The film begins aboard a steamer crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and initially showcases the misadventures of an unnamed immigrant, the Tramp who finds himself in assorted mischief while, among other things, playing cards, eating in a mess hall, and avoiding seasick passengers. Along the way, he befriends another unnamed immigrant who is traveling to America with her ailing mother. The two are robbed by a pickpocket who is losing in gambling. The Tramp, feeling sorry for the two penniless women, attempts to secretly place his winnings from his card game in the woman’s pocket, but ends up being mistakenly accused of being a pickpocket. The woman manages to clear the Tramp’s name. Upon arrival in America, the Tramp and the woman part company.
Later, hungry and broke, the tramp finds a coin on the street outside a restaurant and pockets it. He doesn’t realize there is a hole in his pocket and the coin has fallen straight through and is back on the ground. He enters the restaurant, where he orders a plate of beans. There, he is reunited with the woman and discovers her mother is dead. The Tramp orders a meal for her.
As they eat, they watch the restaurant’s burly head waiter and other waiters attack and forcibly eject a patron who is short 10 cents in paying his bill. The Tramp, intimidated by the waiter, checks and now realizes he has lost his coin. Terrified of facing the same treatment as the man he saw thrown out, the Tramp begins planning how he will fight the huge man. Soon, however, he finds the same coin fallen from the head waiter’s pocket onto the floor and makes many failed attempts to retrieve it without notice. He finally retrieves the coin and nonchalantly pays the waiter only to be thunderstruck when the waiter reveals the coin to be fake. Once again, the Tramp prepares for the fight of his life. Just then, a visiting artist spots the Tramp and the woman and offers them a job to pose for a painting. The two agree. The artist offers to pay for the Tramp and the woman’s meal, but the Tramp declines the offer several times for reasons of etiquette, intending to eventually accept the artist’s offer; however, he’s dismayed when the artist does not renew his offer to pay at the last moment. The artist pays for his own meal and leaves a tip for the waiter. The Tramp notices that the tip is enough to cover the couple’s meal and, without the artist noticing, palms the tip and presents it to the waiter as his own payment for his and the woman’s meal. As a final riposte, he lets the waiter keep the remaining change – one small coin – after paying his bill. The waiter thinks the artist himself has given no tip whatsoever, and is clearly upset at this supposed action.
Afterwards, outside a marriage license office in the rain, the Tramp proposes marriage to the woman, who is coy and reluctant until the Tramp physically carries her into the office while she waves her arms and kicks her feet in protest.