FEMA says immigration status to determine eligibility for disaster relief

Published 26 May 2010

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that the legal status of applicants for disaster relief will be taken into account in determining whether or not they are eligible for the agency’s Individual Assistance program’s grant funds

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says the legal status of disaster victims will determine whether or not they are eligible to receive disaster relief from the agency. FEMA says that its Individual Assistance program’s grant funds are restricted to people living legally in the United States.

Parents may, however, apply for Individual Assistance on behalf of a child who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified immigrant. Another adult household member may qualify for household assistance if that individual is a legal immigrant.

FEMA grant funds for disaster-related losses are available to eligible:

  • U.S. citizens
  • non-citizen nationals
  • qualified immigrants living legally in the United States.

The agency says that FEMA inspectors checking damage to homes and property will ask the applicant to sign a Declaration and Release form stating that he or she is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or a qualified immigrant.


The qualified immigrant category includes:

  • Lawful permanent residents (they possess a “green card”)
  • Those with refugee or asylum status
  • Immigration “parolees” (people admitted to the U.S. temporarily for humanitarian purposes even if they don’t yet technically qualify for legal immigrant status)
  • Those with conditional entry
  • Those who have petitioned for relief based on battery or extreme cruelty by a family member
  • Cuban-Haitian entrants

Eligibility for FEMA programs is determined at the time of registration. FEMA says that those unsure of their immigration status should consult an immigration expert.