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Volunteer in NYC

The COVID-19 outbreak has been scary and disruptive. Yet even as we focus on keeping up with the news and making changes to our daily lives, the world’s refugees and asylum seekers still deserve our attention and support. If you would like to receive updates about our urgent volunteering and donation needs in the New York City area during this public health emergency, please fill out our volunteering application here and check “yes” to receive our volunteer newsletter.

In New York City, HIAS resettles newly arrived refugees, provides legal support for asylum seekers, and engages volunteers to extend the reach of our current services. We are dedicated to cultivating volunteerism by providing the opportunity for volunteers to share their specialized skills and further our mission to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.

What to know before you volunteer:

  • Volunteers must be 18+

  • Experience with or knowledge of a foreign language is not required for all opportunities

  • Volunteer time commitment will vary depending on volunteer opportunity

  • Each volunteer’s schedule and meeting location is unique

  • Please note that our clients reside throughout the five boroughs of New York City -- a volunteer’s willingness to travel will greatly help to meet the needs of our clients

  • We require a background check for all volunteers working directly with HIAS clients. This includes a fee which differs based on where you have lived.

HIAS Volunteers are:

  • Interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the complex lives of refugees and asylum seekers in NYC

  • Committed to assisting refugees and asylum seekers to become integrated and self-sufficient in their new communities

  • Patient, resourceful, flexible, culturally sensitive, and empathetic

  • From a wide range of professional and educational backgrounds

Interpretation and Translation Opportunities

Volunteer Interpreters and Translators

Volunteer Interpreters and Translators assist with in-person and remote interpretation and translation needs to provide ongoing support to refugees, asylees, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders.  Under the direction of HIAS staff, the primary responsibility of the interpreter/translator volunteer is to facilitate accurate, culturally competent, and sensitive communication between non-English speaking clients and HIAS staff. All HIAS interpreters and translators are required to undergo HIAS' Volunteer Interpreter/Translator training once accepted.

This role directly impacts the lives, resettlement and legal processes of our clients as they navigate the U.S. refugee resettlement, asylum, and integration process.

*Translators and interpreters spend, on average, two hours per week volunteering their time and language expertise to HIAS’ asylum seeking and resettlement clients in person, over the phone or through remote written translation.

*Languages needed: Russian, Ukrainian, Dari, Pashto, Farsi, Sri Lankan Tamil, Arabic, French, and Spanish.

Mentorship Volunteer Opportunities

On-Call Accompaniment Volunteer

On-call Accompaniment Volunteers provide support before, during, and after appointments for HIAS’ refugee and asylum seeker clients. These appointments can be part of clients’ initial resettlement to the U.S. or pertaining to their legal cases. In this role, volunteers may assist with pre-arrival and post-arrival home visits (this requires language interpretation skills, often in Russian). Other opportunities within this role include helping clients to navigate public transit in order to obtain social security cards, enroll children in school, and more.

Opportunities for this role often include:

  • Home visits (pre-arrival and post-arrival) 

  • Helping newly-arrived refugees understand the metro system

  • Going with refugees and/or asylum seekers to appointments and sometimes interpreting at these appointments

  • Assisting clients to find our office for their first intake interview

  • And more!

*This is an on-call volunteer position. On-Call Accompaniment Volunteers must be available between the hours of 9-5pm at least one day per week. Often, On-Call Accompaniment Volunteers have more flexible schedules to accommodate week-of requests.

ENL (English as a New Language) Tutor

ENL Tutors are matched with refugees and asylum seekers with varying levels of English. Students may have little to no English language skills, or may have greater conversational abilities. Through weekly sessions, concentrating on each client’s specific and unique goals, ENL tutors help refugees communicate with their neighbors, employers and service providers. This program is critical for HIAS clients’ long-term success. As an ENL tutor you would create your own engaging lesson plans, or use our tutoring materials to promote learning and cultural sharing. ENL tutors must have prior experience teaching English to non-native English speakers.

*ENL Volunteers meet with their students for two hours per week for a duration of five months.

Career Mentor

Career Mentors help refugees and asylum seekers navigate employment in the United States.  Finding a job is one of the first and most critical steps for our clients, putting them on the road to financial independence and a future career. Career Mentors may assist refugees and asylum seekers by:

  • Reviewing or creating a resume

  • Preparing a cover letter

  • Finding job opportunities via websites such as,, and LinkedIn

Professionals from diverse backgrounds are essential to help guide refugees to find an entry-level job, re-enter former professions, and upgrade current employment!  

*Career Mentors meet with their students for two hours per week for a duration of five months.