Citizenship Q&A

Citizenship and Immigration Requirements in the Housing Authority Choice Voucher (HCV) and Public Housing Programs

When must proof of citizenship or immigration status be provided?

  • You are not required to provide proof of your status when you place your name on the waiting list for assistance
  • You must provide documentation for everyone in your family when we process your full initial application for assistance.
  • Anyone you wish to add to your household must provide documentation before they can be approved.

Who is eligible for HCV and public housing programs?

Citizens of the United States of America who provide proof of citizenship, or:

Non-citizens with eligible immigration status, including non-citizens who:

  • Are lawfully admitted for permanent residence (permanent resident, immigrant, special agricultural worker)
  • Entered the US before January 1, 1972, have continually maintained residence since, are not eligible for citizenship, but have been determined to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence by the Attorney General.
  • Have been granted refugee status, asylum status, or conditional entry due to persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, or catastrophic national calamity.
  • Are lawfully present for emergent reasons or reasons deemed in the public interest.
  • Are lawfully present due to threat to life or freedom.
  • Are lawfully admitted for temporary or permanent residence due to amnesty.

What happens if someone in my family does not have eligible citizenship or immigration status?

Depending on the situation, your family may still receive some assistance even if some of your family members do not have eligible status.

If you are an Applicant:

  • If no family members are citizens or have eligible immigrant status, the family will be denied assistance.
  • If some but not all members of the family are citizens or have eligible immigrant status, your assistance will be prorated. This means that you will get some assistance based on the number of people in your family who are eligible.

If you are a Program Participant:

If you wish to add someone who is not eligible, your family’s assistance may be pro-rated or reduced. See our Reporting Changes Q&A for more information about adding family members.

What kinds of documentation are required?

Every family member must present one of the following forms of documentation in order to be eligible to receive assistance (parents may sign for children under age 18).

United States citizens must sign a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that they are a citizen of the United States. They must provide proof of citizenship (i.e. birth certificate or passport).

Eligible immigrants 62 years of age or over must sign a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that they have eligible immigrant status and provide proof of age. No other documentation is required.

Eligible immigrants under age 62 must sign a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that they are an eligible immigrant; provide the INS Immigration documentation listed to the right; and sign a consent form allowing the Housing Authority to release evidence of immigration status to the INS and to HUD for verification purposes.

Ineligible immigrants who are unable to provide required INS documents may choose to sign an Elect Not to Contend Form.

Acceptable INS Documentation consists of:

Form I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card

Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, with one of the following:

  • Admitted as Refugee Pursuant to Section 207
  • Section 208 or Asylum
  • Section 243h or Deportation stayed by Attorney General
  • Paroled Pursuant to Sec 212d5

If Form I-94 is not annotated, it must be accompanied by one of the following:

    • A final court decision granting asylum (if no appeal is taken)
    • letter from the INS granting asylum
    • A court decision granting or withholding deportation, or
    • A letter from an asylum officer granting withholding of deportation (if application filed on or after 10/1/90)

Form I-688, Temporary Resident Card, which must be annotated with Section 245A or Section 210.

Form I-688B, Employment Authorization Card, which must be annotated “Provision of Law 274a.12(11)” or “Provision of Law 274a.12”

Form I-766, which may replace I-688 or I-688B

A receipt issued by the INS indicating that an application for issuance of a replacement document in one of the above-listed categories has been made and the applicant’s entitlement to the document has been verified.

What happens if the INS does not verify my Eligible Immigrant Status?

You may appeal to the INS. If the Housing Authority denies your assistance or terminates you based on your immigrant status, you have the right to a hearing with the Housing Authority.

Applicants will not be denied housing assistance, nor will participants be terminated from housing assistance programs, during verification, appeal, or hearing processes, except that assistance to an applicant may be delayed if eligibility cannot be verified by the INS appeal process.

Program Eligibility Q&A

Each program has its own set of eligibility rules, and those rules can change from time to time.

The information in this Q&A applies to the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Other programs may have special rules. For instance, our farmworker program is open only to farmworker families.

How Do You Determine My Income?

The first step to becoming eligible is for the Housing Authority to determine how much your family’s annual income is.

  • We will ask you to complete forms stating all of your income and assets.
  • We will ask you to provide documents like tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements and more
  • We may verify your income directly with your employer and/or the agency that provides you benefits.
  • We will also check with federal and state agencies that gather information about earnings from many different sources to confirm the information you have provided.

If we discover that your family has not reported some income to us, you could be denied assistance or face fraud charges. It is very important to declare all income to the Housing Authority.

What are the income limits?

The Housing Choice Voucher program require that we assist a certain number of extremely low income families. These are families whose income is below 30% of the county median income.

We can also assist families who are “very low income,” which means that their income is below 50% of median income. Some families with incomes up to 80% of median, called low income, may also be assisted.

Other programs have different income limits, but the income limits mentioned above are a general guide for most housing assistance programs. The income limits are based on the number of people in your family and change at least once a year. You can get the current income limits here.

Is Anyone Eligible for a Special Preference?

The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz determines applicant eligibility and issues vouchers on a first come, first served basis, based on the date that an applicant added their name to the waiting list. Additionally, for the County of Santa Cruz, the Housing Authority has a limited waiting list preference for disabled and medically vulnerable homeless persons. Currently, a maximum of 40 households may receive the preference at any given time. If you think you might qualify as a disabled and medically vulnerable homeless person, you will need to take a survey (called a Vulnerability Index), through the 180/180 Campaign, which is a campaign to provide housing for the County’s most vulnerable homeless persons. Click here to find out how you can take the Vulnerability Index Survey.

Some clients of other agencies in the county may receive housing assistance from the Housing Authority through those agencies. These programs were funded through a separate funding source, and they are not open to the general public. For more information about these special programs, please see our Housing Choice Voucher Administrative Plan.

Is There a Background Check?

For apartments the Housing Authority owns, there is an extensive criminal background, landlord, and credit check. In the Voucher program, housing is denied for registered sex offenders and certain other violent or drug-related offenses.

How Many Bedrooms Will My Family Be Eligible For?

The Housing Authority calculates one bedroom for the head of household and spouse or domestic partner, if any. We then calculate one bedroom for every two family members, regardless of age or sex.

In the Housing Choice Voucher Program, your family may choose to rent a home with more bedrooms, but we would re-calculate your rent so that you pay the extra cost of the additional bedrooms. A few exceptions are made for persons with disabilities. For more information, see our Special Needs Q&A .

Who Counts as a Family Member?

When you submit your full application, we will ask you to list everyone who will live in your home when you get assistance.

Are there citizenship requirements?

Many Housing Authority programs require that at least one adult in the family be a citizen or a legal resident. If some members of your family are not citizens or legal residents, you may receive less rental assistance than you would otherwise.

Si desea una traducción en español, por favor llame al (831) 454-9455.

Getting a Voucher Q&A

Tips for Getting Assistance Quickly:

Update your address! If you have moved, send us a change of address form.

We will ask for Social Security cards, birth certificates, and photo IDs. If you don’t have these, gather them now.

Respond to all Housing Authority mail by the due date.

What Is an Initial Application?

When you reach the top of the list, you’ll get a letter asking if you want an Initial Application packet. Respond to this letter immediately or you will be dropped from the list. This application is used to:

  • Gather information about your family and your income
  • Determine whether or not your family is eligible for assistance.
  • Calculate approximately how much rent your family will pay
  • Determine how many bedrooms your family is eligible for.
  • When you get your Initial Application, please fill it out completely and return it by the deadline.

What Happens at the Initial Interview?

Several months after your initial application is complete, you will be scheduled for an Initial Interview, where we will gather the information we need to complete your application. All adult family members are required to attend.

Can You Help Me Fill Out My Initial Application?

If you have questions about your Initial Application, please call our Info Line. You can also make an appointment to have Housing Authority staff assist you in person. We cannot assist on a “walk in” basis.

Please see our Special Needs Q&A for more information on extra assistance for a person with disabilities.

When Will I Get a Voucher?

Here is what will happen after the Initial Application and Interview:

  • If you are eligible, you will be placed in the Waiting Pool along with other families waiting for a voucher.
  • We may ask you to send updated information about your income, because the federal government requires us to ask for it again. Please respond to those requests promptly.
  • You could still have a long wait before a voucher is available. When a voucher is available, we will invite you to a Briefing, where you will get your voucher and more information.

What Happens at the Briefing?

When the Housing Authority has a voucher for you, you will be invited to attend a Briefing, along with other families who are getting their vouchers. You must attend a Briefing to get your voucher.

At the Briefing, you will get your voucher and a packet of information to help you find a place to rent. You will have 60 days to find a home to rent. However, if funding runs short, a voucher can be “frozen” at any time after it has been issued to you. To avoid this, you should find a place to rent as soon as possible.

How Many Bedrooms Will My Family Be Eligible For?

The Housing Authority calculates roughly two people to a bedroom in deciding how much assistance your family will receive. More details will be provided at the Briefing.

How Much Will We Pay in Rent?

Families pay about 30-40% of their income in rent. You will find out more about your rent calculation at the Briefing.

Where Will I Be Able to Rent a Home?

You may be able to use your voucher assistance to rent the place where you live right now, if the unit meets our standards and the landlord is willing to participate.

You cannot rent a home owned by a relative, except in very limited circumstances for persons with disabilities. See Special Needs Q&A.

You must rent a home within the Housing Authority’s jurisdiction (county or city.) There are some exceptions that may allow to rent a home in other parts of the country. This will be explained at the Briefing.

We encourage you to find a home in a good neighborhood outside areas of poverty.

Should I Move Now?

Please do not move to a new home just because you think you are about to get housing assistance. It may be many months before you are issued a voucher. Also, program requirements can change quickly. You will not know exactly what you are eligible for until you are issued a voucher.

Si desea una traducción en español, por favor llame al (831) 454-9455.

Waiting List Q&A

Important Information about the Waiting List:

  • Check the Waiting List section of our website to see which waiting lists are open right now.
  • For those on the list, we cannot estimate how long the wait will be.
  • Applicants who were already on the waiting list prior to the October 2018 waiting list opening will continue to be contacted based on preferences and date of placement.
  • Applicants who applied during the 2018 Section 8 waiting list opening were given a random “lottery” number. These applicants will be contacted based on preferences and lottery number.
  • We do not offer emergency assistance. See our Community Resources for more information about emergency assistance in the community.

What Kind of Assistance Does the Housing Authority Offer?

The Housing Authority assists thousands of families through the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) rental assistance program. We also own several apartment complexes for low-income families through our affiliated nonprofit organization New Horizons Affordable Housing and Development, and administer several rental assistance programs. You may apply for these programs through separate pre-application forms.

How Do I Apply?

First, check here or call our Waiting List Line at 454-5950 to find out if our waiting list is open. When the lists are open, to apply, simply fill out the pre-application form for the program or programs you are interested in and return it to us.

My landlord says he or she will accept Section 8. Can I get a voucher now?

No. Even if you have a landlord who wants to participate in the voucher program, you still must put your name on the waiting list like all other pre-applicants.

We are currently encouraging applicants already on the waiting list to talk with their landlords about accepting a Section 8 voucher.  When voucher utilization is low, we can implement a Lease In-Place waiting list preference for applicants already on the waiting list whose landlords will accept a Housing Choice Voucher.

The Housing Authority has a partial Live/Work residency preference, such that at least 75% of the families selected from the waiting list will either live or work in the jurisdiction of the Waiting List.

Who is Eligible?

Eligibility is primarily based on household income. Please see the income limits to see how much money individuals and families can earn and be eligible for assistance. Specific eligibility rules can change at any time, and we do not review your eligibility until we are ready to assist you.

How Long Is the Wait?

This depends on how many people went on the waiting list, and how many people leave the program, and the level of funding the Housing Authority receives from HUD. The wait typically takes years.

Please do not call to ask how much longer the wait will be. We cannot estimate this.

What Happens After I Submit a Pre-Application?

Several weeks after we receive your pre-application, we will send you a letter confirming that we received your application. Several months later, once the waiting list has closed and lottery numbers have been assigned, we will send you an additional letter confirming you have been placed on the waiting list. Keep this letter with your important papers.

How Do I Add or Remove Family Members?

You do not need to inform the Housing Authority about changes to your family while you are on the waiting list. If the family breaks up, whoever was designated as Head of Household on the pre-application will keep the place on the waiting list. Anyone not living with the Head of Household would need to apply on their own by submitting a new pre-application.

How Do I Update My Pre-Application?

If you move, it is very important that you send us your new address, in writing, within 30 days. If we cannot reach you by mail, you will be dropped from the waiting list. To update your address, please complete a Waiting List Status form. You will receive written confirmation several weeks after submitting a Waiting List Status form to us.

Why Haven’t I Heard From the Housing Authority?

We will contact you by mail when you get close to the top of the waiting list. If you are not sure if you are on the list, please complete a Waiting List Status Form and send it to us, or call our Waiting List Line at 454-5950.

Si desea una traducción en español, por favor llame al (831) 454-9455.