Questions and Answers Regarding the Food Stamp Program (FSP) Certification
Provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill- Food Security and Rural Investment Act
of 2002 (P.L. 107-171)
Attached are questions and answers in response to issues raised by States since the issuance of our two earlier sets of questions and answers, clarifying the certification provisions of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, Public Law 107-171, (Farm Bill), which was enacted on May 13, 2002.
Section 4401 – Partial Restoration of Benefits to Legal Immigrants
(Various effective dates.)
Question 4401-10: A qualified alien entered the U.S. on April 20, 1998. He initially applies for food stamps sometime in March 2003 or on or after April 1st but prior to April 21, 2003. Does he gain eligibility under the 5-year residency requirement on April 1st, April 21st, or not until
Answer: A qualified alien who has been in the U.S. for 5 years gains eligibility on April 1, 2003. In the example, an immigrant that enters the U.S. under a qualified status on April 20, 1998, will not have been here for 5 years until April 21, 2003, and would not gain eligibility until April 21, 2003.
Question 4401-11: Same as 4401-10, except the qualified alien is currently an ineligible member of a food stamp household. Would we add the ineligible, qualified alien under the 5-year residency rule effective for benefits for April 1st or May 1st?
Answer: The State agency would add the newly eligible alien following the procedures at 7 CFR 273.12(c). If adding the alien would increase benefits, the change would be effective the month following the month the change was reported. If adding the alien would decrease benefits, the change would not be effective until the effective date of the notice of adverse action.
Question 4401-12: Do State agencies still have the option as stated in the September 21, 2000, Policy Guidance Regarding Inquiries into Citizenship, Immigration Status, and Social Security Numbers to allow individual family or household members to choose to be non-applicants early in the application process?
Answer: Yes, this is still a State agency option.
Question 4401-13: A person is a non-applicant if they don’t provide a social security number (SSN) or immigration status. Is there a difference between non-applicants and ineligible household members?
Answer: No, there is no difference between non-applicants and ineligible household members. The September 21, 2000, guidance allows State agencies to treat as non-applicants those who do not provide their immigration status or SSN. The option allows the State agency to effectuate the disqualification in a non-threatening manner. Nonetheless, the household member is considered ineligible, whether the State agency allows the individual to choose to be a non-applicant early in the application process or if the individual is disqualified in the middle of the process for failure to disclose immigration status or a SSN. Non-applicants and ineligible household members are still required to provide information relation to income, resources, and other eligibility factors as needed to determine eligibility for the other household members.
Question 4401-14: Isn’t it difficult to verify information without a SSN? What about Quality Control (QC) errors if a non-applicant immigrant doesn’t provide the SSN?
Answer: QC reviewers do not use the non-applicant’s SSN, even if they become aware of the SSN during a review. However, the reviewer does fully explore the circumstances that must be applied to the case under review. State agencies can request that the immigrant voluntarily provide the SSN so long as they explain that their SSN will only be used to verify information needed to determine eligibility, such as income and resources, and will not be released to immigration authorities. However, if the immigrant declines to provide the SSN, then State agencies must use other means of verification such as an employer’s statement, pay stubs, or other documentation.
Question 4401-15 (modified, as of 5/23/03): Can indigent aliens “opt into” sponsor deeming to avoid U.S. Attorney General notification?
Answer: State agencies should do their best to reassure immigrant households that neither receipt of food stamps nor U.S. Attorney General notification will affect their immigration status or ability to become U.S. citizens. Moreover, FNS encourages State agencies to fully explain the indigence policy and its ramifications to sponsored aliens during the application process.
However, State agencies may allow sponsored aliens to decline the indigence determination, if they express reservations about the requirement to report such determinations to the U.S. Attorney General. Workers should carefully explain that if deeming rules are applied to their case, the household may receive fewer benefits or may not be eligible at all. The eligibility worker (EW) should document the case record of anyone choosing to opt into deeming to avoid QC errors.
Question 4401-16: Some of our currently ineligible immigrants are not subject to deeming under our State food stamp program, but will be subject to deeming under the Federal food stamp program. Should deeming begin April 1, 2003, when these immigrants become eligible, or at the household’s next recertification?
Answer: Deeming rules apply when a State transfers an immigrant from its state food stamp program to the Federal food stamp program. If the sponsored immigrant is eligible for food stamps on April 1, 2003, then deeming rules apply, unless the immigrant is indigent.
Question 4401-17: What is considered “in-kind” assistance when making an indigence determination?
Answer: 7 CFR 273.9(c)(1) states, “In-kind benefits are those for which no monetary payment is made on behalf of the household and include meals, clothing, housing, or produce from a garden.” The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has not established specific procedures for State agencies to follow in assigning a monetary value to in-kind assistance. Therefore, State agencies have discretion to establish their own methods of evaluating
in-kind assistance. The in-kind monetary value is only taken into consideration for making the indigence determination. It is not considered when determining eligibility or benefit levels for the immigrant household. State agencies also have discretion in determining the types of in-kind assistance to count in making the indigence determination. State agencies may decide to exclude the value of in-kind assistance that does not have a bearing on the household’s ability to obtain food and shelter, such as, the value of assistance that is not used to meet normal living expenses.
Question 4401-18: Aren’t refugees, asylees and other qualified aliens who fall under the 7-year rule eligible indefinitely after 5 years?
Answer: Yes. The 5-year residency rule effectively eliminates the 7-year time limit on food stamp participation of certain qualified aliens, so State agencies may remove the 7-year criteria from their policy and immigrant training materials, as long as it's clear that such aliens are eligible from the date they acquired the requisite immigration status.
Question 4401-19: Do State agencies have to track clients who became eligible in the middle of a certification?
Answer: No, no tracking is required. It’s up to the household to report changes in the status of non-citizens. State agencies must follow the rules at 7 CFR 273.12(c) to add the person if reported prior to
Question 4401-20: Do State agencies have to track the age of certain immigrants to determine continuing eligibility when an immigrant turns 18?
Answer: Yes, as it is information already known to State agencies.
Question 4401-21: Do State agencies have to determine if an alien has been in the U.S. continuously without a break in residency?
Answer: No, Immigration and Naturalization Service determines if the immigrant’s status should be adjusted due to a lapse in residency.
Question 4401-22 (new, as of 5/23/03): May a State agency develop an administrative process which requires an eligible sponsored alien to provide consent before release of information to the Attorney General or the sponsor? What is the result if a sponsored alien fails to grant consent or otherwise fails to provide the information necessary for purposes of deeming the income of the sponsor?
Answer: Immigrant advocacy organizations have suggested that sponsored aliens may have concerns about retaliation by sponsors or fear that receiving benefits will have a negative impact on their immigration status if a determination that they are indigent is reported to the Attorney General. These groups feel that many sponsored aliens will learn of the Attorney General notification and sponsor liability requirements only after they have disclosed their immigration status and SSN. Under these circumstances they may withdraw the entire food stamp application resulting in other household members, in many cases U.S. citizen children, losing the opportunity to receive benefits.
We believe it is within the discretion of the State agencies to utilize a process under which information about the sponsored alien is not shared with the Attorney General or the sponsor without consent so long as the sponsored alien is made aware of the consequences of failure to grant consent or failure to provide any other information necessary for the purposes of deeming the sponsors income to the alien. Pursuant to 7 CFR 273.4(c)(5), until the alien provides information or verification necessary to carry out the deeming requirements the sponsored alien is ineligible.
The State agency must determine the eligibility of any remaining household members. The State agency must consider available to the remaining household members the income and resources of the ineligible alien (excluding the deemed income and resources of the alien’s sponsor and sponsor’s spouse) in determining the eligibility and benefit level of the remaining household members. Under these circumstances, failure to provide consent to disclose information to the Attorney General or the sponsor would be tantamount to failure to provide the information, thus rendering the sponsored alien ineligible.
Information on this page is provided for historical reference
and may not reflect recent policy or legislative changes. Please refer to
http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/government/Policy.htm for the latest information on SNAP policy and legislative changes.