Hurricane Ian: Some non-citizens can get FEMA help. Here’s how

A week after Hurricane Ian devastated entire communities across southwest Florida, people of all backgrounds are trying to get their lives back together by getting rid of water-damaged furniture, removing mold-infested walls, and finding a place to shower with hot water for the first time in an instant.

But despite the displacement of many, not everyone faces the same challenges. Some have lost loved ones, others no longer have a place to live, and quite a few desperately need help getting back on their feet.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said earlier this week that it is “committed to helping all eligible disaster survivors recover from Hurricane Ian” — including non-citizens and “eligible aliens.”

Disaster survivors in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardy, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, St. John’s, Sarasota, Seminole and Volusia may apply for FEMA benefits.

The agency said Tuesday that you or a family member must be a US citizen, non-citizen or “eligible alien” in order to receive assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Families Program. IHP provides direct and financial services to eligible persons and families whose insurance will not cover all “necessary expenses and serious needs”.

Here is who can apply.

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A mobile home destroyed by Hurricane Ian is seen along the road at Fort Myers Beach on Monday, October 3, 2022. Al Diaz

Who is a “qualified alien”?

Eligible Foreigner includes:

Lawful permanent resident (“Green Card” holder).

An asylum seeker, refugee, or “foreign” whose deportation has been prevented.

A “foreign” is required to enter the United States for at least one year.

Granting an “alien” conditional entry (under a law in effect prior to April 1, 1980).

Cuban or Haitian participant.

Some “foreigners” have been subjected to extreme cruelty or have fallen victim to a serious form of human trafficking, including people with a “T” or “U” visa.

“Foreigners” whose children have been abused and undocumented children whose parent has been abused and who meet certain criteria.

A member of Task Force 2 of the Florida Urban Search and Rescue Team walks past a 1965 Corvette damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Ian at Fort Myers Beach on Monday, October 3, 2022. Diaz

Read more: Has Ian ruined your roof? Check if you qualify for a blue tarp installed for free

Who is not a citizen?

A non-citizen is someone who was born in a “territory far from the United States” such as American Samoa on or after the date the United States acquired it, or someone whose parents are non-US citizens (all US citizens are US citizens; however, not every US citizen is US citizen).

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A house destroyed by Hurricane Ian on Fort Myers Beach seen on Monday, October 3, 2022. Al Diaz

Read more: Need to fix up your home after Hurricane Ian? Contractor red flags to watch in Florida

What if I don’t qualify for either?

If you do not meet U.S. citizen, noncitizen, or eligible alien status, according to FEMA, your family can still apply for and be considered for IHP assistance if:

Another adult member of your household who meets the eligibility criteria and certifies their citizenship status during the registration process or signs a declaration and release form, or

The parent or guardian of a minor child who is a US citizen, non-citizen, or “qualified alien” applies for assistance on behalf of the child, if they live in the same household. A parent or legal guardian must register as a co-applicant, and the minor child must be under 18 at the time of the disaster.

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Martin, a member of the Florida City Search and Rescue Team, searches damaged homes on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, October 3, 2022. Aldiaz

Read more: Hiring a home repair contractor? How to Check License and Complaints in Florida

for more information

To learn more about citizenship and immigration status requirements for Federal Public Benefits, visit The information is available in different languages, including Spanish, Haitian Creole, and others.

If you are unsure of your immigration status, FEMA says you should speak to an immigration expert to see if your status allows you to get FEMA disaster assistance. To learn about volunteer organizations that assist disaster survivors, visit

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Martin, a member of the Florida City Search and Rescue Team, searches damaged homes on Fort Myers Beach on Monday, October 3, 2022. Aldiaz

READ MORE: ‘Like the Bay Came’: Hurricane Ian inundated Naples’ historic black district

How to apply for FEMA assistance

If you qualify, there are three ways to apply for FEMA disaster assistance:


Download “FEMA تطبيق Applicationfor mobile devices.

Call toll-free at 800-621-3362 (FEMA).

This story was originally published October 5, 2022 7:46 pm.

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Omar is a bilingual and bicultural journalist, covering South Florida’s breaking news for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras.

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