If you’re an immigrant living in California, you can access help and public benefits, some regardless of immigration status.

On this page:

Vaccines and health

Getting the vaccine and following public health recommendations is the best way to keep you and your loved ones from getting COVID-19.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is free. You may be asked to verify your age to confirm you are 12 or older. You do not need state-issued ID or insurance to get the vaccine.

You can get the vaccine for free no matter what your immigration or citizenship status is. Vaccinations do not count under the public charge rule. You should not be asked about your immigration or citizenship status when you get a COVID-19 vaccine. The federal government has confirmed they will not do immigration operations at or near vaccination sites and clinics.

Learn more about vaccines and how to get one at VaccinateALL58.com.

Testing and treatment

Do not let fear stop you from getting necessary help or treatment. The effects of avoiding health care services can be serious. This will help keep you, your family, and your community healthy.

If you’re undocumented or do not have insurance, you can still get needed COVID-19 testing and treatment at no cost. Medi-Cal care for COVID-19 testing or treatment does not count under the public charge rule.

Testing is available to every Californian who needs it, including immigrants.

Call Medi-Nurse if you’re uninsured or have Medi-Cal, but no regular doctor

Medi-Nurse is a free, 24/7 nurse advice line available at 1‑877‑409‑9052. You can:

  • Speak directly with a health professional about your symptoms
  • Get advice about treatment in your area
  • Ask how to apply for health insurance

Know your rights

All Californians regardless of immigration status, have protections under our laws and Constitution.

As of March 9, 2021, the federal government is no longer applying the public charge rule that was expanded in 2019. Instead, the public charge rule will be applied as defined in the 1999 Interim Field Guidance in place prior to the expanded public charge rule’s implementation.

This change in federal policy means immigrants and their loved ones across California can seek and accept medical care, food assistance, and public housing without fear of or confusion about public charge consequences. Learn more about this change at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website and the California Health and Human Services website.

Immigration or public benefits attorneys can answer questions about your situation. The Department of Social Services has a list of organizations that can help you with public charge questions.

Safer at work

All Californians enjoy the same protections at work, regardless of immigration status. Your employer cannot punish you for:

  • Taking paid sick leave
  • Applying for workers’ compensation
  • Reporting unsafe or unhealthy conditions

Learn more about your rights and what your employer must do at the Workers and businesses page and the Safer at Work site.

Help and benefits

Many benefits and programs are available to Californians, some regardless of immigration status.

Food help

  • Free meals for children through school do not count under the public charge rule.
  • Food assistance from GetCalFresh.org does not count under the public charge rule.
  • The Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program is available to Californians regardless of immigration status. These benefits do not count under the public charge rule.
  • Food banks will not ask for your immigration status.

Learn more about these programs at the Food resources page.

Benefits at work

You may be eligible for benefits at work. You are not a public charge if you collect any of these benefits:

  • Unemployment insurance
  • Paid sick or family leave
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Disability insurance

Unemployment insurance

You can collect unemployment insurance if you were authorized to work in the United States:

  • When you earned the wages you used to establish your claim
  • During each week you claim benefits

People with work authorization include, but are not limited to:

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients
  • People with Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Refugees or asylees

Disability insurance and paid family leave

Undocumented immigrants may be eligible for State Disability Insurance and paid family leave.

Some immigrants are eligible for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. If you are not eligible for SSI, contact your local social services agency to find out if you are eligible for benefits through the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI).

More about work benefits

Learn more about these benefits, including how to apply, at the Workers and businesses page and the Department of Labor’s Coronavirus resources.

Small business help

California’s small business centers are available to all Californians.

Grants and loans are available, depending on your immigration status. Some are available regardless of immigration status.

  • All Californians can apply for financial help through IBank and the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant program.
  • Non-US citizens with documentation of their legal status can receive help through the US Small Business Administration. This includes Paycheck Protection Plan loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Learn more about these grants and loans at the Workers and businesses page.

Housing help

A law provides renters, homeowners, and small landlords with relief if COVID-19 or quarantine impacts your ability to pay all or part of your rent or mortgage.

Learn more at Housing is Key.

Hotel rooms for agricultural workers

The Housing for the Harvest program offers temporary hotel housing to agricultural and food processing workers, including farm workers, who need to isolate due to COVID-19. This program gives exposed agricultural workers a place to stay and meals so they can protect their loved ones until they recover. 

Visit Housing for agricultural workers to get the contact info for this program in your county.

Utility shut-offs

Many utility companies are not shutting off services due to non-payment.

The Water Board has restricted water service shut-offs during the COVID-19 crisis. Fill out this form to report any water shut off or reconnection issue. Language assistance is available (en Español) for Spanish speakers to report water shut-offs by calling 1‑916‑445‑5617.

Cash aid

  • CalWORKS provides cash assistance and services to eligible families with one or more children in the home. It’s available to US citizens and certain immigrants, including children who are US citizens, even if their parents are not eligible due to immigration status. 
  • Refugees, asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, special immigrant visa holders, Amerasians, and certified victims of human trafficking may be eligible to receive Refugee Cash Assistance if they are not eligible for other forms of cash assistance.
  • Victims of human trafficking, victims of domestic violence, and other serious crimes can receive cash assistance through the Trafficking and Crime Victim Assistance Program.
  • Your county may offer cash assistance to people who are not eligible for other benefits.

Apply for these benefits at Benefitscal.org or by contacting your local social services agency.

Tax credits

If you work and have low income, you may qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). If you qualify for CalEITC and have a child under the age of six, you may also qualify for the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC). These state credits can give you hundreds of dollars.

The CalEITC is now available to taxpayers who do not have a Social Security number, but do have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), regardless of immigration status. If you have an ITIN and are eligible, you can claim the credit on your 2020 individual tax returns (which are filed in 2021). The Franchise Tax Board has more info on CalEITC and YCTC (en Español).

If you receive the CalEITC on your 2020 individual tax return you’ll also get the Golden State Stimulus, a $600, one-time relief payment.

You’ll get an additional $600, one-time relief payment if you:

  • Have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Made $75,000 or less
  • Were excluded from the federal stimulus payments in 2020

You may also be eligible for free tax preparation at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.

Questions and answers