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New York State Immigration Laws

Last updated 01/03/2020

Welcome to FindLaw's coverage of existing New York legislation and rules related to individuals' immigration status. Below, you will find information on what rules New York has regarding immigration checks by law enforcement, educational institutions, and employers, as well as the existence of E-Verify requirements, restrictions on public benefits based on an individual's immigration status, and more.

Can States Like New York Pass Immigration Laws?

Immigration has traditionally been regulated solely through the federal system on account of the legislative principle of preemption. States were barred from passing their own immigration laws in order to prevent a tangle of inconsistent laws.

However, although states cannot create new immigration laws, or change the existing federal immigration laws, they are able to pass laws that impact which services and benefits are available within the state. and an increasing number of circumstances can result in inquiries about a person's immigration status, or the notification of the Immigration Service where violations are discovered.

Some states and cities have attempted to provide protections for undocumented immigrants. "Sanctuary Cities" promise not to inquire after residents' immigration status, or refuse to hold or transfer prisoners into federal immigration custody under certain circumstances. Others have set requirements for law enforcement officials to do exactly these things. New York, whose history is rich with contributions by immigrants, and is also the epicenter of terrorist threat in the country, takes a middle path.

New York Immigration Laws and Programs

Law Enforcement and Immigration in New York

Under a federal program called "Secure Communities," all arrestees are fingerprinted and run through a federal database that checks their criminal record and immigration status.

Employment and Immigration

Refer to federal employment eligibility verification rules and the requirements for Form I-9.

New York E-Verify Requirements

New York does not have any e-verify requirements.

Driver's License/IDs for Undocumented Immigrants

New York's Green Light Law allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver's license if they can show a valid, foreign document like a passport to prove their identity and age instead of a Social Security Number.

Public Benefits Restrictions

Under federal law, illegal immigrants are prohibited from receiving most public benefits. However, they are allowed to receive emergency services, health care, and other programs that have been deemed "necessary to protect life and safety."

Voting ID Rules 

No voter identification requirement.

Related Resources

  • Know Your Rights - Guide to protecting yourself and your family during immigration raids (PDF, CASA of Maryland and other organizations)
  • New York Immigration Coalition - Information, resources, and updates about immigration-related issues in New York

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Contact an Attorney to Learn More About New York State Immigration Laws

Immigration issues can involve multiple agencies, including possible state agencies. Successfully navigating the immigration system can involve dozens of different applications and require considering all the unique aspects of your individual circumstances. Considering the complexity of the immigration system, it's always a good idea to contact a local immigration attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you get the best results possible.

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