Immigration to the US
Immigration services help individuals and families navigate the complex process of becoming legal residents in the United States. These services are provided by government-operated agencies, nonprofit organizations and private attorneys. They can include legal assistance, support groups and English and citizenship classes. There are also programs that offer social and financial support to immigrated. Many of these services are free of charge or at a reduced cost.
The Department of Homeland Security oversees the country’s naturalization and immigration system. It is also responsible for establishing policies regarding immigration services. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security is led by the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who reports to the Attorney General. The agency’s four divisions are Programs, Field Operations, Policy and Planning and Management.
Before 1996, the major federal public benefits programs—including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program), nonemergency Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income/Aid to Families with Dependent Children (SSI)—excluded noncitizens by requiring them to be permanent residents in order to qualify for these benefits. Since then, a few states have sought to fill gaps in service coverage, using state or local funds, to serve people who are ineligible for federal assistance.
These services can be difficult to find and access, especially for those who are undocumented. Immigrants must be prepared to be flexible in their goals and expectations when seeking these services. They must also be aware of the possible consequences if they are caught breaking the law. For example, if an immigration officer suspects a person of lying on an application, it could lead to deportation.
Despite the uncertainty created by the Trump Administration’s attempts to end DACA and related programs, New York City continues to provide free and safe immigration legal services for Dreamers in trusted community-based locations across the city. We also continue to run a range of immigration information and awareness workshops, and advocate for a path to citizenship for all Dreamers.
In addition to immigration services, NYC offers New Yorkers many other free legal services that can help them with their everyday needs. These services are available through our network of trusted community-based organizations at sites like schools, libraries and public health facilities. These services can include help with applications for government benefits; employment; health care and social services; civics classes in preparation for citizenship; and legal assistance.
If you need legal assistance, check for licensed immigration attorneys or accredited representatives of a Board of Immigration Appeals recognized organization in your area. You may also be able to get help from your church or other community-based organizations in your neighborhood. See our list of programs for details and locations. Many of these programs are funded by the Department of Justice’s Citizenship and Integration Grant Program.