New to the U.S.?

Whether you are a recent immigrant to the U.S. or helping someone who is, you can dial 211 to talk to us for help at any time (in English or 180 other languages).

Here is some helpful information to address some of the most common needs recent immigrants may have:

 

Quick-Dial Phone Numbers and Hotlines

In the U.S., information and support is available by dialing an easy-to-remember 3-digit number for crises, social services, and municipal information:

  • 911: For help with emergency services, such as a fire, life-threatening medical emergency, or criminal activity. It is free to call 911 for help but do not call 911 for anything other than an actual emergency. 

  • 211: Community specialists are available 24/7 through 211 in most of the U.S. to help you find the information and resources you need to address most essential needs like housing, food, financial assistance, and more. You can enter your zip code or city and state in the search on this website to find more information about the 211 in your area. 211 is available for free to anyone and conversations are confidential. 

  • 311: Available in many major cities, dialing 311 will connect you to your city government who can answer questions about trash, public safety, and other city services. 

Toll-Free Hotlines

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (if you or a loved one is considering harming themselves or experiencing emotional distress)

  • National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888  (if you or someone you care about has been brought to the United States against their will or is being held against their will)

  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (if you or someone you care about has experienced sexual assault or harassment and needs support, assistance, and advice)

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (if you or someone you care about has or is experiencing domestic or relationship-based violence and needs support, advice, and connections to a safe place)

Identification

You will be required to show a valid photo ID to access many services in the U.S. and, in most cases, to rent an apartment, open a bank account, or get a job. There are multiple options for obtaining a photo ID which differ based on your immigration status and paperwork.

  • Driver's Licenses:  In California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Washington, anyone regardless of immigration status can obtain a driver's license using a foreign birth certificate, a foreign passport, or a consular card and evidence of current residency in the state. You can read more about each state law here. 

  • State-Issued IDs: Each state has its own laws about how someone can obtain an official photo ID and what documents they are required to present to do so. Start by looking at your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for information about non-driver identification cards.

  • Social Security Number: Social Security Numbers are given to U.S. citizens born in the U.S. at the time of birth and are used for identification and tax paying purposes. Immigrants entering the U.S. legally can request a Social Security Number when applying for a Visa. If you are already lawfully present in the United States and your visa status allows you to work, then you must visit a social security office in person to apply.

Education

  • Schools: In the U.S., attending school (public or private) is required for children under 18.  Public schools are not allowed to deny education based on documentation or immigration status. All children, regardless of immigration status or documentation, are entitled to free education through the public school system. You can use this tool to find your local school and read this article for a list of what is needed to enroll a child. Children may also qualify for free and reduced price lunch and breakfast programs while attending public school. 

  • Head Start: Head Start is an optional preschool program, which primarily serves 3- and 4-year-old children, and Early Head Start is a program for infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. Head Start services are delivered nationwide through 1,600 agencies which tailor the federal program to the local needs of families in their service area. Find a local Head Start agency to apply and learn more here

  • Learn English: There are many non-profits that provide English and other courses for free in local communities. Contact 211 to find free classes and other support for recent immigrants. There are also free online English and Citizenship lessons available through USA Learns.

Healthcare 

Immigration status may dictate which public healthcare and health insurance benefits someone can access. However, community health clinics will provide healthcare services to anyone regardless of immigration status and at a cost commensurate with household income. Use this tool to find the closest health care center, or call 211 for additional help.  

Food 

For the quickest help finding free or low-cost food in your area, call 211 to speak to a specialist. You can also use Feeding America’s online search tool or navigate to your local 211 website using the search bar above to locate a nearby food bank, food pantry, or other food assistance.  

  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): WIC is a federal financial assistance program offered through state governments to assist low-income households in purchasing essential food and supplies for pregnant women, infants, and young children. WIC benefits can be used to purchase infant food and formula as well as nutritional foods like eggs, milk, cereal, peanut butter, fruits, and vegetables. Households enrolled in WIC can access health screenings, breastfeeding counseling, and immunization referrals. There is no immigration status restriction or requirement for WIC in most states. Find your state agency for information on applying here. 

  • State Food Assistance: While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is not available to all recent immigrants to the U.S., there are state funded food assistance programs in several states available to low-income individuals and families. 

Other Government Assistance

  • You can always contact 211 to speak with someone about your needs and eligibility for various programs.

  • You can also use this tool to see a list of federal benefits available based on your responses to eligibility questions. The tool does not ask for any personal identifiable information, so using the tool is anonymous.  

  • While most undocumented and recent immigrants are ineligible for federal financial assistance programs, many states have created programs for which immigrant households are eligible. Use this state-by-state listing of cash assistance programs to see what's available.

Your Rights and Legal Assistance 

All individuals, regardless of immigration status, in the United States are entitled to certain rights. Visit this page for information about rights related to immigration authorities, available in multiple languages. Easy-to-follow graphics and convenient pocket cards are also available in English and Spanish through the National Immigration Project

Several organizations specialize in providing and connecting people to free or low-cost legal assistance and reliable information across the U.S. Find (or give) legal help through these resources: 

Only barred attorneys and immigration authorities can provide reliable legal information and advice. Notaries and “immigration consultants” are not authorized to provide legal advice in the U.S. 

Avoiding Fraud and Scams

Always be cautious about who you provide personal information to, especially if done by phone or web. Here are some tips to avoid being the victim of a scam or fraud:

  • If you are contacted by mail or phone and asked for your social security number, bank account information, or receive offers to help you get a credit card or loan that you did not request, do not provide any personal information. 

  • Never wire money, send gift cards, or send a check to a stranger.

  • If someone claims to be from a federal agency, including the Social Security Administration, International Revenue Service (IRS), or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, call the agency's publicized number to confirm that someone is looking for you before providing any information to the caller. 

  • Visit the Federal Trade Commission site for more tips, resources, and to report an incident.

 

Need more help? Dial 211 or search for more information about your local 211 in the search bar above. 


211 conversations are confidential, can be made anonymously, and help is available in 180 languages. 211 is available to anyone regardless of race, color, religion, language, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, immigration status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, parental status, military service, or other factor.