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2022 Commissioners Letter - SNAP Policy on Public Charge

Update: On Sept. 9, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended its regulations on public charge determinations effective Dec. 23, 2022. This rulemaking codified into regulation DHS’s longstanding guidance that a noncitizen’s application for or receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or other federal nutrition assistance benefits administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), are not considered when making public charge determinations. For more information on the 2022 DHS public charge rulemaking, please visit this page. This rulemaking does not change the contents of this letter/page.

DATE: January 12, 2022
TO: State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Commissioners
RE: SNAP Policy on Public Charge

Dear Commissioners,

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is committed to ensuring that all eligible families, including mixed immigration status families with children, can access federal nutrition benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many immigrant households may be concerned about applying for and accessing SNAP benefits because of confusion and fear about the consequences for their or their families’ immigration statuses. FNS understands the importance of communicating changes related to the public charge policy and building trust so that eligible immigrant families can better access critical nutritional support.

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that a noncitizen who is “likely at any time to become a public charge” is inadmissible to the United States and is ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule that made the past, current, or possible future receipt of certain benefits, including SNAP benefits, part of the public charge inadmissibility determination. That rule has since been vacated by a Federal District Court. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now applying the public charge inadmissibility statute consistent with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance that was in place before the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule went into effect.

Under the 1999 Interim Field Guidance, a noncitizen’s application for or receipt of SNAP benefits is not considered when making public charge determinations. FNS encourages SNAP state agencies to make the policy well-known in their respective states, especially in communities with large immigrant populations. This emphasis is captured in the SNAP FY 2022 outreach priorities memo (attached) which encourages SNAP state agencies to conduct outreach to immigrant communities in collaboration with trusted community partners. Also attached is the 1999 Interim Field Guidance currently in effect. We encourage you to disseminate this information widely in state agency offices, to trusted community partners, and other stakeholders in your communities.

Thank you for your efforts to expand the provision of SNAP benefits to eligible immigrant households in need. State agencies with questions should contact their respective FNS regional office. FNS will continue providing your state agency with technical assistance on SNAP policy affecting immigrants. We will assist in making the federal policy on public charge widely known and understood to ensure eligible immigrant individuals and families, as well as U.S. citizens, are not needlessly discouraged from applying for or receiving program benefits.

Stacy Dean
Deputy Under Secretary
Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services


Page updated: April 07, 2023