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SNAP Eligibility for Non-Citizens

Important

Applying for or receiving SNAP benefits does not make you a “public charge.” You can apply for or receive SNAP without immigration consequences.

On Sept. 9, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security published the final rule “Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility,” which confirms that applying for or receiving SNAP will not make you a public charge and will not be considered in a public charge determination. This joint letter from FNS and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) explains public charge and SNAP.

A family shops together for items to purchase with their SNAP benefits.

Non-citizens and their family members may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits. To get SNAP benefits, apply in the state where you currently live. You must meet certain requirements, including income and resource limits.

Most SNAP eligibility rules apply to all households, but there are a few special rules for non-citizens. If you are a U.S. citizen, you should refer to the general SNAP eligibility rules.

Non-Citizen Eligibility

Only U.S. citizens and certain lawfully present non-citizens may receive SNAP benefits. SNAP is not and has never been available to undocumented non-citizens. Non-citizens like tourists and students are generally not eligible. Non-citizens who are eligible based on their immigration status must meet SNAP eligibility requirements, such as income and resource limits, and may also need to meet a waiting period. If you have specific questions, please contact your local SNAP office. Your local office can help you find out if you are eligible for SNAP.

Eligible Non-citizen GroupsEligibility Status
  • Refugees
  • Individuals granted asylum
  • Victims of severe trafficking
  • Deportation withheld
  • Amerasians
  • Cuban and Haitian entrants
  • Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants (SIV)
  • Certain American Indians born abroad
  • Hmong or Highland Laotian tribal members

Eligible immediately, with no waiting period, as long as they meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial eligibility requirements.

  • Lawful permanent residents (LPR) or Green Card holders
  • Those granted parole for a period of at least one year
  • Conditional entrants
  • Battered non-citizens

Eligible after a 5-year waiting period, as long as they meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial eligibility requirements.

Individuals in one of these four groups may still be eligible for SNAP without a waiting period if they:

  • Are a child under 18 years old
  • Are blind or disabled and receiving benefits for assistance for your condition
  • Were lawfully residing in the U.S. and 65 or older on Aug. 22, 1996
  • Have a U.S. Military connection
  • Children under age 18 in any of the above groups in this table

Eligible immediately, with no waiting period, as long as they meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial eligibility requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for SNAP if I am not a citizen?

Only certain lawfully present non-citizens may receive SNAP benefits. Undocumented non-citizens are not and have never been eligible for SNAP. If you have an eligible immigration status, you must meet SNAP eligibility requirements such as limits on income and resources. You may also need to wait a certain period of time before you can get SNAP (known as a "waiting period"). To determine if you are eligible based on your immigration status, please see the eligibility information above.

What is a waiting period?

Some non-citizens are not eligible for SNAP right away and have to wait for a certain period of time before being eligible for SNAP. If this applies to you, once you have lived in the U.S. in one of the “eligible after a waiting period” groups for five years or have 40 qualifying quarters (or ten years) of work, you may be eligible for SNAP if you meet regular program requirements.

What does a military connection mean?

Non-citizens belonging to an eligible group with a military connection include individuals who are lawfully residing in a state and on active duty (other than for training) in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. National Guard members who have not been called into active federal service do not meet this exception.

The spouse and dependent children of veterans and active-duty personnel may also be eligible for SNAP. Honorably discharged veterans whose discharge is not due to immigration status may also qualify.

Am I eligible if I am an Afghan national who was granted parole or re-parole?

Recent laws made certain Afghan parolees immediately eligible for SNAP benefits, as long as they meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial eligibility requirements. Normally, parolees must meet an additional condition like a waiting period to be eligible for SNAP benefits.

More information is available in the table below.

Afghan NationalSNAP Eligibility
Afghan nationals granted parole or re-parole with a parole date between July 31, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2023.Immediately eligible.
Afghan nationals granted parole or re-parole with a new parole date after Sept. 30, 2023.Must meet additional eligibility criteria listed in 7 CFR 273.4(a)(6)(ii) (e.g. five-year waiting period, being a child under age 18).
Afghan national granted an extension of parole.Immediately eligible.
Afghan parolees with a pending decision on the extension of their initial parole period.Remain eligible for SNAP, even if their initial period of parole is expired, as long as they submitted an application for asylum or adjustment of status before their initial parole period expired.
Afghan parolees with a pending re-parole application.Remain eligible for SNAP, even if their initial period of parole is expired as long as they applied for re-parole before their initial parole period expired.
Spouses and children (of Afghan nationals granted parole between July 31, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2023).Spouses and children are immediately eligible even if they are granted parole after Sept. 30, 2023.*
Parents or legal guardians (of unaccompanied minors granted parole between July 31, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2023).Parents and legal guardians are immediately eligible even if they are granted parole after Sept. 30, 2023.

Any non-citizen who is potentially eligible must meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial eligibility requirements.

* For example:

  • An Afghan national is paroled before Sept. 30, 2023.
  • The spouse of that Afghan national is paroled after Sept. 30, 2023. The spouse does not need to meet an additional condition and they are eligible immediately for SNAP as long as they meet all other SNAP income and eligibility requirements.

Please note, this only applies to Afghan nationals, citizens, or those who habitually lived in Afghanistan who are granted parole or re-parole status between July 31, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2023. For eligibility for refugees and special immigrants (SIV), including SIVs with parolee statuses, see the eligible non-citizen groups chart on this page.

For more information on Afghan parolee eligibility for SNAP, see FNS’s Oct. 15, 2021 memo.

Am I eligible if I am a Ukrainian national who was granted parole?

Recent laws made certain Ukrainian parolees immediately eligible for SNAP benefits, as long as they meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial eligibility requirements. Normally, parolees must meet an additional condition like a waiting period to be eligible for SNAP benefits.

More information is available in the table below.

Ukrainian NationalSNAP Eligibility
Ukrainian nationals granted parole between Feb. 24, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2024.Immediately eligible.
Ukrainian nationals granted parole after Sept. 30, 2024.Must meet one additional eligibility criteria listed in 7 CFR 273.4(a)(6)(ii) (e.g. five-year waiting period, being a child under age 18).
Spouses and children (of Ukrainian nationals granted parole between Feb. 24, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2024).Spouses and children are immediately eligible even if they are granted parole after Sept. 30, 2024.*
Parents, legal guardians, and primary caregivers (of unaccompanied minors who granted parole between Feb. 24, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2024).Parents, legal guardians, and primary caregivers are immediately eligible even if they are granted parole after Sept. 30, 2024.

Any non-citizen who is potentially eligible must meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial eligibility requirements.

* For example:

  • A Ukrainian national is paroled before Sept. 30, 2024.
  • The spouse of that Ukrainian national is paroled after Sept. 30, 2024. The spouse does not need to meet an additional condition and they are eligible immediately for SNAP as long as they meet all other SNAP income and eligibility requirements.

For more information on Ukrainian parolee eligibility for SNAP, see FNS’s June 7, 2022 memo.

Does applying for SNAP impact my immigration status?

No. Applying for or receiving SNAP benefits does not harm your immigration status and does not make you a public charge. This means you will not be deported, denied entry into the U.S., denied permanent resident status (Green Card holder), or the ability to become a U.S. citizen solely because you or a family member applied for or received SNAP.

What if people in my household have different immigration statuses? If I am not eligible because of my immigration status, can I still apply for my children?

Yes. If you are not eligible for SNAP because of your immigration status, you can apply for other people in your household. Some people (such as children in families where adults are not eligible) cannot apply on their own. They depend on other household members to apply for them.

If you are an ineligible non-citizen, you may apply for your eligible non-citizen or citizen children. Your income and resources still count to determine eligibility and benefit levels for the rest of your household members. Since you are not applying for SNAP, you do not need to provide your Social Security number or immigration status.

SNAP’s general eligibility page has more information on who is considered a SNAP household.

Do I have to provide proof of my immigration status?

Yes. You must provide proof of your immigration status to receive SNAP. State agencies are only required to verify the immigration status and citizenship of individuals applying to receive benefits for themselves.

Do I have to provide my Social Security number (SSN)?

You must provide a Social Security number (or proof of application for one) to receive SNAP benefits. However, if you are not applying for benefits for yourself, you do not need to provide a Social Security number, and the state agency cannot require that you provide one. You will only need to provide the Social Security number (or proof of application for one) for the household members who you are applying for.

What if I do not speak English?

If you do not speak English, you can still apply for SNAP benefits. State agencies must offer services and information in multiple languages. Ask the people who work at your local office for help with translation.

Will my past immigration status affect my SNAP eligibility?

No. SNAP eligibility is based on your current immigration status.

Will receiving SNAP make me a public charge?

No. Applying for or receiving SNAP will not determine whether someone is a public charge. Applying for or receiving SNAP does not affect your immigration status.

Who is NOT eligible for SNAP based on immigration status?

Non-citizens who are not lawfully present in one of the groups listed above are NOT eligible for SNAP benefits. Undocumented non-citizens are NOT eligible for SNAP.

Other ineligible groups include:

  • foreign students,
  • H-1 visa holders,
  • most U visa holders,
  • individuals granted Temporary Protected Status (unless they meet the definition of a Cuban or Haitian entrant).

Find Assistance

  • To get more detailed information about SNAP or to apply for benefits, contact your local SNAP office.
  • Some states have special programs that use the SNAP EBT card to distribute other nutrition benefits to certain non-citizens. These states are: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington. FNS does not operate or fund these programs. Contact these states for more information.
  • You or your family may be eligible for other nutrition assistance programs.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. For information regarding immigration laws and programs, please visit www.uscis.gov.

Additional Resources for State Agencies

For the most comprehensive SNAP guidance relevant to non-citizens, please see the 2011 Guidance on Non-Citizen Eligibility.

Public Charge

On Sept. 9, 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the final rule “Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility,” which became effective on Dec. 23, 2022. This rule prescribes how DHS determines whether non-citizens are inadmissible to the United States because they are likely at any time to become a public charge.

Under this rule public charge determinations do not consider SNAP participation. For more information, please visit the USCIS public charge resources website.

Mixed immigration status households

State agencies are encouraged to structure their applications to enable individual household members to declare whether or not they are seeking benefits, and inform applicants that persons who are not seeking benefits (1) do not need to disclose information about SSNs or citizenship/immigration status, but (2) do need to provide information (such as income and resources) that is needed to determine eligibility for those members who are applying for benefits.

Outreach

State agencies should ensure that all entities included in their SNAP outreach plans have accurate and up-to-date information about public charge policy as it relates to SNAP. Agencies should also look for opportunities to incorporate organizations that serve non-citizens and other trusted community partners in their SNAP outreach plans.

Sponsors

Sponsors who bring family-based and certain employment-based non-citizens to the U.S. must demonstrate that they can provide sufficient financial support to the sponsored non-citizens so that they do not have to rely on public benefits.

To address this requirement, the income and resources of a sponsor are counted and considered available to the sponsored non-citizen when state agencies determine the non-citizen’s eligibility for SNAP benefits. This process is called ‘sponsor deeming.’ Sponsor deeming applies only to certain legal permanent residents.

Other special circumstances
Page updated: June 18, 2024