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Resources for Immigrants and Internationals

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This page contains information and links to resources of particular interest to members of immigrant and international communities and those who assist them. To suggest other resources to be included here, please contact Barbara Murock, Immigrants and Internationals Initiative Manager, or Andy Smith, Program Specialist.

DHS is committed to providing high-quality services that are culturally competent, accessible, and demonstrate respect for individuals, their goals and preferences. As the number and diversity of immigrants and internationals has grown in Allegheny County, DHS established the Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council, composed of immigrants, internationals, and organizations that serve them. The Council advises DHS on issues of concern to immigrant and international communities and on ways to improve the accessibility and cultural competence of services. DHS also established the Immigrants and Internationals Initiative to support the efforts of the Advisory Council and additional projects that further DHS's vision of accessibility and inclusion.
  



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Resources

Many agencies and nonprofits in Allegheny County provide supports for individuals and families in need. Some offer specific services to assist immigrants and internationals and/or those whose primary language is not English.  

Click the service categories below to find related informational and community-based resources.

 



 Child Welfare

  • Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS)
    Provides technical assistance to organizations nationwide that serve refugees and immigrants so that all newcomer children and youth can reach their potential. BRYCS provides extensive information about refugee populations, free publications about serving foreign-born children, and promising practices from around the country. They have highlighted resources on topics such as child abuse and culture, childhood in transition, and how to effectively use interpreters in parent-teacher conferences. BRYCS Child Welfare Publications 

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Citizenship

  • Acculturation for Justice, Access and Peace Outreach (AJAPO)
    Assists with naturalization services, application review, application filing, citizenship classes, interview practice, and representation at naturalization interview. Contact Yinka Aganga-Williams for further details: 412-391-4985, or email: info@ajapopittsburgh.org. 1835 Center Avenue, Suite 100 & 140, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
  • Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU)
    Provides optional citizenship classes to students who sign up for regular English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the AIU. A placement test, by appointment, is required before registering for ESL classes. Contact the Adult ESL Branch for further details at 412-281-4494. 1401 Forbes Avenue, Suite 225, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 
  • Goodwill of SWPA
    Provides citizenship classes for those applying for citizenship. Classes are offered on an as-needed basis. Classes use a variety of citizenship workbooks, geared toward passing the citizenship test. Contact Michael Johnson at 412-632-1855, or michael.johnson@goodwillswpa.org or english@goodwillswpa.org. 118 52nd Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201 
  • Jewish Family and Children Services (JF&CS) Immigrant Services
    Assists with naturalization services, application review, application filing, citizenship classes, interview practice, and representation at naturalization interview. Contact Jamie Englert for further details: 412-521-1737, or email jenglert@jfcspgh.org or legalinfo@jfcspgh.org. 5743 Bartlett Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
  • A Guide to USCIS and the Process of Citizenship
    Explains the work of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and how the citizenship process works.

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Congolese Refugees

Refugee resettlement agencies in Allegheny County are beginning to welcome refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who have been displaced by years of war and conflict. In May of 2013, the DHS Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council hosted an event called Welcoming Congolese Refugees to help service providers, local institutions, and community members become familiar with Congolese cultures, the circumstances that led them to flee their country, and potential needs in adjusting to a new country. The event featured a panel of local Congolese residents and attracted 150 participants. Participants requested contact information for program presenters and other attendees who were identified as community resources to enable networking and develop plans to welcome Congolese refugees resettling in our region.

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Cultural Information

Visit our cultural information page for a collection of basic cultural information describing the various immigrant and international groups making Allegheny County their home.

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DHS Publications in Other Languages

Visit DHS’s publications in other languages page to access a collection of informational material about DHS programs and services published in languages other than English.

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Domestic Violence and Abuse

Many women who are not U.S. Citizens experience domestic violence at the hands of their significant others. Domestic violence is difficult to escape even for those with resources and support networks; it’s much more difficult when the victim isn’t aware of the services available.

Jewish Family and Children’s Services offers the following services to combat domestic violence:

  • Confidential consultations about immigration matters
  • Referrals to: shelters, clinical counseling, custody and divorce lawyers, and translation services whenever possible
  • If the client is eligible, JF&CS can represent the individual and file applications for immigration benefits including an application for Permanent Residency (green card) and/or work authorization

Resources on domestic violence:

Other local organizations that provide important support services in cases of domestic violence include Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PARR), the Center for Victims of Violent Crimes (CVVC), and the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. All can be contacted for further information or to request assistance.

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Education/Schools

Local 

National 

  • Bridging Refugee Youth and Children Services (BRYCS)
    Provides resources that help refugee children adapt to American schools—whether academically, culturally, or psychosocially—by being a clearinghouse of information for teachers, school administrators, and youth development programs.

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Health Care

Visit our health care page to access a collection of informational and community-based resources regarding health care for immigrants and internationals.

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Income Tax Return Preparation Assistance

  • United Way Money in Your Pocket Coalition
    A group of nonprofit and government agencies in Allegheny County who provide free tax preparation for low and moderate income individuals and families. Follow the link to their website or call the PA 2-1-1 Southwest by dialing 2-1-1. If 2-1-1 does not work from your phone, dial 412-255-1155. These lines are answered 24/7. 
  • JF&CS Low Income Tax Payer Clinic (LITC)
    The JF&CS LITC provides free tax-related information, assistance, and referrals with particular attention to individuals with limited English proficiency. Follow the link to their website or contact Jamie Englert for further details: 412-521-1737, or email jenglert@jfcspgh.org or legalinfo@jfcspgh.org. 5743 Bartlett Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Many additional organizations also offer free tax preparation services. Depending on the time of year and particular tax season, consider contacting the Prospect Park Family Center, Just Harvest, or your local public library.

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Language Interpretation and Translation

  • Featured Provider: Pittsburgh Language Access Network (PLAN)
    A collaboration between the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services (HDS) and several immigrant-serving agencies in the Pittsburgh area. Quality, affordable interpretation services can be acquired by calling HDS at 412-281-1375.
  • ECHO International
    Provides interpretation services and translates documents for businesses, social services, and medical needs.
  • Language Line®.
    Connects callers via phone with an interpreter. May not be functional with some less commonly found languages. Users must pre-register and pay a fee for services.
  • Languages by Nicole
    Provides a full range of language services in Western Pennsylvania and translation services throughout the United States.

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Legal Assistance

Many immigrants and refugees are unfamiliar with the complex immigration laws that regulate their immigration status. Some, including undocumented immigrants, do not seek help for fear of being imprisoned or deported. These factors, together with high attorney fees, discourage many eligible immigrants from accessing the legal services they need. Fortunately, several organizations in Allegheny County offer free or low-cost legal assistance to immigrants and refugees.

  • Acculturation for Justice, Access and Peace Outreach (AJAPO)
    Assists with visa-based and asylum petitions, including adjustment of status (green cards), status inquiries, travel documents, work authorizations, and naturalization. Contact Yinka Aganga-Williams for further details: 412-391-4985, or email: info@ajapopittsburgh.org. 1835 Center Avenue, Suite 100 & 140, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
  • Jewish Family and Children’s Service
    Offers family and immigration law assistance to low-income refugees and immigrants in Pittsburgh. Contact Jamie Englert at 412-521-1737, or by email at jenglert@jfcspgh.org. 5743 Bartlett Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
  • The Pro Bono Center of the Allegheny Bar Association
    Provides a list of the 17 member organizations of the Allegheny Bar Association Pro Bono Center that provide legal services to low-income individuals. Contact Barbara Griffin at 412-402-6677, or bgriffin@acba.org 
  • University of Pittsburgh Immigration Law Clinic
    Seeks to represent immigrants requesting asylum, facing removal from the United States, and seeking special protection under the Violence Against Women Act. Clients may include refugees, immigrant women and children survivors of domestic violence applying to change their status, persons with criminal convictions who seek relief from removal from the United States, and other immigrant populations. Contact Sheila Vélez Martínez at 412-383-9897, or siv7@pitt.edu 
  • The University of Pittsburgh also operates legal clinics dealing with other areas of law, including taxpayer, family, and health.

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Literacy and ESL Classes

  • Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU)
    Provides instruction and services that meet the needs of Pittsburgh’s diverse community of learners through partnerships and collaborative leadership. Services offered by the AIU include a wide-ranging program of Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language (ESL). Contact 412-281-4494, or adultesl@aiu3.net. 1401 Forbes Avenue, Suite 225, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 
  • Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh
    Provides English as a Second Language (ESL) day classes for adults who are non-native English speakers of all proficiency levels as well as a range of other adult basic education classes. In addition to learning vocabulary and English grammar and developing writing skills, students also learn about American culture and the cultures of other students from all around the world. Contact Michael Johnson at 412-632-1855, or michael.johnson@goodwillswpa.org or english@goodwillswpa.org. 118 52nd Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201 
  • Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council (GPLC)
    Provides a wide range of adult education services, including English as a Second Language (ESL), basic skills (reading, writing, math), GED preparation, workplace skills, health literacy, and computer skills to enable adults and families to reach their fullest potential in life and participate productively in their community. ESL classes are offered at GPLC’s downtown office and other locations throughout the area. Contact 412-393-7600, or info@gplc.org to get more information or enroll. 411 Seventh Avenue, Ste. 550, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 

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Meeting Space for DHS-Sponsored Immigrant and International Groups

As part of the effort to support immigrant and international groups in developing social support and self-sufficiency, DHS has offered to sponsor their meetings in the lower level conference rooms of the Human Services Building, located in downtown Pittsburgh at One Smithfield Street. Rooms are only for use by groups with a DHS sponsor and are made available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Public Benefits Guide

Public Benefits Guide: Some publicly funded benefits are available to immigrants depending on their needs and immigration status. Eligibility guidelines for benefits that assist with housing, food, health insurance, medical care, legal issues and income can be complex and vary depending on many factors. This guide provides detailed information regarding qualifications for many of the most common publicly-funded benefits. 

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Social Service Providers

Visit our social services provider page where you will find information about the community-based organizations that support immigrants and internationals in Allegheny County.

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Workforce Development

  • Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU)
    Provides instruction and services that meet the needs of Pittsburgh’s diverse community of learners through partnerships and collaborative leadership. Services offered by the AIU include a wide-ranging program of Adult Basic Education, workforce development, and adult English as a Second Language (ESL). Contact 412-281-4494, or adultesl@aiu3.net. 1401 Forbes Avenue, Suite 225, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 
  • Career Development Center
    Services range from career counseling for individuals to classes on conducting a successful job search, résumé writing, and interviewing techniques. The Career Development Center helps clients manage transition, clarify and reach their goals, and find employment success. Contact 412-422-5627, or cdcinfo@careerdevelopmentcenter.org for more information. 5743 Bartlett Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
  • CareerLink Pittsburgh/Allegheny County
    Connects job seekers with employers looking to hire. At the one-stop sites in downtown Pittsburgh and Forest Hills, CareerLink staff offer visitors a wide range of materials, consultation services, and on-line access to a comprehensive database of employment information. CareerLink also affiliates with Goodwill in Lawrenceville and the Braddock Employment and Training Center. Contact 412-552-7100, or visit the CareerLink Pittsburgh website. Wood Street Commons, 304 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15219 
  • Carnegie Library, Job and Career Education Center (JCEC)
    Provides job seekers access to skills workshops and classes, employment resources, and job searching tools, all at the CLP’s main location in Oakland. Contact 412-622-3133 or jcec@carnegielibrary.org for more information. 4400 Forbes Avenue,  Pittsburgh, PA 15213 
  • Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh
    Provides a wide range of job training and workforce development services to help people find and retain employment. Contact Michael Johnson at 412-632-1855, or michael.johnson@goodwillswpa.org or english@goodwillswpa.org. 118 52nd Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201 
  • Higher Advantage
    Provides resources regarding refugees and employment. Offers training, consulting, and publishing services to the national refugee employment network. As part of the national Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Higher Advantage is committed to helping refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency. Explore their website for quality information about refugees and employment.

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Glossary of Terms

(Excerpted from the National Immigration Law Center, Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs (4th ed., 2002). Last updated April 2004.) 

  • ASYLEE. A person who has applied for and been granted ASYLUM. In the United States, asylees may apply for LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT (LPR) status one year after they were granted asylum.
  • ASYLUM. A lawful status permitting individuals to remain in a country other than their own because they either have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear that they would be persecuted (on account of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group) in their home country. Technically, an applicant for asylum in the United States must meet the same legal standard as a REFUGEE. The difference is that an asylum applicant applies for this status while in the U.S., whereas a refugee is granted refugee status before arriving in the country. A person who has been granted asylum is an ASYLEE.
  • FOREIGN BORN. A term referring to people residing in the United States who were not U.S. CITIZENS at birth.
  • GREEN CARD. A term commonly used when referring to any PERMANENT RESIDENT CARD, despite the fact that it has been years since the DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY issued green versions of this card.
  • IMMIGRANT. A person who leaves his or her country to settle permanently in another country. In the context of United States immigration law, the term refers to any NONCITIZEN in the U.S. except any individual who was ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES as a NONIMMIGRANT and continues to maintain that status.
  • LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT (LPR). An IMMIGRANT who has been granted a status that allows him or her to reside and work permanently in the United States. LPRs can travel abroad and return to the U.S., as long as they have not abandoned their U.S. residence or committed acts that would make them inadmissible under immigration law. An LPR can apply for NATURALIZATION to U.S. citizenship after living in the U.S. for five years (three years if married to a U.S. CITIZEN, and one year for certain persons in the military and Veterans).
  • NATURALIZATION. The process by which IMMIGRANTs become U.S. CITIZENS. To be eligible to apply for naturalization, an individual must have lived in the United States as a LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT for five years — or three years if married to a U.S. citizen, or one year for certain persons in the military and VETERANs.
  • NONIMMIGRANT (International). A NONCITIZEN who has been granted a nonimmigrant status that allows him or her to remain in the United States temporarily for a specific purpose. There are more than two dozen nonimmigrant categories, each of which has specific requirements concerning the purpose of the individual’s stay in the U.S. Most nonimmigrant categories require as a condition of the status that the individual have the intent of returning to a residence abroad.
  • REFUGEE. A NONCITIZEN given permission to come to the United States because he or she was persecuted, or has a well-founded fear of being persecuted (on account of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group), in his or her home country. Refugees are given this status before coming to the U.S., usually when they are temporarily located in a third country. A refugee is granted the right to live and work in the U.S. and, after a one-year period, may apply to become a LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT (LPR).
  • U.S. CITIZEN. Any person, with the exception of the children of certain diplomats, who was born in the United States or its territories, certain persons born abroad whose parents are U.S. citizens who qualify for acquisition of citizenship, and NONCITIZENs who become citizens through NATURALIZATION.
  • VISA. An official authorization appended to a passport that permits the person to whom it is issued to enter and travel or settle within a particular country. NONIMMIGRANT VISAS allow only temporary stays in the United States, whereas IMMIGRANT VISAS provide for permanent residence.

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