Frequently Asked Questions


The questions and responses below describe the work we do at the International Institute of New England and provide information on how recent policy changes impact our mission.

Common Overview Questions

What is IINE and what does it do?2023-04-14T13:35:52-04:00

Founded in 1918, the International Institute of New England (IINE) is one of the region’s longest established, largest, and most trusted non-profit social service organizations serving new Americans.

We create opportunities for refugees and immigrants to succeed through resettlement, education, career advancement and pathways to citizenship. Over the past three years, the number of refugees and immigrants that take part in our family reunification, education, skills training, job placement, and legal services programs offered in Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire has doubled.

Since 1980, we have placed more than 15,000 refugees in New England communities. Today, our Unaccompanied Children’s Program is one of the largest in Greater Boston. Our work is critical to the growth of the region’s economy. Each year we place hundreds of well-trained and ambitious immigrants in jobs at companies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

What makes IINE different?2023-04-14T13:36:59-04:00

The International Institute is a leader in creating programs and services for new Americans. Our expertise comes from more than 100 years of welcoming immigrants from every region of the world and more than 40 years of resettling refugees in New England. IINE is one of the few immigrant service providers in the region that specializes in receiving and placing refugees in local communities.

With insights from the people and cities we serve, we have created skills training and education programming that prepares new Americans for employment opportunities in New England’s unique economy.

Our staff is the first to welcome newly arrived refugees at Logan and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, we work closely with refugees in their first year in their new communities, and we provide a continuum of services to them during their first five years in the United States.

The diagram below provides a view of our comprehensive approach to serving refugees and immigrants.

Why should New England welcome refugees and immigrants?2023-04-14T13:40:50-04:00

There are compelling humanitarian, civic, and economic reasons for welcoming refugees and immigrants to New England.

Our region’s modest population growth, which is critical to the expansion of our economy, depends almost entirely on immigration. Approximately 28% of Boston’s population is foreign-born, and both New Hampshire and Massachusetts are in desperate need of people to work in a broad variety of industries. Growing the regional and the U.S. economy requires the U.S. to admit more refugees and immigrants.

The growing diversity of our population is a great strength. New Americans embrace our values, are eager to contribute, and enrich local communities. With more refugees in the world than at any point in recent history, it is critical that we welcome displaced people to our shores and support them as they restart their lives in our communities – it is not only our responsibility, but a privilege.

Those who work for IINE, volunteer with us, provide financial support, and serve on our Advisory Councils and Board of Directors often are more inspired by the people we serve, and their resilience and dedication, than they are by us. That is the beauty of our work.

How does IINE help refugees and immigrants?2023-04-14T14:43:32-04:00

Through IINE, refugees and immigrants can learn English, access life and work skills coaching, enroll in healthcare, secure jobs, reunite with their families, and gain legal assistance. Each year across our three sites in Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire, we help hundreds of refugee and immigrant families integrate into their communities and contribute to New England’s growth and prosperity.

Our services include:

  • Reception and PlacementIINE resettles hundreds of refugees each year who are fleeing persecution and conflict in their homelands. Our work with refugees forms the basis of our continuum of service. We also support asylees who are in the United States seeking political protection after fleeing persecution.
  • English Instruction – Our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Program serves more than 700 foreign-born students each year. The program offers English specific to job readiness and workplace etiquette, which equips students with the language skills and cultural knowledge needed to enter the workforce and advance their careers.
  • Refugee Employment Services (RES) – We provide employment services for up to five years from an individual’s date of arrival, enabling IINE to continue helping refugees further develop their skills, obtain better-paying positions, and advance their careers.
  • Specialized Vocational Training – Our Vocational Training Programs in Boston and Lowell, MA prepare students for careers in the hospitality and healthcare industries, which offer family-sustaining wages, good benefits, and opportunities for advancement.
  • Legal Immigration Services – Our Legal Immigration Services Program offers professional and affordable immigration assistance to help immigrants file for green cards, secure work authorizations, reunite with their families, and apply for citizenship.
  • Unaccompanied Children’s ProgramOne of the largest of its kind in the region, IINE’s Boston and New York-based Unaccompanied Children’s Program reunites unaccompanied Central American children with family members or sponsors living in the United States.
  • Amplifying Immigrant Voices – IINE’s “Suitcase Stories®” is a traveling live performance series that features foreign- and U.S.-born residents sharing stories of migration. Connecting people and bridging communities, this awareness-raising series has played to more than 5,000 people.
Who does IINE serve?2023-04-14T14:46:41-04:00

We serve Refugees, Asylees, Victims of Human Trafficking, Cuban and Haitian entrants, Special Immigrant Visa holders, Central American children and families, and other immigrants with various immigration statuses. Below is a definition of each category:

  • Refugees – A refugee is someone living outside of their country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Each refugee arrives in the U.S. with a refugee visa and is eligible to work and receive public benefits. After one year, refugees can adjust to lawful permanent status, and after five years, they are eligible for citizenship.
  • Asylees – An asylee is someone who received the equivalent of refugee status by a court within the U.S. instead of overseas.
  • Special Immigrant Visa Holders (SIVs) – Special Immigrant Visa holders have provided translation and other services to U.S. forces and government officials in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States grants SIVs a green card upon their arrival in the U.S.
  • Cuban and Haitian Entrants – The U.S. grants Haitian entrants parole status when they enter the country, meaning they may stay in the U.S. while they apply for asylum. They are eligible for many refugee services while they are on parole status.
  • Central American Children and Families – The majority of the children in IINE’s Unaccompanied Children’s Program come from the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – which are among the most violent countries in the world.  In many cases, parents left these countries years ago, found work in the United States, and sent money home to care for their children, who were often in the custody of grandparents. Many of the parents have Temporary Protective Status (TPS). Some of the children we have helped were separated from their families who were attempting to cross the southern border of the United States.
  • Victims of Human Trafficking – The 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to certify foreign national survivors of labor and sex trafficking, making them eligible for public benefits to the same extent as refugees.
  • Immigrants of Various Statuses – IINE serves a wide variety of immigrants with different legal statuses. Many immigrants participate in our English and job training programs.
Can you tell me more about IINE’s history?2020-01-03T14:01:09-05:00

The International Institute of New England began in Lowell in 1918, and an office opened in Boston in 1924. A group in Manchester, New Hampshire started resettling refugees in the late 1970s, and in 1994, the three sites consolidated into a formal organization, which today is called the International Institute of New England. IINE’s central office is co-located with its Boston services in downtown Boston.

We are the oldest organization exclusively serving refugees and immigrants in New England. We welcomed Eastern Europeans in the 1920 and 30s, persecuted people fleeing Europe after World War II, displaced persons from the former Soviet bloc and Cuba in the 1950s and 60s, Cambodians and Vietnamese in the 1970s, and Central and South Americans and families from Asia, the Middle East and Africa during the past several decades.

People from all over the world have benefited from our services and graced our lives during the past century. We watch with pride as the people we serve make enormous contributions to civic and community life in New England.

How is IINE funded?2023-04-14T14:49:09-04:00

The work of the International Institute of New England is considered by the federal government as a public-private partnership. Each year, IINE receives 50-60% of its funding from public sources and works to raise 40-50% from private sources including individual, foundation, and corporate fundraising and modest fees charged from low-cost legal services and through our interpretation and translation service, Pinpoint Translation Services. Just a few years ago, nearly 80% of our funding came from governmental sources. Our ability to shift to a model in which we seek both private and public support for our work has made IINE a higher-impact and nimbler organization that is better able to offer a broad range of services to new Americans

How do the three sites – Boston, Lowell, and Manchester – interact with one another?2023-04-14T14:50:02-04:00

IINE’s central office, which is located in Boston, provides the three IINE sites – Boston and Lowell, MA and Manchester, NH – with operational and administrative support. The structure allows program staff to focus on providing high quality case management and services to clients. Staff in parallel site programming interact with each other frequently and attend common training programs.

General Refugee Resettlement & IINE Questions

How many refugees does the United States resettle each year?2023-04-14T14:51:52-04:00

Since 1975, the U.S. has admitted more than 3.3 million refugees, an average of 80,000 per year.

Under U.S. law, the President has the authority to determine the number of refugees the United States will admit each year. In Fiscal Year 2017 (October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017), President Obama raised the ceiling to 110,000 to respond to a humanitarian crisis that has driven the number of refugees to the highest levels since the end of World War II. President Trump, however, suspended the program for four months in FY17 and reduced the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. He went on to reduce the refugee admissions ceiling to 45,000 in FY18, 30,000 in FY19, and 18,000 in FY20. These refugee admissions numbers were the lowest in U.S. history. President Biden has since reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to welcoming and supporting refugees. He increased the admissions ceilings to 125,000 for FY22 and FY23; this is the highest target in U.S. history.

Throughout these significant shifts in admissions ceilings, IINE has continued to resettle refugees. Additionally, IINE is in contact with many of our former refugee clients, who we resettled as long ago as 2007. Many routinely come to our offices for education, career, and legal services.

Why does the United States have a refugee resettlement program?2023-04-14T14:53:03-04:00

There are humanitarian and strategic reasons for the program, which the United States formally began in 1980. While not a stated purpose of the resettlement program, there are economic benefits to local communities that receive refugees.

The U.S. has led the world in formal refugee resettlement, accepting more refugees annually than any other country. The vast majority of Republican and Democratic administrations have supported the program.

Resettlement is available to the most at-risk refugees whose safety cannot be assured by any government or non-governmental institution and those with the best prospects for long-term integration. Refugees are victims of rape and torture, religious persecution, terror, and political oppression. Resettled refugees also include those whose lives are at risk because they served the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Resettlement is also a diplomatic strategy of the U.S. government. By welcoming refugees, we help U.S. allies and set an example for other countries. Turkey has more than 3.6 million refugees, Pakistan has 1.4 million, and Germany is home to 1.2 million refugees. In Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, one out of every six residents is a refugee. If the U.S. refuses to do its fair share, other countries may shutter refugee camps, causing more instability and turmoil throughout the world. Safe haven for those who support U.S. officials abroad is also critical to the safety of U.S. overseas personnel and the success of our foreign missions.

Economically, many areas of the U.S., particularly New England, need workers. Refugees work in all fields, including law enforcement, and they pay taxes, purchase homes, and start businesses. Like nearly all newcomers to the U.S., they are eager to work and contribute to the economy. A recent study showed that over a 20-year period, refugees who enter the country between the ages of 18 and 45 pay on average $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in public benefits. The refugees IINE resettles quickly find work, pay taxes, and contribute to the local economy.

How many refugees does IINE resettle each year and where do they come from?2020-01-03T14:10:32-05:00

IINE was resettling an average of 625 refugees each year prior to 2017. We experienced a reduction in refugee arrivals in 2017 and 2018, and an increase to 246 refugees in 2019. Refugees come to New England from many countries facing war and violence including Myanmar (Burma), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and other nations.

Please describe the work IINE does with newly arrived refugees.2023-04-14T14:35:47-04:00

In our reception and placement program, our staff dedicates approximately 75 hours of case management time to each refugee. Services include welcoming each refugee family at either Manchester or Logan airport and escorting them to a furnished apartment that we have provisioned with home goods, clothing and food. Within days of arrival, our staff helps clients apply for Social Security and other public benefits, arranges medical appointments, enrolls them in a healthcare plan, familiarizes them with public transit, and enrolls refugee children in public schools. Our staff works with clients to build a household budget, understand each adult’s employability, and find jobs as quickly as possible. Each client enrolls in English and cultural orientation classes.

What support does IINE receive from the federal government to assist newly arrived refugees?2023-04-14T14:55:47-04:00

It is important to understand nationwide, and at the International Institute of New England, private support for refugees dwarfs public financing. Federal resettlement funds provide a one-time cash grant of $2,375 to resettlement organizations like IINE to support each newly arrived refugee. The program allocates $1,275 directly to client expenses in order to cover rent, food, clothing, and transportation during the family’s first 90 days in the U.S. The remaining $1,100 per client is allocated to the resettlement organization to cover the professional services provided by our staff during that time. The International Institute works to raise $2,000 per refugee beyond federal funding from individuals, church groups, corporations and foundations to sustain programming and assist clients directly. In addition, many local groups and individuals contribute food, clothing, gift cards and other items to IINE, which our staff distributes to refugees and their families.

How has the increase in the number of refugees worldwide impacted IINE?2023-04-14T14:39:00-04:00

In the final months of FY22, IINE resettled more than 500 Afghan evacuees while simultaneously providing intensive case management and essential services to Haitians displaced by natural disasters and political unrest, children who crossed the U.S. border unaccompanied, and Ukrainians uprooted by war in their homeland. This human rights crisis has created an unparalleled and unexpected need for refugee services in our communities. Fortunately, it has also catalyzed vital collaboration 

Our new community sponsorship model, Resettle Together, is a collaborative effort between carefully selected groups of volunteers, and agency resettlement staff, working together under a formal agreement to prepare for and welcome refugees into their communities. Unlike a more “traditional” refugee resettlement approach, with community sponsorship, groups take on some of the core services performed by IINE’s case specialists and volunteers. This model not only adds capacity for IINE staff members who provide intensive services, but also allows community members to better understand the refugee experience and build direct relationships with arriving families.  Click to learn more about our Resettle Together program. 

How does the United States screen refugees coming to our country?2023-04-14T14:40:05-04:00

Since 9/11, the United States has had the most organized and carefully managed refugee admissions process in the world. After screening by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the U.S National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI Terrorist Screening Center, and the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security vet all refugees seeking resettlement in the U.S. U.S. security agencies have complete control over who is, and who is not, admitted to the country as a refugee, and ensure compliance with the Patriot Act and other U.S. laws restricting admission of anyone associated with terrorism.

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