16 December 2004
Filing an Incomplete Online Application
|| Filing an Incomplete Online Application
|| All Regional Directors
Food Stamp Program
We now have six State agencies that have one or more counties in which
an applicant can go online, and submit an application for food stamp
certification by computer. The counties are listed at
We have received a question on whether a State agency may require an
applicant to fill out the entire online application form before submitting
it to the agency. The answer is no.
The rule on filing an application [at 7 CFR 273.2(c)] applies to both
online and paper applications. The rule states that “[t]he household…may
file an incomplete application form as long as the form contains the
applicant’s name and address, and is signed by a responsible member of the
household or the household’s authorized representative.” We can understand
the impulse to simplify the programming of the application process, and to
induce the applicant to complete the process promptly, but State agencies
need to comply with the rule. This is an access issue, and it is necessary,
in order to give proper service to clients.
Some State agencies have simplified their compliance with this
requirement for paper application forms by designing the form with a
tear-off first page, which explains this option, the right to file on the
same day the applicant contacts the State agency and the benefits of
applying as soon as possible to establish the date of application, and which
contains a place to put the name, address and signature of the applicant.
A State agency that is designing an online application form may use an
electronic version of this device. We suggest that the first screen contain
the information that is on the first page of the State agency’s paper
application form. The system software should allow the applicant to submit
this incomplete application to the State agency electronically.
The State agencies that already have electronic application systems on
their websites need to modify their electronic forms to comply with this
requirement if they do not do so already. Those State agencies that are
currently preparing electronic application systems to install on their
websites need to incorporate this feature in the forms and the systems they
Please share this guidance with all the State agencies in your region.
Arthur T. Foley
Program Development Division