What Rules Apply to Non-Citizens for Eligibility?

Researcher & Writer
February 19, 2016

Eligibility for SNAP is not limited to US citizens. There are non-citizen groups within the US that are eligible based on their immigration status as a qualified alien. There are multiple categories of “qualified aliens.” Those categories include:

  • Hmong or Highland Laotian tribal members.
  • American Indians that are part of federally recognized tribes that were born in Canada but reside in the United States.
  • Iraqi and Afghan immigrants that were granted special status due to their work on behalf of the US in their respective countries.
  • Victims of trafficking that fall under the protection of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
  • Refugees recognized by the US.
  • Cuban or Haitians that qualified under the Refuge Education Assistance Act of 1980.
  • Battered Non-Citizens, which includes battered spouse, child, parent of battered children, or child or battered parent.
  • Individuals given conditional entry into the US.
  • Those granted asylum under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
  • Individuals that have had their deportation withheld under the INA.
  • Those that have been paroled into the US for at least one year.
  • Lawfully permanent residence, which are non-citizens with green cards.

In order for a qualified alien to be eligible for SNAP, they must additionally meet at least one of the following conditions.

  • Have a US military connection
  • Be born on or before August 22, 1931
  • Have minor children under 18
  • Have an LPR with credit for 40 qualifying work quarters
  • Receive benefits for being blind or disabled
  • Have lived in the US for at least 5 years

While the above categories cover a lot of people, there are non-citizen groups that are ineligible for SNAP due to their citizenship status. Members of these groups are ineligible unless they are able to change their immigration status, which depends entirely on their individual situations.

For example, students and individuals with an H-1B Visa or a U Visa are not eligible. Undocumented non-citizens and people in the country on Temporary Protection Status are also not eligible. Finally, people coming from countries under the Compact of Free Association Agreements do not qualify. This includes people from Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshal Islands.

Although these groups are ineligible for SNAP, they can get in contact with local social service organizations to see if there are any other programs available to help them with food. Some food banks even give limited provisions to those that don’t have identification. There are also a number of organizations specifically designed to help individuals with unsatisfactory immigration status. Finding one of those organizations in your area may be a great help.

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