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Disaster Assistance for Immigrants

Hurricane Sandy Immigrant Outreach Initiative

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The Hurricane Sandy Immigrant Outreach Initiative report highlights the efforts of the City of New York, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and our numerous community and faith-based partner organizations to address the needs of immigrant New Yorkers impacted by Hurricane Sandy.


In order to ensure that all New Yorkers understand the types of federal, state and local aid available in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we have compiled the following resources with direct links to more information and applications, where possible. The goal of this page is to help you better understand the disaster assistance services for which you may be eligible, as well as the steps you can take to access those services.

Access the guide (in PDF) 


Am I eligible for any disaster assistance if I am undocumented?


Yes, even if you are undocumented, there are a number of resources and services that you can access. In this guide, we identify many services that are available to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. All New Yorkers are invited to visit New York City Restoration Centers where staff are present to help identify the resources and services available.


What does the term “qualified alien” mean?


The federal government classifies certain immigrants as “qualified aliens” for the purpose of providing disaster assistance services:

  • Lawful permanent residents (people who have “green cards”)
  • Refugees, asylees, or persons granted “withholding of removal/deportation”
  • Persons paroled into the U.S. for at least one year
  • Cuban or Haitian entrants
  • Certain victims of domestic violence
  • Victims of trafficking, although not “qualified aliens,” are eligible for services in the same manner as refugees

What if some members of my household are U.S. citizens or “qualified aliens” and others are not?

Some households have members with different immigration statuses – for example, undocumented parents may be living with their children, some or all of whom are U.S. citizens. These households are sometimes referred to as “mixed status.” In such cases, undocumented individuals in the household may be able to apply for disaster assistance services on behalf of their U.S. citizen children or other members of the household who are U.S. citizens or “qualified aliens.”

What should I do if I am applying on behalf of someone in my household who is a U.S. citizen or qualified alien?


  • Make it clear that you are seeking services only for your children, not for yourself.
  • Do not provide any information about your own immigration status. Information about your status is unnecessary, since you are not seeking services for yourself.
  • Do not provide any false information.

What if I have lost my identification or other documents and have trouble proving lawful status or identity?

  • It is common and understandable for people to lose documents when disasters strike. Fire, water, and wind can destroy documents. People evacuated quickly from a danger zone may not have time to gather their documents.
  • Agencies that provide disaster services understand this. Often they will relax normal application requirements about proving citizenship, immigration status, or identity.
  • Immigrants who apply or ask for help after a disaster should describe their situation. If they lost or left their documents behind when the disaster hit, they should explain this to any agency official who asks for their documents.
  • Loss of documents may affect a person’s ability to receive financial assistance and other recovery-related benefits in a timely manner. Individuals who have lost important documents or whose documents were damaged by Hurricane Sandy should apply for replacement documents (see page 12).


What if I do not speak English well and need help applying for disaster services?

  • Agencies that help disaster victims often have staff who speak languages other than English. Or they may use interpreters who can help people who don’t speak English. The interpreters may be at the disaster site or available by telephone. When interpreting services are provided, they should be free of charge.
  • New York City agencies are required to provide interpretation services, including the use of telephonic interpretation, oral or written translation services, and translation of essential public documents into the most commonly spoken languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and Haitian Creole.
  • Disaster victims should not hesitate to ask for an interpreter if they need one. They should tell the agency staff person what language they speak and ask for an interpreter.
  • “I-Speak…” Cards are available at NYC Restoration Centers.


Will accepting disaster services prevent me from being able to get a “green card” or U.S. citizenship?

  • Emergency disaster relief is exempted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from public charge consideration USCIS Public Charge Guidance
  • Getting disaster services from the government does not make an immigrant ineligible for lawful permanent residence (getting a “green card”) or citizenship. Receiving disaster assistance does not make an immigrant a “public charge.”
  • More information is available at
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