Whether you’ve just arrived or have been in the United States of America for some while, welcome!
This article has been a long time in coming, but here it is finally.
Being an immigrant in a strange country can be very confusing and the US is no different. In fact, some services and laws can differ from state to state. With so many federal departments offering different services, it’s sometimes difficult to know who to go to for the right help.
There are in fact some financial assistance (and other types of assistance) for LEGAL immigrants, should you fall into this category.
Here’s a ‘go-to’ list of some information and reference points that may be useful to you in finding your way round and getting to grips with some of the basics, such as:
- Getting settled in the United States
- Social Security number
- Government Benefits
- Everyday life in the US
Getting settled in the United States as an Immigrant
Even if you’ve been here for a little while, here’s some information that can help you adjust to life in the United States and learn about the country, its people, it’s culture and its government.
Official publication resources for new immigrants
‘Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrant’s is a publication that’s produced by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) to help immigrants settle into everyday life in the US. The booklet is available in 14 languages so there’s sure to be a version you can use
Learn more at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=a5479ddf801b3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=a5479ddf801b3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD
One of the biggest barriers to settling into a new country is coping with a different language.
The US Department of Education (ED) provides an education program called U.S.A. Learns, which offers courses for immigrants to learn English and improve basic reading, writing, speaking, and life skills. It’s an online course so you can fit it around other commitments. This is really worthwhile and it can help boost your confidence when dealing with all kinds of life and social situations here. And best of all, it’s free!
Your Social Security number
This is important because you need it to get a job, collect Social Security benefits, and receive some other government services. Many businesses, such as banks and credit companies, also ask for your number.
The US Social Security Administration (SSA) provides information on how to apply for a Social Security number and card. This information is also available in Spanish.
You can find general information at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10002.html
How do I get a number and card?
- You’ll need to complete an application form called ‘Application For A Social Security Card’ (Form SS-5).
- You need to provide your original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency proving your US citizenship or immigration status (including Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permission to work in the United States) and to confirm your age and identity.
- Take your application and documents in person, or mail your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.
Downloadable leaflets and more information are available at https://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10002.pdf
Types of Social Security cards
There are three types of Social Security cards. All cards show your name and Social Security number.
- The first type of card shows your name and Social Security number and lets you work without restriction. This is issued to U.S. citizens and people who are lawfully and permanently admitted to the United States.
- The second type of card shows your name and number and notes, “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.”
This type of card is issued to people who are lawfully, but only temporarily admitted to the United States, who have DHS authorization to work.
- The third type of card shows your name and number and notes, “NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.”
This card is issued to lawfully admitted people but who are not authorized to work here. This third category of card is issued for those immigrants who may need the card to claim social security benefits and services.
How do I get my child a Social Security number?
Getting a social security number for your child when they are born in the US is a good idea. You can apply for a Social Security number for your baby when you apply for your baby’s birth certificate. Ask the birth registrar for advice and details.
Housing Assistance for Immigrants
Finding a place to live will be one of the first things you will want to do once you arrive in the United States. Americans are free to choose where they want to live. You can choose to rent or buy a home.
Not many people have the finances to buy a home, so you may probably want to find affordable rented accommodation or public housing.
The links below will help you learn more about housing in the United States.
- Renting a Home
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides information on renting a home and government rental assistance programs. This site is also available in Spanish.
- Buy a Home
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides tools to help you figure out how much you can afford, learn your rights, shop for a loan and learn about home buying programs in your state. This site is also available in Spanish.
- Public Housing
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides information on public housing and how to find out if you are eligible.
Who is eligible for public housing?
- low-income families and individuals.
A housing official will assess your eligibility based on:
- annual gross income;
- whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family; and
- US citizenship or eligible immigration status.
Housing Resources for People with Disabilities
Disability.gov provides disability-related information and resources to people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, educators, employers, service providers and others. This site provides state and national resources to help people with disabilities and their families find affordable and secure housing.
Find out more at https://www.disability.gov/housing
Help for Everyday life in the US
If you are a man and you are between the ages of 18 and 26 years old, you must register with the Selective Service. All men in the US, including those who have entered the country through immigration, must take part. The Selective Service System website provides information about how to register and what you can expect.
Find out more at http://www.sss.gov/default.htm
Apply for and renew a driver’ license
Even if you held a driver’s license in your original country, you must apply for and get a driver’s license if you want to drive in the US. Each state has its own office so you will need to apply to the office located in your own state.
The US government’s official website provides links to the local state offices for motor vehicles in your state.
Find out the contact for your state at http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Motor-Vehicles.shtml
Bringing your pet into the United States
It’s only natural that, as part of your lifestyle, you would want to bring your pet with you to live in the US. That’s great. However, you will need to get in touch with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to get the latest information, guidelines and policy on importing pets, other animals, and animal products into the United States.
Find out more at http://www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/
Your rights and responsibilities of a permanent resident
We all have a part to play in the community and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a list of rights and responsibilities of permanent residents. This site is also available in Spanish.
Find out more at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f3f43a4107083210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f3f43a4107083210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD
Information for maintaining permanent residency
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides information for permanent residents including how to renew or replace a Green Card, travel as a permanent resident, maintain permanent residence, and more. This site is also available in Spanish.
Find out more at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f1903a4107083210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f1903a4107083210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD
- If you move home while in the US, you’ll need to notify the S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS. They can provide you with information on how to report your change of address. Most non-US citizens must report a change of address to USCIS within 10 days of moving within the United States or its territories.
- If you move, you should tell the US Postal Service (USPS) so they can forward your mail to the new address. Register your change of address on the USPS website.
You can do this by visiting https://moversguide.usps.com/icoa/icoa-main-flow.do?execution=e1s1
Free legal services
General Legal Services Free
If you need to access legal services, there are free facilities available to you in around 30 States.
Providers of these free legal services are obliged to keep the government rosta up to date, so it should be pretty accurate. Find out where to go in your area by visiting http://www.justice.gov/eoir/free-legal-services-providers
Help for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides information to help immigrant survivors of domestic violence and their children. If you need assistance, find out more at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/resources/specialtopics/origin/domesticviolencefactsheet.html
Government Benefits for Immigrates
Depending on your immigration status, length of time in the United States, and income, you may be eligible for some federal benefit programs. Note that we cannot give you a specific yes or no — it depends on your status and a number of other factors.
The links below will lead you to official government websites describing a range of assistance programs.
Benefits.gov offers information on more than 1,000 federal and state benefit programs. Complete the free and confidential questionnaire and the site’s prescreening tool will generate a tailored list of programs just for you.
Medicare.gov provides information on Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program for people who are age 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant). Click here for information on Medicare prescription drug coverage. Find out more at the Medicare Health Insurance website. This website is available in multiple languages.
Medicaid / Children s Health Insurance (CHIP)
Medicaid.gov has information about health coverage for lower-income people, families and children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. You can find out what benefits you and your family are eligible for and how you can apply. Visit the Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) website.
U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA)
Social Security is a federal program that provides benefits for certain retired workers and their families, certain disabled workers and their families, and certain family members of deceased workers. If you think you or your family may be eligible for help, you can find out more about these benefits. Find out more at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/. This site is available in multiple languages
Supplemental Security Income for Non-Citizens
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the federal income supplement program designed to help people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) provides information on the program and the eligibility requirements for non-citizens. Find out more at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-non-citizens.htm. This site is also available in Spanish.
Supplemental Nutrition Program
This used to be known as the Federal Food Stamp Program, but is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
It provides nutrition benefits to qualifying individuals and families who need assistance with food provisions due their financial situation.
There is also a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) that provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for eligible people. If you are:
- on a low-income and pregnant
- a new mother
- have infants, and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk