How to Obtain Cash Assistance as an Immigrant in the US

by Amos Z

Immigrating into the US legally comes with a number of challenges, and the biggest one most immigrants face is the lack of funding to cover their basic needs.

With the help of government-funded programs like CAPI (Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants), qualifying elderly, blind, or disabled legal immigrants can obtain federal funding to meet their daily needs.

Of course, this fully relies on a person’s immigration status, and CAPI isn’t available to illegal immigrants, as they have a number of programs designed to help their demographic.

Those participating in CAPI may also be able to reap the benefits from other programs, including Medi-Cal, In-home Supportive Services, and even CalFresh benefits, all of which are part of the SSI/SSP package of payments and benefits.

Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to make your life as an immigrant easier.

The problem

When entering the US, the majority of legal immigrants are facing one major issue, that being a severe lack of money to cover their basic needs.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to skilled workers, as they enter the US on a work visa and will be able to generate income from the day they begin working.

However, the disabled, elderly, or blind immigrants may have it a little harder, as finding employment is much more difficult and in certain cases impossible, leaving them at the mercy of the federal government and their assistance programs.

Through the SSA, disabled Americans can receive financial assistance based on their needs, and the program has been expanded to offer assistance to eligible immigrants as well, based on their needs and immigration status.

This doesn’t necessarily remove all of their financial struggles, but it does soften the blow that moving to a new country can have on one’s finances.


Apart from having to be a legal immigrant, CAPI is currently only available in the state of California, although there are plans to expand it to the rest of the country.

On top of this, the program is only applicable to residents at or above the age of 65 or those struggling with a disability or blindness.

This also means that your only reason for ineligibility for SSI/SSP must be your immigration status, and you’ll have to submit proof of this ineligibility upon applying for CAPI benefits.

Your resources must also be below $2k if you’re an individual or $3k if you’re a couple immigrating into the US, with your income being below the CAPI standard payment.

While this may sound like a lot, these measures were only put in place to prevent the program from being abused by immigrants who are more than qualified to be part of the workforce or don’t need assistance at all.


Much like the other government assistance programs, applying for CAPI benefits is completely free, and the process is simple enough for most to complete it without any outside help.

You will, however, have to provide extensive documentation regarding your identity and immigration status as well as proof of residency and income and any resources you may have in the country.

The latter also applies to properties, and if you do own one in the US, you may already be ineligible for CAPI benefits.

While refugees may have a harder time applying for CAPI due to their immigration status, they may do so 7 years after they’ve been given refugee status by the USCIS.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from SSI during this time, and you can apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.

How does it work

Upon being approved for benefits through CAPI, you will be given the ability to choose how you’ll be collecting your financial assistance.

The most commonly used option is a direct deposit, which will place the money directly into your account, although you could choose to receive your CAPI checks in the mail or to have them deposited onto your EBT card if you’re already using one.

This also means that you can combine assistance from CAPI and other programs like SNAP, gaining access to even more funding to cover your basic needs in terms of food and beverages.

In order to assure that everyone receiving the benefits truly needs them, the administration will redetermine your eligibility every 12 months, starting with your initial payment date.

This prevents abuse of the program and allows everyone to get an equal slice of the proverbial cake.

Final word

The life of an immigrant in the US can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be downright impossible.

With programs like CAPI, the US government can try to make it so every immigrant has their basic needs met.

In tandem with other assistance programs, even this small amount of financial assistance can make a huge difference, and you should try to make the most of it.

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