Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI)

Common Pitfalls

Applying for General Assistance/General Relief (GA/GR) instead of CAPI

Many people who apply for GR/GA (which only offers temporary help), may actually be able to get CAPI benefits (which can be used for a longer period of time and with a larger cash payment). However, getting GR/GA does not necessarily mean that you will be able to get CAPI benefits.

Giving up on getting CAPI without applying

You might learn just a little about the CAPI rules, decide you do not qualify, and stop there. For example, you might think you are over the CAPI resource and income limits, but CAPI doesn't count everything you own (like your house and car) and doesn't count all your income (it uses a Countable Income Calculation). So even if you have doubts, it's good to go ahead and apply, to see if you might get CAPI after all.

Remember that the CAPI application process can be different depending on which California county you live in. Some counties want you to start the application process by phone, others at a county office or by mail. To find out how best to apply in your county, contact your local county social services agency.

Assuming you are eligible for other programs because you qualify for CAPI

If you are getting CAPI benifits, you might also get help from other programs like Medi-Cal coverage, In-Home Support Services (IHSS), or CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps). CAPI is not automatically linked with any other programs; you must apply for them separately, and meet all their program requirements. (In fact, to get CAPI you must apply for any other benefits programs that might help you.) And getting benefits from one of these programs does not guarantee that you can get CAPI, which is for legal immigrants who cannot get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) only because of their immigration status.

Harming your chances for permanent residency

Getting CAPI may make it difficult to qualify for permanent residency. When applying for permanent residency, you must show that you are not likely to rely on the government for support in the future.

Failing to consider sponsor's income

If you have a sponsor who signed an affidavit of support when you entered the U.S., it might make it harder for you to get CAPI benefits. When CAPI looks at your income and resources to see if you qualify, your sponsor’s income and resources may be added to yours in a process called deeming.

CAPI deeming rules are complex, and vary depending on:

  • Which affidavit of support your sponsor signed
  • The date you entered the U.S., and
  • Whether your sponsor is dead, disabled, or abusive

Learn more about CAPI deeming.

Confusing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and CAPI eligibility requirements

The only way you can get CAPI benefits is if you cannot get SSI benefits because of your immigration status (and for no other reason).

Failing to file a Self-Petition if you are a victim of abuse

If you are a victim of abuse by your sponsor or your sponsor's spouse, CAPI does not include your sponsor's income and resources when deciding if you can get CAPI benefits. To qualify for this exception, you must file a Self-Petition with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For more information on filing a Self-Petition visit the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Learn more