Some Immigrants Eligible for FEMA Help

We have received this information on FEMA eligibility for some immigrants. Some immigrants are not allowed to receive FEMA grants even though they suffered equally in the storm:

Many immigrants assume that they cannot receive help from FEMA in the wake of Superstorm Sandy—or that applying for assistance may jeopardize their immigration status. FEMA explains in United Way’s “Disaster Assistance Resource Guide”:

FEMA Assistance

FEMA provides funding and assistance to local residents (renters and homeowners) and businesses who have sustained loss of or damage to property that is not covered by insurance. Contact your insurance company first: If you are NOT covered for the storm damage by your insurance company, you may be eligible for federal aid. You will need to obtain a letter from your insurance company saying you are not covered for damage from the storm. Applicants can feel confident that the information they provide is used only to access disaster recovery assistance, according to the head of disaster recovery operations in New York for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The aid is available to citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens. Qualified aliens include those with legal permanent residence (shown by green cards). Their status will not be jeopardized by requesting disaster assistance.

A minor child who is a citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien can have a parent or guardian who is not eligible apply for assistance on the child’s behalf. No information will be gathered on the adult’s status.

The status of qualified alien includes:

legal permanent residents (those with green cards),
those with refugee or asylum status,
those whose deportation has been withheld,
those on parole into the U.S. for at least one year for humanitarian purposes,
those with conditional entry,
those who are Cuban-Haitian entrants,
and those with petitions for relief based on battery or extreme cruelty by a family member.

The application for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires applicants to certify that they are either citizens, non-citizen nationals or qualified aliens. FEMA conducts random audits of applications to verify U.S. citizenship and qualified alien documentation issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, assistance can be given as long as someone in the household is entitled to it, and no information will be gathered regarding the status of others in the household.

FEMA Assistance for Immigrant Families

FEMA helps the household, therefore if anyone in the household qualifies (a child born on the US, or a parent with a green card), then the family would qualify for help.

For further information about FEMA assistance, visit

For other services, and the updated version of United Way’s “Disaster Assistance Resource Guide,” visit

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.