Immigration Policy

Citizens Count Editor

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.

Forty-five percent of immigrants in New Hampshire have a college or postgraduate degree. Nearly 90% of them report speaking English well or very well.

Refugees in NH

New Hampshire is an established site for the U.S. refugee resettlement 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.

Border checkpoints

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.




Signed by Governor

Establishes a commission to study the licensing of drivers from foreign countries.

Killed in the House

Requires state and local governments to comply with federal immigration detainer requests. This bill also prohibits state and local governments from adopting policies that prohibit, restrict, or discourage the enforcement of federal immigration law.

Killed in the House

Requires driver's licenses and non-driver identification cards to indicate whether or not the holder is a U.S. citizen.

Tabled in the Senate

Prohibits state and local governments from adopting policies that prohibit, restrict, or discourage the enforcement of federal immigration law. Any government that adopted a "sanctuary" policy would be ineligible for state or federal funds. A town, city, or county could be fined $1,000 to $15,000 for violating this law. The bill also allows the courts to remove someone from office for violating this law.

Passed House

Authorizes the issuance of a driver's license, under the requirements of the REAL ID Act of 2005, for residents who do not provide a social security card or number. According to Rep. Casey Conley, "This bill is intended to give the 15,000 undocumented people already in the state a chance to demonstrate their driving proficiency, which could, in turn, improve public safety on our roadways."

Killed in the House

Requires that drivers’ licenses and nondrivers’ identification cards indicate whether or not the holder is a citizen.

Interim Study

Prohibits the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) and the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) from distributing any state-funded financial assistance to any student who has failed to demonstrate legal residency in New Hampshire. This bill also limits adult education programs to legal residents.  The Senate amended the bill to only limit adult education programs to legal residents.

Killed in the House

Prohibits New Hampshire government from using private prisons. This bill also regulates immigration detention facilities, for example prohibiting the use of a private contractor for a detention facility.

Tabled in the House

Prohibits the state from distributing any federal funds to a municipality that has adopted an ordinance stating that it will not cooperate with federal law enforcement or immigration enforcement.

Killed in the House

Requires public employers to participate in the E-Verify system of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Killed in the House

Establishes in-state tuition rates for some illegal/undocumented immigrants who are New Hampshire residents.

Signed by Governor

Requires employers to keep documentation of each employee's eligibility to work in the United States.

Interim Study

Establishes in-state tuition rates for some illegal/undocumented immigrants who are New Hampshire residents.

Killed in the House

Requires public employers to verify an employee's eligibility to work in the United States.

Killed in the House

Requires employers to participate in the E-Verify system of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Passed House and Senate

Resolution stating New Hampshire's support for Arizona's strict law against illegal/undocumented immigrants.

Killed in the House

Requires public employers to verify an employee's eligibility to work in the United States.

Signed by Governor

States that only United States citizens may receive in-state tuition at the University of New Hampshire.

Killed in the House

Calls for a study of the effect of illegal immigration in New Hampshire.

Killed in the House

Requires state and local law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of anyone detained by law enforcement.

Should NH do more to enforce federal immigration laws?



Alan Fraize
- Deerfield

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 10:14am

fallow the federal law's.if your here illegally you should be prosecuted as a country in the world would let you into there country without knowing who you many drug dealers an criminals coming here an if you send your unaccompanied children here they should be sent back.An stop all welfare for anyone here illegally START FOLLOWING THE LAWS OF OUR NATION.AN STOP TRYING TO MAKE YOUR OWN WITHOUT GOING THRU CONGRESS

Jackie Benson
- Kensington

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 9:24am

The Trump administration claim it is only enforcing the law when separating minor immigrant children from their parents, but they have made a choice to interpret the law as they have and implement this policy. It is doing irreparable harm to these children, and goes against everything America should stand for. New Hampshire should do everything in its power to oppose the separation of families.

Rich Magoon
- Loudon

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 12:40pm

Immigration Reform is like eating an elephant, its best leaving it alone. We have a system that appear to work, abet poorly.

Neil Levesque
- Henniker

Fri, 02/08/2013 - 11:04am

One of the main issues facing the current Obama administration is Immigration reform. While ideas have been expressed on both sides, a concrete and over-arching plan has yet to be determined.

As New Hampshire's Home for Politics, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics & Political Library seeks to explore issues, like immigration, in a non-partisan, open and civil manner.

This Friday the 15th, we will be joined by Jose Jorge Mendoza, a professor at Worcester State University, who will discuss his interpretation of the Philosophy of Immigration.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, go here.


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Issue Status

The House passed a bill that would allow individuals who do not have a social security card — such as undocumented immigrants — to get a driver's license in the Granite State. The Senate has decided to hold on to that bill for further work. 


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