When leaving one home and traveling internationally for another, finding a safe space to rest can be one of the most critical concerns. In the USA, there are different types of housing. Two of the most relevant housing types for refugees/migrants include: temporary group housing in a shelter and rental housing. Many organizations provide a case worker/manager to help refugees and migrants navigate housing options (Refugees who arrive through a UNHCR appointment/referral have the right to a case manager through their appointed agency).
Some quick definitions that may be helpful:
• Temporary Shelter Housing: It is frequently temporary (30-90 days) and often in a group or school dorm-like setting. Many have ancillary requirements (i.e., residents must be working toward employment, must be enrolled in an English as a Second Language course, etc.)
• Rental Housing: Usually, this is a 6 month to 1 year agreement between the lessee and lessor. It can usually be renewed at the end of the lease term if both parties agree. Typically, there is a down payment or deposit (sometimes first month and last month’s rent) and a monthly fee for living in the premise.
No matter what type of housing you choose to pursue, it is important to not sign documents unless you fully understand what you are signing. Many types of housing have specific requirements, such as specific income targets, ages, restrictions on pets or the number of individuals who can live in a space, etc. The monthly fee for some housing options includes utilities such as water, sewage, and trash; others do not. It is important to understand the rules and regulations that go with each type of housing opportunity.
Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities:
• The lease is the most important document relating to renting (it includes the amount of your rent, your name, the security deposit information, property rules, maintenance procedures, etc.).
• Pay the rent bill before the month starts – if you don’t pay on time there will be late fees and the possibility of eviction.
Address Changes and Department of Justice (DOJ)/USCIS Requirements :
• While you have refugee status, you must notify the government if you move. Usually, you have refugee status during your first year in the US.
• You must fill out the AR-11 form within 10 days of moving, either by mail or online, for each member of your family every time you move.
• Not filling out the AR-11 may jeopardize your green card application or even your application for citizenship.
• If you are receiving benefits, you must also notify the Social Services Department by contacting your case worker at the Social Services Department.
Usually, this is a 6 month to 1 year agreement between the lessee and lessor. It can usually be renewed at the end of the lease term if both parties agree.
Temporary Shelter Housing
It is frequently temporary (30-90 days) and often in a group or school dorm-like setting. Many have ancillary requirements.