Amazon announces ‘Welcome Door’ program aimed at helping refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and elsewhere

Program will provide immigrant employees citizenship assistance portal, free legal support, mentorship — and reimbursement for employment renewal fees

An Amazon facility. (File photo)

Amazon, the state’s largest corporate employer, has launched the Welcome Door program, a new initiative to provide refugee and humanitarian-based immigrant employees with additional resources and support, as well as reimbursement for Employment Authorization Document fees.

And, while the announcement of the program comes during the middle of the Ukrainian refugee crisis — and stems from that event — the program is aimed at helping anyone who has been displaced from their homeland. In New Jersey, that includes those who left Afghanistan in the past year, as well as many others.

Through the new Welcome Door program, which was announced last week, Amazon’s refugee and humanitarian-based immigrant employees will have access to several new resources, including:

  • Reimbursement for EAD renewal fees, which on average cost roughly $500 every other year;
  • A new Citizenship Assistance Portal that will fully support U.S. citizenship applications for all eligible employees;
  • Ongoing communications that will highlight policy changes that may impact an employee’s immigration status;
  • Free legal resources to help navigate immigration-related questions and the ability to connect with immigration experts;
  • Access to skills training benefits including free college tuition and English as a Second Language proficiency through Amazon’s Career Choice program;
  • Customized mentorship.

These new resources will be offered to Amazon employees in the U.S. starting next month. Company officials say they plan to expand the program globally by the end of the year.

Amazon officials say they recognized the challenges refugees face.

Helping Ukraine

In addition to Welcome Door, Amazon officials said they are supporting Ukrainians through the Tent Partnership for Refugees. Amazon is among the companies that have pledged to provide for the immediate needs and longer-term support for people fleeing Ukraine, said Veronica Rossini, acting executive director at the Tent Partnership for Refugees.

As part of that pledge, Amazon teams from around the world came together to build a new humanitarian aid hub in Eastern Europe — converting 5,000 square meters of warehouse space in Slovakia, previously used for customer fulfillment, into a facility that helps get much-needed supplies to Ukrainian refugees.

“With millions of people fleeing war and conflict in countries like Afghanistan and Ukraine, a good job is one of the most impactful ways for refugees to build a new life,” Rossini said. “I hope the Welcome Door program inspires many more businesses to ensure these incredibly talented, resourceful, and dedicated people have the tools and support they need to thrive in their careers.”

After they have arrived in their new communities, refugees often face challenges when seeking jobs and resettlement support. In addition to language barriers and limited government resources, refugees with professional experience often have gaps in their careers, which can limit their knowledge of the latest developments within an industry, according to Upwardly Global, a nonprofit that helps refugees rebuild their careers.

Ofori Agboka, Amazon’s vice president of people eXperience and tech for operations, said the program is aimed at helping refugees in a number of ways, starting with employment.

“At Amazon, we have a variety of jobs and welcome all kinds of people, and we’re proud to offer enhanced support for refugees around the world,” he said. “Being displaced from your homeland and having to start again somewhere new is challenging and emotional.

“It is an honor and a privilege to help to make that transition easier and help people start again. Across our entire business and at all levels, we’re working with refugees to secure jobs and get the support they need.”

As part of its pledge to help upskill the American workforce, Amazon recently announced a commitment to fully fund college tuition, books and fees, as well as high school diplomas, GEDs, college preparatory courses and English as a Second Language proficiency certifications, for its front-line hourly employees though the Career Choice program.

Employees who have been with Amazon for as little as 90 days are now eligible to begin this program and can participate for an unlimited time as long as they remain Amazon employees.