Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

All migrants and refugees are protected, embraced and empowered in a world of just and welcoming communities.

aka LIRS   |   Baltimore, MD   |


As a witness to God’s love for all people, we stand with and advocate for migrants and refugees, transforming communities through ministries of service and justice. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is the largest faith-based nonprofit dedicated to serving vulnerable immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees in the U.S. Simply put, we resettle refugees, reunite children and parents, and rekindle the American Dream. For more than 80 years, LIRS has been a champion for migrants and refugees from around the globe. Our history reflects our own deep immigrant roots and passionate commitment to welcoming newcomers, especially those who are most in need.

Ruling year info


President and CEO

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah

Main address

700 Light St

Baltimore, MD 21230 USA

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NTEE code info

International Migration, Refugee Issues (Q71)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (R01)

Human Service Organizations (P20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Refugee and Migrant Services

To people who have been forced to leave their homelands to start new lives in the United States, LIRS promises lasting support. Our work touches the lives of immigrants and refugees from arrival through employment in a meaningful career. Every moment on the journey is part of what we call “the long welcome.” Since 1939, that is what we do.

In partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), LIRS is one of nine national agencies authorized to resettle newly arriving refugees to the United States. As one of the oldest and largest agencies, our national network consists of local nonprofits across the country working to help refugees secure homes, work, and essential community resources.

The Preferred Communities Intensive Case Management program is a client-centered program that empowers the most vulnerable to achieve their highest degree of independence through education, individualized/trauma-informed case management, and holistic community integration support. Funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), this program serves our most vulnerable refugee and other ORR-eligible populations by providing critical interventions for clients within their first five years after arrival.

LIRS provides employment and case management services to refugees, asylees, and other immigrants with the goal of economic self-sufficiency through employment within six months of enrollment.

In partnership with corporate foundations and private donors, LIRS’ New American Pathways program provides career upskilling and advancement to refugees and other immigrants around the country, allowing them to move from “survival” jobs into meaningful careers. Through Refugee Career Pathways, LIRS assists refugees in the advancement of their educational and career goals through activities like career counseling, mentorship, and internships.

LIRS holds a contract with the ORR Technical Assistance provider, Switchboard, to provide training and expertise around refugee employment and economic empowerment. LIRS publishes resources, conducts webinars, and creates blog posts and podcasts to support local resettlement providers.

LIRS coordinates services for asylum seekers at the southern border, departing immigration detention, and at their final destinations, including the provision of necessities such as food, clothing, and hygiene supplies, medical triage and basic care, Know Your Rights counseling, emergency housing, and case management services.

LIRS works with a network of organizations and congregations that provide support to migrants in detention through visitation and letter-writing.

Population(s) Served
Migrant workers
Asylum seekers

At LIRS, we believe compassion is the best policy. Our programs for vulnerable children emphasize safety and trauma-centered care. Our depth of experience and expertise have made us a trusted partner of the U.S. government, and we are honored to play a leading role in uniting unaccompanied immigrant children with their families.

Safe Release Support staff are dedicated to the protection of migrant children. They start with background checks of potential guardians. From there, they work with guardians to identify their needs and connect them with necessary services, such as pro bono legal counsel, English language classes, job training, and health care.

Transitional Foster Care (TFC) nurtures particularly vulnerable children who will be united with their families. All children in the program — including minors under the age of 12, pregnant or parenting youth, young people with disabilities, and sibling groups — receive one-on-one assessment and counseling, holistic support ranging from education to legal services to health care, and access to religious services.

For unaccompanied children who have no identified caregiver and who are eligible for legal immigration protections, LIRS provides Long Term Foster Care (LTFC). These children stay in the program until their immigration case is resolved. Then they typically transition into the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program.

In the name of protection and empowerment, LIRS places unaccompanied refugee minors (URM) from all over the world in foster care, group homes, and semi-independent living settings. We also work with affiliates who provide services to support the acculturation and integration of children into communities all over the country. LIRS gives URM, most of whom enter the program between the ages of 15 and 17, the option of receiving the support of a foster family or working toward independence in a group-home setting.

For particularly vulnerable unaccompanied children, LIRS offers community-based case management services. Our Home Study and Post-Release Services program includes connecting families to community resources and empowering families with the resources and knowledge they need to make informed decisions about schooling, legal representation, health care, and recreational and religious services.

Population(s) Served
Refugees and displaced people
Refugees and displaced people
Children and youth

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships 2021

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Basic human needs—developing sustainable approaches for migrants and refugees to access food, health, housing and jobs

Protection and justice—ensuring that policies and programs are just and protective of migrants and refugees who face the greatest risks, and that human rights are advanced through providing legal services, advocating for legal reform and pursuing systems change

Children and families—providing care and protection, promoting family unity, strengthening international families

Integration—building welcoming and inclusive communities that reach out to those at risk

Leadership and influence—acting and speaking with courage and integrity, building capacity and supporting the leadership of others

Long-term integration--The initial welcome of migrants and refugees is essential, but our decades of experience indicates that the “long welcome” of newcomers over time is necessary to attain and sustain mutual integration.

Social Capital of Communities--LIRS is committed to ensuring that the human side of our mission--social engagement--is bolstered as connections are forged.

Robust National Network--By working through our network partners across the US, LIRS seeks to improve not just the quality of services migrants and refugees receive, but also the communities they join. This includes everything from work and education, to changing the national discourse around immigration.

LIRS has welcomed more than 500,000 refugees to the United States through the initiative of Lutheran congregations that inspired our formation in 1939, and Lutheran and other churches remain our vital partners as we continue to welcome newcomers. Informed by our faith and decades of experience with migrants and refugees, we have responded to people caught in conflict and facing persecution. We have developed new service programs, birthed new service organizations, and influenced public policy in the best interests of those we serve. Our areas of expertise include children's services, community integration, refugee resettlement, and access to justice.

In 2013, LIRS accomplished the following:
- 9,746 refugees fleeing persecution were welcomed into US communities
- 1,160 vulnerable children were connected to support services and placed into safe, loving environments
- 16,743 adults were provided support services to enable children to be reunited with their families safely and quickly
- 248 detained survivors of torture took their first steps to safety and freedom by connecting with a lawyer
- 3,212 refugees were connected to services and resources that will enhance their opportunities to make a living in the US
- 14,631 refugees were provided interest-free loans and financial counseling as they worked toward establishing good credit and financial stability

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    For more than 80 years, LIRS has been a champion for migrants and refugees from around the globe. Our legacy of compassionate service has made a difference in the lives of more than 500,000 people who have sought safety and hope in America’s communities. Our history reflects our own deep immigrant roots and passionate commitment to welcoming newcomers. Through LIRS programming, we serve a diverse population of migrants and refugees fleeing persecution and instability in their home countries. Through LIRS' advocacy efforts, we serve all displaced people struggling for the safety and security of their families. LIRS resettles refugees, reunites children with parents, and supports the most vulnerable members of our communities as they navigate our immigration system.

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Following the historic evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees to the United States, many clients shared the challenges they faced in their resettlement, which demanded changes to LIRS' approach. - Clients were waiting too long to move into permanent housing: LIRS recruited and trained dozens of community-based groups to sponsor home setups and prepare new homes on-demand. - Clients were not able to access sufficient clothes and home goods for their families: LIRS leased a warehouse and partnered with a local Afghan organization to create a donation collection and distribution center for Afghan refugees. - Clients were waiting too long for assistance in finding jobs: LIRS organized a local fair attended by 40+ employers and 500+ refugees, resulting in dozens of job offers.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, It is difficult to get honest feedback from the people we serve


Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Board of directors
as of 09/02/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Ms. Elizabeth Wagner

Senior Vice President and Director, Institutional Wealth Management, Bryn Mawr Trust Company (Princeton, NJ)

Term: 2018 - 2023

Board co-chair

Mr. Eddie Resende

Co-CEO, World Trade Center Institute (Baltimore, MD)

Term: 2018 - 2023

Matuor Alier

Director for Equity and Inclusion-Moorhead Area Public Schools

Faith Ashton


Diane Batchik

Independent Advisor, Diane Batchik Consulting

Selena S Besirevic

Attorney, Feldmann Nagel, LLC

Jan Engkasser

Director, Member Engagement Strategies Thrivent Financial

Paul Erickson

Bishop, Greater Milwaukee Synod

Viji George

President, retired, Concordia Bronxville

Yared Halche

Facilitator for Mission Engagement, Southeastern District LCMS

Virginia Hultquist

Retired, Thrivent Financial

Randall Johnson

Attorney, Seyfarth Shaw LLC

John R Moeller, Jr.

President & CEO, Inspiritus

Bryn Parchman

President & CEO, Port Discovery Museum

Carlos Pena

President, Kleen Supply Company

Diana Martha Pohle

Jazz Pharmaceuticals

Dustin Plantholt

OptiMed Health Plans

Evelyn Soto

Director, Unit Operations & Programs Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Michele Speaks

Co-Chair, Warnock Foundation

Dennis Wieckert


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 6/22/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Asian/Asian American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 07/11/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.