Cultural Orientation Objectives and Indicators

Cultural Orientation Objectives and Indicators

Refugees processed by the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) receive pre-departure and post-arrival Cultural Orientation to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to adapt to their new lives and achieve self-sufficiency. The Cultural Orientation Objectives and Indicators (O&Is) outline what is required in Cultural Orientation programming. The O&Is support a continuum of consistent messaging for refugees about life in the U.S. as well as help providers evaluate the impact of Cultural Orientation. 

Objectives and Indicators Basics

The Cultural Orientation Objectives and Indicators (O&Is) clearly outline what refugees are expected to do or say by the end of Cultural Orientation. They have been carefully selected to help providers prioritize what to cover in Cultural Orientation and reduce the cognitive overload refugees encounter during the resettlement process. 

  • Objectives describe the information refugees are expected to learn about each Cultural Orientation topic.
  • Indicators outline what refugees are expected to do or demonstrate about a specific topic. Indicators also help assess if refugees understand and can apply the objectives.

There are two sets of Cultural Orientation O&Is – Overseas and Domestic. The Overseas O&Is are repeated in the Domestic O&Is to emphasize the need for repetition in learning and to combat the spread of misinformation refugees encounter during the resettlement process. When all individuals who support refugees in resettling to the U.S. work together to deliver Cultural Orientation in alignment with the O&Is, refugees receive consistent and harmonized messaging about life in the U.S. This collaborative concept of Cultural Orientation delivery is also referred to as the Cultural Orientation Continuum (CO Continuum). 

Download the Objectives and Indicators   

Overseas Cultural Orientation Objectives and Indicators

Domestic Cultural Orientation Objectives and Indicators

How to use the Objectives and Indicators

Any individual supporting a refugee resettling in the U.S. needs to review both the Overseas and Domestic O&Is, including community guests and partners. Overseas Cultural Orientation introduces concepts to refugees for the first time that are reinforced during Domestic Cultural Orientation. Together, we create a continuum of messaging for refugees when we use the O&Is as our framework for Cultural Orientation programming and prioritize covering the topics outlined 

Go Further: Take CORE’s Cultural Orientation Defined self-paced course to learn more about how Cultural Orientation is delivered and the role the O&Is play in a refugee’s resettlement journey. 

Together the Overseas and Domestic O&Is provide the framework for Cultural Orientation programming and help you prioritize what to cover during Cultural Orientation. The O&Is are general and apply to the entire U.S. A critical role of providers is to localize the information and content in the O&Is to meet refugee needs. For example, a refugee in a small rural town with no public transportation may receive different messages about transportation than a refugee in a larger city with available public transportation. Note that how Cultural Orientation is delivered will vary by agency and organization and will be dependent on a variety of factors (i.e., resources, funding, staffing). 

Learn More: Need more guidance on how to include the Cultural Orientation O&Is in your programming? Review these tips: 

  • Use O&Is to determine what to include in your Cultural Orientation programming, and what might be covered in other services. Remember the O&Is prioritize what is to be covered in Cultural Orientation, which is meant to combat the cognitive overload refugees experience during resettlement.  
  • Incorporate CORE’s Activity Bank into your Cultural Orientation programming to create engaging sessions that are in alignment with the O&Is.  

Cultural Orientation doesn’t only take place in the classroom and refugees hear key Cultural Orientation messages at all stages of the resettlement journey. Any individual working in resettlement plays a role in communicating and reinforcing key messages about life in the U.S. 

Go Further: Explore CORE’s Whole-Office Approach to Cultural Orientation and use refugee-facing resources at various touchpoints to support and reinforce Cultural Orientation key messages.  

The indicators in the O&Is outline what refugees are expected to do or demonstrate about a specific topic by the end of resettlement. Thus, providers can use the indicators before, during, and after Cultural Orientation to assess knowledge, skills, and attitudes acquired as well as the information refugees want to learn most.  

Learn More: Explore these resources and tips on how to assess and implement effective Cultural Orientation programming: 

  • Take a student-centered approach and identify what refugees already know and what they want to learn during Cultural Orientation. 


The Cultural Orientation O&Is are approved by the Cultural Orientation Working Group (COWG) which includes members of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) within the United States State Department as well as leadership from the resettlement community. In 2020, the COWG created a task force to re-examine and update the Cultural Orientation O&Is. This task force was comprised of Cultural Orientation providers and leadership throughout the Cultural Orientation Continuum. During a multi-year process, the task force focused on alignment of Overseas and Domestic Cultural Orientation programming, inclusion of digital literacy and technology, and realistic measurability of O&Is within the 90-day time period. 

CORE’s resources for Cultural Orientation providers and refugees are based upon the Cultural Orientation O&Is. When developing resources, CORE references the O&Is and builds the resources around what refugees are expected to be able to do or say during resettlement. CORE prioritizes the creation of resources based on required topics outlined in the O&Is in combination with the needs of providers and refugees.  

Resettlement Support Centers deliver Overseas Cultural Orientation, which can vary slightly depending on the location. While completion of Overseas Cultural Orientation is not required as a condition of departure to the United States, most refugees attend overseas sessions. Local resettlement agencies deliver Domestic Cultural Orientation, which varies depending on a variety of factors including location, agency, funding, staffing, and community-based resources. Some local resettlement agencies may have full-time staff to deliver Cultural Orientation while others use a blended approach. Learn more about how Cultural Orientation is delivered by taking CORE’s Cultural Orientation Defined self-paced course.  

It can take time to become comfortable with applying the Cultural Orientation O&Is, but you can start with visiting the Provider Onboarding page. This page has tips on how to address the most common challenges that arise in Cultural Orientation delivery such as managing time, lack of attendance and engagement, and teaching a variety of learners. CORE also recommends signing up for its  Learning Platform to identify your learning pathway and grow your skills and confidence to deliver effective Cultural Orientation that incorporates the Cultural Orientation O&Is.    

Cultural Orientation providers should localize the content of the topics and information to ensure refugees receive accurate, helpful information for their resettlement process. For example, it is not helpful for refugees living in Florida to receive information about how to survive a winter storm. However, it is important for refugees in Florida to know what to do during a hurricane.  

Opportunities to deliver key Cultural Orientation messages are not limited to resettlement staff. Receiving communities, including community partners and sponsors, also play an important role in delivering key Cultural Orientation messages in alignment with the O&Is. Learn more by reviewing CORE’s Resources for Community Partners and Sponsors page