How Immigration Status Impacts Medi-Cal Eligibility

Eligibility Team
Researcher & Writer
January 21, 2016

To be eligible for Medi-Cal benefits, you must have “satisfactory immigration status” as determined by the state of California.

There are many factors that determine whether or not someone’s status is satisfactory. This includes lawful permanent residents and all individuals protected by Permanent Resident under Color of Law (PRUCOL).

There are also different levels of services available. For example, immigrants without satisfactory status or those that are undocumented can still qualify for very limited health services. Limited immigrant services include emergency services, pregnancy services, dialysis, and nursing home facilities. Anything beyond these services requires satisfactory immigration status.

The next level of health coverage is for those that are considered “qualified aliens” by the federal Medicaid law standards. These immigrants are eligible for the full range of Medi-Cal services based on citizenship. Their actual eligibility will depend on other factors as well.

To be a qualified alien, you must fit into one of the following groups:

  • Qualified non-citizen who entered the US before Aug. 1996
  • Qualified immigrant who completed the five-year waiting period
  • A qualified immigrant who is exempt from the five-year waiting period, which includes refugees, trafficking victims, veteran families, and Asylees.

Many immigrant groups categorized as qualified non-citizens are also exempt from the five-year waiting period due to several factors. These groups include battered spouses and children, victims of human trafficking, refugees, spouses and children of US military personnel, green card holders, and immigrants entering the US from Cuba or Haiti. These groups are given special exemptions due to their individual situations.

If an immigrant is classified as a lawfully present resident, that means they are in the US under humanitarian status, temporary resident status, LIFE ACT, Family Unity Individuals, valid non-immigrant visa holder status, or are residents of the American Samoa or the Northern Mariana Islands. Lawfully present residents are eligible for full coverage.

Finally, Medi-Cal does provide some state-funded healthcare services to immigrant groups that do not meet federal standards for qualification. However, immigrants that do not meet those standards may negatively affect their immigration status by accepting help. The Department of Homeland Security has the right to refuse reentry of individuals that have accepted public aid.

There are exceptions to this situation. For example, immigrants that are not legal residents or who do not have a green card can accept Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, prenatal care, low-cost clinics, and health centers without worrying about repercussions from Homeland Security.

To apply for Medi-Cal, an immigrant will follow the same application process, which can be submitted online, by phone, or in person. However, immigrants will need to provide documentation of their immigration status.

Eligibility Team
Written by
Eligibility Team
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