As of 2017, immigrants made up 6.2% of New Hampshire’s population. That includes both foreign-born naturalized citizens, legal non-citizen immigrants, and immigrants who are here illegally. New Hampshire’s immigrants come from a wide range of nations. The largest immigrant populations are from Canada and India.
Refugees in NH
New Hampshire is an established site for the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The cities of Manchester, Nashua and Concord have all opted-in to the program. From 2011-2017, refugees were resettled here at a rate of roughly 400 per year. That number dropped to 162 in 2018, as the Trump administration throttled back the refugee program.
New Hampshire’s refugee program is run by the state Department of Health and Human Services. The DHHS works in partnership with several nonprofit organizations. The program is funded by the federal government. Refugees receive assistance with finding employment, school integration, and English language learning. They may also be eligible for cash assistance.
Most refugees in New Hampshire come from Africa or Asia. There are particularly high populations of refugees from Bhutan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Temporary immigration to NH
Each year, a couple thousand immigrants come to work in New Hampshire with temporary visas. Most of these immigrants are skilled workers on H-1B visas. There were 2,879 such visa holders in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. Most were in the high tech industry. A smaller number of immigrants work in New Hampshire temporarily on H-2A or H-2B visas, for agricultural or seasonal work.
Illegal immigration in NH
An estimated 13% of New Hampshire’s immigrants are undocumented. That amounts to 0.7% of the general population.
Unlike some states, New Hampshire does not allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. They are also not eligible for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. New Hampshire law explicitly prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving Medicaid or CHIP. (Some states use state funds to offer coverage through those programs for immigrants here illegally.)
New Hampshire does not require employers to run prospective employees through E-Verify, a federal system that determines citizenship status.
Drivers licenses for immigrants in NH
Immigrants who are in New Hampshire legally can apply for a non-citizen state driver’s license. This includes foreign college students or people in the state for business reasons. They will need to present documentation proving their legal status and must take a full driving test. Get more information.
NH immigration field office
The Manchester field office for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is located in Bedford. It handles a range of services related to immigration but by appointment only. The office does not accept walk-ins. A request for an appointment should be made through the USCIS Contact Center.
(The Manchester field office should not be confused with the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, which is not open to the public. The National Visa Center is a processing facility and does not offer any direct services to immigrants.)
Immigrants who are looking for more assistance may wish to contact support groups or an immigration lawyer. A list of resources for immigrants in New Hampshire is available here.
Immigration debates in NH
New Hampshire has seen its share of recent immigration controversies.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has staged several immigration checkpoints in places like Woodstock and Lebanon. Most of these were on I-93 some distance from the border. The checkpoints have been highly controversial, sparking legal actions by the ACLU.
Sanctuary cities in NH
Sanctuary cities limit how local police and government cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
There are no municipalities in New Hampshire that have officially declared themselves sanctuary cities. Portsmouth and Durham considered doing so in 2017. They ultimately backed down under pressure from the Trump administration. A few towns and one county do have policies that limit when local police or officials can inquire into someone’s citizenship status.
An attempt to ban sanctuary cities statewide failed in 2019.