cope with disaster-related stressors.

Head Start promotes school readiness for children from birth to age five from low-income families, as well as eligible pregnant women. Head Start offers educational, nutritional, health, social, and other services to children and their families. Programs enhance the social and cognitive development of children and actively engage families in their children’s learning to promote success in kindergarten. As a national program, Head Start serves over a million children and their families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories. In establishing eligibility for Head Start, immigration status is not considered. Legal residency and United States citizenship are also not requirements for participation in the program.  To find a program in your area, go to the Head Start Center Locator. To find out more about Head Start resources in your state or locality, you can also reach out to the Head Start State Collaboration Office for your state:

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Labor and Education Programs: Parolees that receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) may be eligible for WIOA workforce services such as those provided by American Job Centers and One Stop Career Centers.  Prior to receiving an EAD, parolees may be eligible for WIOA English Literacy Programs.

More Resources

For more materials and information on supporting Afghan evacuees, see:

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