Housing Eligibility for Immigrants PDF Print E-mail

Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996

In accordance with Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, an alien (a person who is not a U.S. citizen or national) may be eligible for assistance only if he or she is a "qualified alien" (defined in 8 U.S.C. 1641). This means that no entity that receives federal housing assistance may knowingly provide assistance to an alien who is not a qualified alien.

For more information on these requirements (including documentation), see the "Interim Guidance on Verification of Citizenship, Qualified Alien Status, and Eligibility under Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996," 63 Federal Register 61344 (Nov. 17, 1997),



  • Participants in HUD programs must be able to document that they are citizens, naturalized citizens or have eligible immigration status. Eligible immigration status is verified through the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (formerly INS).
  • REMEMBER: Persons do not have to be citizens or have a Social Security card to be eligible for federal housing assistance.
  • Housing providers must have documentation that they have verified eligible status.

Who is eligible:

  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Refugees and Asylees
  • Cuban-Haitian entrants
  • Certain victims of trafficking and domestic violence
  • Persons paroled for at least one year
  • Persons granted withholding of deportation
  • Temporary residents under IRCA general amnesty or paroled into US for less than a year

Mixed Families: Mixed families are defined as a family with one or more members with eligible citizenship status and one or more members without eligible citizenship status. Mixed families are eligible to participate in HUD programs. The subsidy is pro-rated for mixed families, so that subsidy is only provided for the family members that have eligible citizenship status.


"Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy" for non-profits.

The law requires all state and local governments that directly administer housing assistance to first verify that an alien is a qualified alien before using funds to assist him or her. Nonprofit organizations that administer assistance are not required, but may, verify that an alien is a qualified alien in order to provide him or her with assistance. However, if a nonprofit organization pursues verification, it must follow the requirements set forth in the interim guidance published by the Department of Justice.


Other Exceptions

Restrictions in serving certain undocumented immigrant groups does not apply to many emergency and basic needs programs, including but not limited to:

  • Short-term shelter or housing assistance for the homeless; victims of domestic violence; and runaway, abused, or abandoned children.
  • Crisis counseling and intervention programs, such as services and assistance relating to child protection, adult protective services, violence and abuse prevention and treatment of mental illness or substance abuse.
  • Programs, services, or assistance to help individuals during periods of adverse weather conditions.
  • Soup kitchens, community food pantries, senior nutrition programs such as Meals on Wheels, and other such community nutritional services forpersons requiring special assistance.
  • Emergency medical assistance and various other medical programs, such as Ryan White, Federal Qualified Health Center services, etc.

Fair Housing Act Protections

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or families with children. National origin discrimination is defined as different, disparate, or adverse treatment of an individual because of a real or perceived birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific group. Denying housing opportunities to people with limited proficiency in English or requiring additional or excessive information because of a person's national origin may also constitute an unlawful act. So providers of housing should be careful to understand the documentation requirements without exceeding them in a manner that may be seen as discriminatory.

For legal advice, consult an attorney.