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The IRC in San Jose, CA

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 San Jose 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 San Jose?

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 and immigrants in San Jose?

Our programs are designed to ensure refugees thrive in America--whether ensuring adults become self-reliant through employment or starting businesses, or immigration services to sponsor qualifying family members or become naturalized citizens. The IRC helps those in need to rebuild their lives and regain control of their future in their new home community.

The IRC makes sure refugees receive:

  • English language classes
  • Help building job, computer, and financial literacy skills
  • Community support
  • Legal services towards residency and citizenship

Our programs in San Jose: 

  • Employment assists clients in finding their very first jobs in the United States. This program offers basic job training, assistance with resumes and interviews, vocational scholarships, and weekly ESL classes.
  • Immigration not only serves our refugee and asylee clients, but also any immigrant in need of assistance. The department provides assistance in applying for Green Cards, Citizenship/Naturalization, travel documents, employment authorization, visa applications, petitioning for family reunification, and renewal applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). 
  • Anti-trafficking strives to provide timely, high-quality, comprehensive services to survivors of human trafficking as well as raise awareness and educate the public through collaboration and coordination with law enforcement and other community organizations.

What immigration services does the IRC provide to the wider community?

The IRC's Immigration Program can help you petition to bring family members to the U.S., apply for citizenship, green cards, work authorization, travel documents, and more. In addition, we partner with local service providers, libraries, and schools to conduct free programming across the region. The IRC is recognized by the Department of Justice to provide immigration legal services and our services are available to any immigrant community in Northern California.

Have more questions or want to make an appointment with our immigration staff? Visit the Immigration Program Page, send an email or call (408) 277-0255 extensions 203 or 208. 

How can I help refugees in San Jose?

There are many ways that you can get involved with the IRC’s work in San Jose. 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.

Immigration Program Internships & Volunteer Opportunies

New or Gently Used Items Needed for Refugees: We’re collecting items that help refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking and other immigrants start out on the right foot. See how you can help.

Spread the Word: Consider hosting your own fundraising campaign. Stay connected via our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, and ask others to do the same!

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

What do refugees contribute to San Jose?

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

I’m incredibly excited and energized to join the IRC team in Northern California. I realize these past few months have been profoundly challenging for our community, IRC staff, volunteers, and the people we serve, and that we are not out of the woods yet. Despite these challenges, I have heard how amazing my colleagues and friends of IRC throughout Northern California have risen to meet these challenges. So I’ll begin with a thank you, for all your support and strength during these recent months, and over the years, as a partner and friend to IRC in Northern California and refugee and newcomer families who now call California home. It’s quite clear to me already that I’m joining a dedicated and passionate team of professionals who put clients’ needs first no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Sarah TerlouwSarah Terlouw is director of the IRC's Northern California offices.

Our impact

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


individuals from refugee and immigrant communities

We help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future.

See our impact at a glance

refugees resettle across the country and rebuild their lives

The IRC helps refugees fleeing war and persecution to rebuild their lives in over 20 U.S. cities.

Learn about refugees in America

people with training to help them build careers and income.

Our economic empowerment support includes financial coaching, vocational training and asset building.

Learn more

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