Immigrants in the U.S. can find it difficult to get a job, which motivates some of them to start businesses. However, they lack access to finance through banks or credit institutions. One way of getting financial assistance for their businesses is through business grants for immigrants. These grants are offered through state governments and are given after the immigrant writes a grant proposal or business plan. They are available to individuals, groups or nonprofit organizations.
Immigrants who arrived in the United States with aspirations to start their own business can taken advantage of a number of grants and loans. These include business development grants, as well as discretionary business grants from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Business Development Grants
This grant provides specialized services including management and technical assistance, access to capital, and business training and assistance. Applicants must have small businesses and be socially or economically disadvantaged. They must also demonstrate business viability and good character. Among the groups of immigrants considered to be disadvantaged are Africans, Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.
Refugee and Entrant Assistance: Wilson/Fish Program
This is an assistance program under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that develops and promotes strategies to provide employment, cash and assistance to immigrants. It is a cooperative-agreement type of grant and is limited to Cuban, Haitian and some Asian-American immigrants, as well as special immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan. To qualify for this assistance, the immigrant must document his immigration status. States, voluntary resettlement agencies and nonprofit resettlement organizations provide the assistance, which comes in the form of services and through funded projects in immigrant communities. The program also provides cash assistance for eight months. Immigrants must show proof of immigration or an asylum letter to be eligible.
Refugee and Entrant Assistance: Discretionary Grants
The Department of Health and Human Services provides these grants, which aim to lower the number of immigrants who require assistance and to encourage placement of immigrants in areas with good job opportunities. The grants focus on promoting literacy in financial matters and stable marriages. HHS's Microenterprise Development Program grants are specifically geared toward helping immigrants with the resources and expertise necessary to start a new business or expand an existing business. Specialized training includes business plan development, management, bookkeeping and marketing. Target groups for these grants are immigrants from Cuba, Haiti and Asian countries. Public and private nonprofit agencies disburse the grants. An immigrant does not need to provide any credentials or documentation to qualify for these grants.
Small Business Administration
Although the SBA doesn't issue grants to businesses, the organization can be an invaluable resource for immigrant business owners. In addition to Business Development Centers located in each state, the SBA also hosts seminars specifically geared toward immigrant business owners. If your local Business Development Center doesn't have a program scheduled, request one. In the meantime, you can visit the center for help with everything from developing a business plan to finding grant and loan opportunities.
- Federal Grants Wire: Refugee and Entrant Assistance-Wilson/Fish Program
- Federal Grants Wire: Refugee and Entrant Assistance-Discretionary Grants
- Federal Grants Wire: Business Development
- US Dept. of Health & Human Services: Wilson-Fish Alternative Program Guidelines
- Cleveland.com: Free program aims to help immigrants, new Americans grow small businesses
- SBA: Small Business Development Center
Based in Nairobi, Kenya, David Karanja has been writing since 1995. He is the author of novels and his articles have appeared in “Global Journalist” magazine, “Nieman Reports” journal and “Christianity Today” magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of Nairobi.