COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Immigrants
The City of New York is committed to assisting New Yorkers affected by the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic due to illness, quarantine, job loss, or other challenges. We provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below.
This information is up to date as of August 19, 2021. We will continue updating information.
Is COVID-19 vaccine safe and how do I get the vaccine?
The vaccines have been shown to be very safe and effective in protecting people from severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death. Hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine have been administered in the U.S.
I have been advised to stay home. How can I see a doctor? What is telemedicine and how does it work?
Telemedicine means that your provider uses phone calls or video conferencing to provide clinical services to patients in real time without an in-person visit. Using telemedicine, you can receive a diagnosis, learn your treatment options and get a prescription (for some types of medication) without visiting a provider in person.
The same privacy law that protects your personal health information applies to telemedicine. Under federal law, hospitals and clinics do not share patient information without patient authorization, unless required to do so by law.
During this time, use telephone, text, telemedicine (video conferencing), or a patient portal to speak with your doctor rather than going to your doctor in person. You and your doctor will decide if you need to seek medical care outside of your home.
Telemedicine isn't appropriate for emergency situations like heart attack, stroke, or broken bones that require x-rays, splints, or casts. If it is an emergency, call 911.
Will getting tested and treated for COVID-19 or receiving care at a hospital or a clinic threaten my ability to apply for a green card or citizenship under the public charge rule?
No. Getting care, treatment, or testing for COVID-19 will NOT make you a "public charge" or hurt your ability to apply for a green card. Getting charity care or discounted medical care from a hospital or health clinic will not hurt your ability to apply for a green card.
As of March 9, 2021, the new Public Charge rule is blocked nationwide. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stated that it will return to using policies in place before the new Public Charge rule.
If you have questions about public charge, and how accessing certain public benefits may affect immigration status, call the free, confidential ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and say ‘public charge' for information and connections to legal help.
Is it safe to get health care services when I am undocumented? Do hospitals and clinics share citizenship or immigration status information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?
NYC Health + Hospitals welcome all NYC residents to get care no matter what your immigration status is.
There are strong privacy protections in place for all patients regardless of your immigration status. Under federal law, hospitals and clinics do not share patient information without patient authorization, unless required to do so by law.
While ICE arrests continue, ICE has said that during the pandemic they will implement some limitations on who they will arrest and that they will not carry out arrests at or near health care facilities except in extraordinary circumstances.
Rights and Resources for Workers
What are my rights as a worker during the COVID-19 crisis?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidance on how to prevent COVID-19 infection at worksites, and OSHA has published a guide for preparing workplaces for COVID-19.
The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) created a summary of City labor laws for employers and employees as you deal with the impact of COVID-19 on your workplace. These include the Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, Fair Workweek Laws for fast food and retail workers, and the Freelance Isn't Free Act. Visit the DCWP website to download the summary in your preferred language. These City workplace laws apply to workers regardless of immigration status.
The City issued social distancing guidance to stores to protect essential workers. Stores should require customers to wear face coverings to protect employees and customers, and business owners should post signs to help enforce this guidance. Employers should call 311 or visit nyc.gov/coronavirus for updates.
The Mayor recently announced that all essential workers employed by the New York City would receive face coverings and would be required to wear face coverings while interacting with others. City agencies are submitting requests for their employees. City workers who have questions should reach out to their agency.
How can I file a complaint if my employer is not keeping the workplace safe or violating other workers' rights?
DCWP enforces the City's workplace laws and may initiate investigations against a business in response to worker complaints. File a workplace complaint if you believe a business is not in compliance with the City workplace laws mentioned above. DCWP will treat all information received as confidential and will not disclose it without your permission or unless required by law. For more information and questions about the process, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/workers. You can also email OLPS@dca.nyc.gov.
You have the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint and request an OSHA inspection of the workplace if you believe there is a serious hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards. You can file a complaint anonymously. It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or otherwise retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law. Visit the OSHA website for more information.
What happens if I am injured or get sick while working?
You may be eligible for compensation to cover some portion of your lost wages and cost incurred for medical treatment if you suffer an on-the job-injury, no matter who is to blame and no matter what your immigration status is. More information about workers' compensation is available on the New York State Workers' Compensation Board website.
I am undocumented. I am missing work because I am sick, or because a family member is sick. Can I still get paid or will I lose my job?
Even if you are undocumented, you can take sick leave and still get paid so long as you meet other eligibility requirements. The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) created a fact sheet providing an overview of different types of paid leaves relating to COVID-19 available under City, state, and federal laws and eligibility for each. Visit the DCWP website to download it in your preferred language.
You may also be eligible for emergency paid sick leave for COVID-19 under New York State's law no matter what your immigration status is. Some employers in New York State are now required to provide at least five days of job protected, paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave because they or their minor dependent child are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. Find out more by visiting the New York State Department of Labor's New Paid Leave for COVID-19 webpage or call the state's COVID-19 hotline at 888-364-3065. The City has issued Frequently Asked Questions about obtaining an order of quarantine.
Under the federal law, some employers are required to provide all employees with two weeks of paid sick time for specified reasons related to COVID-19. For the qualifying employers, employees who have worked for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19. Undocumented immigrant employees may also qualify. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.
My job or work hours have been reduced due to COVID-19. What benefit am I eligible for?
Laws and benefits are quickly changing in response to COVID-19. ACCESS NYC published a chart to help you understand which benefits you may be able to get in your situation. To ensure you get the most up-to-date information, visit the ACCESS NYC site.
I am not a citizen. Do I qualify for unemployment insurance?
You may qualify if you have work authorization and meet the other eligibility requirements.
Those seeking unemployment insurance must generally meet the following requirements:
have lost employment through no fault of your own;
have enough prior earnings from employment to establish a claim;
If you believe you are eligible, apply online at labor.ny.gov/signin. You may also call the New York State Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Telephone Claim Center at 888-209-8124 if you do not have access to a computer.
Do I qualify for unemployment insurance if I am a sole proprietor/freelancer/gig worker?
It depends on whether you have work authorization and meet the other eligibility requirements.
If you believe you are eligible, apply online at labor.ny.gov/signin. You may also call 888-209-8124 if you do not have access to a computer.
Can domestic workers get unemployment benefits?
Yes, domestic workers can receive unemployment benefits provided you have work authorization and meet the other eligibility requirements.
If you believe you are eligible, apply online at labor.ny.gov/signin. You may also call the New York State Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Telephone Claim Center at 888-209-8124 if you do not have access to a computer.
Would getting unemployment insurance affect my eligibility for public benefits like SNAP and Medicaid?
Medicaid: It depends. The cash received through unemployment insurance is typically counted as income under the Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI). However, the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), i.e. $600 weekly additional payment enacted by the CARES Act, is not taken into account when determining eligibility for Medicaid.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Yes. Both unemployment insurance and the PUC are counted as unearned income for the purpose of SNAP eligibility.
Cash Assistance: Yes. Both unemployment insurance and the PUC are taken into account as unearned income when applying for Cash Assistance.
For more information, visit Access HRA or call Human Resources Administration (HRA)'s Infoline at 718-557-1399.
Is unemployment insurance included in the public charge test? Will receiving an unemployment benefit affect my ability to apply for a green card or citizenship?
No. Getting unemployment insurance benefits will NOT make you a "public charge" or hurt your ability to apply for a green card. In addition, the "public charge" test does not apply to U.S. citizenship applications.
I am undocumented. Do I qualify for unemployment insurance?
Only certain immigration statuses are able to receive unemployment benefits, and in all cases work authorization is required to receive those benefits.
I am undocumented and have been financially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. What benefits and services can I apply for and access?
There are a number of services provided for free to all New Yorkers no matter what your immigration status is. Please check the MOIA COVID-19 Immigrant Resource Guide at nyc.gov/immigrants/coronavirus. The guide will be regularly updated as more benefits and services become available.
I am not a citizen. Do I qualify for cash assistance?
It depends. Even if you are not a citizen, immigrant New Yorkers or their children may be eligible for cash assistance in New York if you meet the eligibility requirements. Visit ACCESS NYC, Access HRA, or call Human Resources Administration (HRA)'s Infoline at 718-557-1399.
NYC Financial Empowerment Centers provide free financial counseling over the phone. Work with counselors to manage sudden changes to your household budget or income, access local, state, and federal emergency resources, and more. Book an appointment at nyc.gov/TalkMoney.
I am undocumented. Do I qualify for cash assistance?
Certain immigrants may be eligible for cash assistance in New York if you meet other eligibility requirements. Visit ACCESS NYC or call HRA's Infoline at 718-557-1399.
Undocumented immigrants can also apply on behalf of their children who may be eligible.
If you have questions about whether accessing certain public benefits may affect your immigration status, you can get free, confidential legal information by calling the ActionNYC hotline at 800-354-0365, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday.
I applied for asylum but do not have work authorization yet. Can I receive cash assistance?
People who have been granted asylum are eligible for cash assistance. Those with pending asylum applications may also be eligible, depending on other criteria.
New York State Department of Education (DOE) issued a guide to community-based organizations in NYC that offer a variety of services that may be of use to immigrant New Yorkers, including public benefit referrals and support for asylum seekers. Check the latest version on the NYS DOE website.
To learn more about your eligibility for cash assistance in New York, visit ACCESS NYC, Access HRA, or call HRA's Infoline at 718-557-1399.
Do I have to look for a job in order to get cash assistance?
Typically, there are employment and training requirements for recipients of cash assistance. However, for the time being, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this requirement has been temporarily lifted.
If you do have a job or other income, you must report it.
To learn more about cash assistance in New York, visit ACCESS NYC or call HRA's Infoline at 718-557-1399.
Is cash assistance going to hurt my chance of getting a green card? Is it included in the public charge test?
Federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance is one of the public benefits considered for the purpose of the public charge rule. However, many immigrants do not face a "public charge" test in their immigration applications. To learn more about public charge, visit nyc.gov/publiccharge or call the ActionNYC hotline at 800-354-0365.
There is no "public charge" test for green card holders applying for citizenship.
If you have questions about whether accessing certain public benefits may affect your immigration status, you can get free, confidential legal information by calling the ActionNYC hotline at800-354-0365, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday.
Discrimination and Harassment
What do I do if I am the target of discrimination or harassment?
Discrimination against anyone on the basis of their race, national origin, immigration status, disability, or other protected status is never tolerated in New York City. The NYC Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has been responding to reported incidents of discrimination related to COVID-19. Discrimination happens when a person is treated less well than others because of their identity.
If you have been harassed or discriminated against by a business, employer, or landlord because of your race, national origin, immigration status, disability, or other parts of your identity, contact the Commission by filling out the CCHR online form, or call 311 and ask for "human rights."
Please also check out CCHR's webpage on COVID-19 for other guidance in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
What do I do if I am the target of a hate crime or bias incident?
The Mayor's Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes and NYPD are monitoring and responding to reported bias incidents and hate crimes related to COVID-19 because of fear and stigma.
If you or someone you know has been physically harassed or assaulted because of your identity or otherwise experienced what you believe to be a hate crime, call 911. NYPD officers will not ask about the immigration status of anyone seeking help.
Visit nyc.gov/StopCOVIDHate for information on how to report hate and bias incidents related to COVID-19, and access victim and mental health support.
You can also call ActionNYC hotline for free, safe, immigration legal help if you need immigration assistance. Call the ActionNYC hotline at 800-354-0365, or call 311 and say, "Action NYC."
What if I am facing domestic or gender-based violence at home?
You are not alone. We understand home is not always safe. For services visit nyc.gov/nychope.
NYC Family Justice Centers are available by phone to provide assistance to domestic violence survivors, including immediate safety planning, shelter assistance, legal assistance, mental health and counseling services, and other vital resources. You may be asked to leave a message, and someone will get back to you as quickly as possible.
From Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, you can call the center location near you.
For NYC Family Justice Center, Bronx, call 718-508-1220
For NYC Family Justice Center, Brooklyn, call 718-250-5113
For NYC Family Justice Center, Manhattan, call 212-602-2800
For NYC Family Justice Center, Queens, call 718-575-4545
For NYC Family Justice Center, Staten Island, call 718-697-4300
In the evenings or weekends, call NYC's 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (4673). Call 911 for emergencies.
I received a phone call/text/social media post from a stranger about getting tested for COVID-19. Is this legitimate?
While New York City is increasing efforts to contact those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive (called "contact tracing"), you should always be careful of scams. There have been reports of unscrupulous individuals using the COVID-19 crisis to scam individuals out of personal information and/or money. Never give your personal information or financial information out to someone unless you are absolutely sure who they are.
I received a phone call/text/social media post from a stranger about the government paychecks for COVID-19. Is this legitimate?
Be careful of scams. Never give your personal information or financial information out to someone unless you are absolutely sure who they are.
If you are eligible for a payment, you will receive a payment directly from the IRS. Do not pay anyone who promises that they can expedite or obtain a payment or a loan for you. If you are eligible for relief, you will not need to make any up-front payment or pay any fee to receive a stimulus payment. You will not be charged any "processing fees."
I called 911 because a loved one died at home. Who do I contact for next steps?
After emergency management services (EMS) pronounces the death of someone on site, you can hire a funeral director, or New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) can collect and temporarily store the body. If OCME transported the body, you can follow up by calling OCME at 212-447-2030. When prompted, choose the option for "families" which will direct you to the correct department.
OCME's Family Services Centers are located in all five boroughs of NYC. Families may be asked to visit a Family Services Center to complete a visual identification when required, or to provide or receive additional case information. Family Services Centers are open every day of the week, including weekends and holidays, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Call the OCME main line at 212-447-2030 to find out more.
What do I do if a loved one died in the hospital or in a nursing home?
Hospitals and nursing homes are responsible for notifying family and coordinating transfer of the deceased to funeral homes. With unusually high numbers of deceased, NYC is providing temporary solutions to support hospitals as they properly care for and transfer the deceased.
If your loved one passed away at NYC Health + Hospitals, you can contact the Patient & Guest Relations department to seek assistance in identifying their bodies and planning the next steps. The direct phone number for each facility can be found below.
NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi
NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln
NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx
NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island
NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County
NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull
NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue
NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem
NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan
NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst
NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens
In the event that a family cannot make arrangements directly with a funeral home, hospitals and nursing homes can transfer the deceased to New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) which will work with families to ensure their loved one is properly buried. For more information, visit nyc.gov/ocme and search for City burial, or call OCME at 212-447-2030.
Who do I contact for funeral options?
Funeral director services are seeing unprecedented requests and the City is working with them to help increase capacity and decrease delays. Families of loved ones who have passed away from COVID-19 should call the funeral home of their choice which can oversee the transfer, burial or cremation, and services.
In the event that a family desires a City-provided burial, New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) is in charge of that process. For more information, visit nyc.gov/ocme and search for City Burial, or call OCME at 212-447-2030.
Am I allowed to hold a funeral?
Yes, but guests must continue to practice physical distancing precautions, including remaining at least 6 feet apart from others and wearing a face covering. This means you should not hug, kiss, hold hands or otherwise touch others in attendance.
Funerals should be limited to immediate family and as few people as possible. Many funeral homes have created attendance limits based on these requirements so please check in advance.
Many funeral homes are offering live-streaming, video conferencing and other remote options for people who cannot attend in person.
Similarly, funeral directors and religious leaders can also provide recommendations on how to safely observe religious or other customs, rituals and traditions during this time.
Do I need to get a death certificate to hold a funeral?
Yes. You may also need a death certificate to ship remains to a different country.
You can request a NYC death certificate online at vitalchek.com or by mailing a copy of the certificate application. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person ordering of NYC death certificates is suspended until further notice.
I want to find the body of a loved one. How do I do that?
New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) is responsible for caring for the remains of victims of COVID-19 whose remains are unidentified or unclaimed.
For unclaimed remains or for loved ones who may need additional time to coordinate funeral home services, the OCME will provide temporary storage of the remains for a minimum of 15 days.
In order to follow up with OCME, you can call 212-447-2030, and when prompted, choose the option for "families" which will direct you to the correct department.
I want to send the remains of a loved one to a different country. How do I do that?
You should speak with funeral directors and work with them to speak with the specific consulate of the country that you want to send the remains to.
Funeral directors have received guidance from their associations and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding transporting remains to other countries.
However, each country has their own requirements surrounding remains of people who were COVID-19 positive.
Some consulates, like the Mexican Consulate, have produced lists of funeral directors that they are working with. Contact the relevant consulate office for more information.