SNAP Assistance for Immigrants: Navigating Food Stamps for Non-Citizens

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Individuals who are “lawfully present” in the United States are eligible to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Eligibility is determined not only by the duration of their waiting period but also by a set of specific criteria.

SNAP provides eligible recipients with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for purchasing food at approved stores.

With the aim of supplementing the food expenses of those facing financial challenges, the program seeks to alleviate hunger and improve nutritional well-being.

Non-citizens Subject to Waiting Period

A qualified non-citizen must meet specific immigration conditions outlined in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). An eligible qualified non-citizen, falling outside the designated non-citizen categories, may qualify for SNAP benefits following a waiting period if they satisfy the criteria below:

  1. A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) who has accumulated, or can be credited with, 40 quarters of work, or
  2. An alien (foreigner) belonging to one of the following groups, maintaining qualified status for a minimum of five years:
  • Paroled for at least one year under section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 1952.
  • Granted conditional entry under 203(a)(7) of INA in effect prior to April 1, 1980.
  • Battered spouse, child, or parent with a petition pending under 204(a)(1)(A) or (B) or 244(a)(3) of INA.

Non-Citizens Exempt from Waiting Period

SNAP-Assistance-For-Immigrants-Navigating-Food-Stamps-For-Non-Citizens
Individuals who are “lawfully present” in the United States are eligible to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Eligibility is determined not only by the duration of their waiting period but also by a set of specific criteria.

The following non-citizens qualify for SNAP benefits without a waiting period, allowing them immediate access without the need for verification or vetting to ensure program misuse:

  • Qualified alien children under 18 years old
  • Refugees admitted under section 207 of INA (including victims of severe forms of trafficking)
  • Individuals subjected to trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
  • Individuals granted asylum according to Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
  • Individuals with deportation withheld under 243(h) or 241(b)(3) of INA
  • Individuals of Amerasian descent falling under the provisions of Section 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act
  • Individuals identified as Cuban or Haitian entrants per the definition in Section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980
  • Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants under Section 101(a)(27) of the INA
  • Certain American Indians born abroad
  • Members of Hmong or Highland Laotian tribes legally residing in the U.S., who assisted the U.S. military during the Vietnam era, along with their spouses or surviving spouses and unmarried dependent children
  • Elderly individuals born on or before August 22nd, 1931, who lawfully resided in the U.S. on August 22nd, 1996
  • Lawful Permanent Residents in the U.S. receiving government payments for disability or blindness
  • Lawful Permanent Residents possessing an affiliation with the military, which includes veterans, those on active duty, or individuals who are spouses or children of veterans or active duty service members.
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