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City services and benefits

Last updated: 4/25/17

City services and benefits

Boston is a welcoming City. The City provides services and programs to all residents, regardless of their immigration status.

Don’t forget about BOS: 311

Dial 3-1-1 (or 617-635-4500) to reach operators for the City’s non-emergency 24-hour phone line. BOS:311 can transfer you to any City service or City department. You can also report issue with the City service, like a missed collection or potholes.

BOS:311 takes calls every day of the year and can answer questions in many different languages.

Still have questions? Contact:
Immigrant Advancement
1 City Hall Square
Room 806
Boston, MA 02201-2030
United States

Immigration Services

Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement (617-635-2980)

Volunteer attorneys provide free one-on-one immigration legal help at clinics. They take place on the first and third Wednesday of every month, from 12 – 2 p.m. in Room 806 at Boston City Hall. You don’t need an appointment. Our office also organizes citizenship and legal screening clinics. We even offer referrals to community and legal organizations.

At work, you have the right to:
  • file a complaint for unpaid wages, overtime, and vacation pay
  • file a demand for worker’s compensation benefits if you are injured on the job
  • sue an employer if you’re fired for speaking out about working conditions or wages
  • organize and bargain over wages and working conditions, and
  • protection against discrimination. This can be based on your sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, transgender status, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin, or age.

Want more information, or to file a complaint? Contact the Fair Labor Division at the Attorney General’s Office at 617-727-3465.

When encountering the police
  • Boston Police won’t detain you for reporting a crime. Call 9-1-1 if you’re the victim of a crime, or see something that concerns you.
  • Boston Police follow a community policing practice. They don’t ask about or report your immigration status. They also don’t arrest or detain immigrants unless there is a warrant.
  • You do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with the police or any other officials.
  • Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.
Protect yourself from scams
  • You should only go to a licensed lawyer or a BIA accredited representative for immigration legal advice.
  • Notaries and other community members are only able to fill out forms. They should not be advising you on what form to fill out, or how to fill out the form.

Did you experience immigration fraud? Contact the Attorney General’s Office at 617-727-8400.

Community and after-school programs

Boston Centers for Youth & Families (617-635-4920)

Classes and activities for all ages, including English classes, literacy classes, and exam help.

Youth Engagement & Employment (617-635-2240)

Find after-school programs, scholarships, summer jobs, and other opportunities for youth.

Boston Public Library (617-536-5400)

At our 24 neighborhood branches, you can find:

  • books, DVDs, and CDs to borrow
  • free internet and computer access
  • computer and English classes, and
  • children’s activities.
Immigrant Information Corner

Each Boston Public Library branch has an Immigrant Information Corner. There, you can explore immigration information, financial planning, and tax help. Some branches even have workshops on immigration services.

Domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse

SafeLink (877-785-2020)

This is a statewide program. Trained advocates offer:

  • confidential support
  • help with safety planning
  • connections to shelters, and
  • referrals to community services.
Elderly Commission (617-635-4366)

The commission works with senior citizens above the age of 55. You can get help with many issues, including housing, transportation, healthcare, and employment. There are also cultural events and volunteer opportunities.

Education

Pre-Kindergarten enrollment

Pre-Kindergarten is for children ages 3-5. There are limited spots. For more information, call 617-635-9288 or visit the Countdown to Kindergarten website.

Kindergarten through 12th grade

Public schools are free and available to all. Contact the Boston Public School Welcome Center nearest to you:

You can also search Discover BPS, or call 617-635-9000 for more information.

English Language Learners Program (617-635-1565)

You can get more support for students learning English.

Colleges and universities

Anyone can apply to a college or university, but the costs vary. The Supporting Undocumented Youth resource guide lists available scholarships, regardless of immigration status. You can find the information on pages 23 - 26.

Public Colleges and universities

Massachusetts residents, including undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), pay in-state tuition. This is a lower than normal amount. Undocumented students without DACA must pay out-of-state tuition. This amount is higher.

Private Colleges and universities

Anyone can apply to a private college or university. Some may offer scholarships regardless of immigration status.

Adult Education (617-635-9300)

Find adult classes in literacy, English, job training, or to get a high school diploma.

Food, healthcare, homelessness

FoodSource Hotline (800-645-8333)

Get information on food pantries and community meal programs. You can also get help applying for:

Mayor’s Health Line (617-534-5050)

Enroll in health insurance, locate health centers, and find information about:

  • child care
  • food assistance
  • elderly services, and
  • legal help.
Help For Homeless Individuals:

Boston Public Health Commission
Emergency Shelter Commission
617-635-4507

Help For Homeless Families:

Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Development
Emergency Assistance
877-418-3308

Housing

Boston Housing Authority (BHA) (617-988-4000)

The BHA offers stable, quality affordable housing for low- and moderate-income people. There are some limitations depending on your immigration status.

Inspectional Services Department (ISD) (617-635-5300)

Inspections officers help enforce building, housing, health, sanitation, and safety regulations. You can file a complaint about a landlord or tenant with them. Did you experience discrimination or mistreatment by your landlord for filing a complaint? Contact Inspectional Services or the Office of Fair Housing and Equity.

Office of Fair Housing and Equity (617-635-4408)

Were you discriminated against with housing, public services, accommodations or employment? Contact them. The office also offers help in finding rental housing through MetroList (617-635-3321).

Department of Neighborhood Development (617-635-3880)

You can get help with many issues, including:

  • buying a home or keeping a home
  • starting, expanding, or improving a small businesses, and
  • learning the rights and responsibilities in landlord and tenant conflicts.