Since 1983, the HIAS office in Austria has been the first stop for Iranian minorities seeking freedom and security in the United States. Austria is needed as a safe third country for processing because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran.
Through its work as a Resettlement Support Center in Vienna, HIAS is authorized by the U.S. State Department to assist Iranian religious minorities applying for resettlement to join relatives in the United States.
Religious minorities in Iran face restrictions imposed by the government, business, and the legal system that affect their access to marriage, employment, and higher education. Imprisonment, harassment, and intimidation based on religious beliefs are common.
Roughly 1,500 Iranian religious minorities representing diverse socio-economic backgrounds with varying levels of education are approved for U.S. resettlement. HIAS provides technical assistance to both refugees and the U.S. government by processing their applications, ultimately allowing them to reunite with family and practice their religion without fear of harm.
During the time refugees must wait for approval from the U.S., an average of 5.5 months, they are not allowed to work or attend school. To prepare them for life in the United States, HIAS provides pre-arrival cultural orientation training and classes to help them navigate the social and community services available to them, and understand their rights and responsibilities as residents of the U.S.