Food Stamp Policy on Immigrants (Now, And After 11/1/98)


The current (until November 1, 1998) food stamp policy on eligibility of immigrants is as follows:

A non-citizen may be eligible for food stamps if he or she is otherwise eligible (meets all other eligibility requirements), and he/she:

  • Has been admitted to the U.S. for lawful permanent residence, as defined in Section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1359, and meets one of the following conditions:
    • Can be credited with at least 40 quarters of work for Social Security purposes;
    • Was admitted within the last 5 years at the point of entry as a refugee, as a Cuban or Haitian, was granted asylum, had deportation or removal withheld, was admitted as an Amerasian immigrant under Section 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1988; or
    • Is a veteran of, or on active duty in, the U.S. Armed Forces, or is an unmarried dependent child of a veteran or an active-duty military person (a military connection);
  • Is a person with a military connection or was admitted within the last 5 years and:
    • Was admitted under Section 207 of the INA as a refugee;
    • Was granted asylum under Section 208 of the INA;
    • Had deportation or removal withheld under Section 242(h) or 242(b)(3) of the INA;
    • Is a Cuban or Haitian entrant under Section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980;
  • Is a person with a military connection who was admitted either under Section 212(d)(5) of the INA for at least a year as a parolee, or under Section 203(a)(7) of the INA as a conditional entrant; or
  • Is a battered spouse or battered child of a veteran or of a person on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces under certain conditions. The non-abusive parent of a battered child also may be eligible. Likewise, a child of a battered parent may be eligible.

From November 1, 1998 onward, a change in the law (The Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998) will make it possible for additional non-citizens to receive food stamps if they are otherwise eligible.that is, if they meet the other requirements for receiving food stamps. The requirements that take effect November 1, 1998, are as follows: A person must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen to qualify for food stamps as of November 1, 1998. For most non-citizens, the non-citizen must be both a qualified alien as listed in the left column, and meet the special food stamp criteria in the right column of the table below to be eligible.

Applicants must meet one of the requirements in the left column, and one of the requirements in the right column.

Qualified Alien Food Stamp Criteria
  • Lawfully admitted for permanent residence (LPR)
  • Granted asylum under Section 208 of INA
  • Refugee admitted under section 207 of INA
  • Paroled under section 212(d)(5) of INA for at least 1 year
  • Deportation withheld under 243(h) or 241(b)(3) of INA
  • Granted conditional entry under 203(a)(7) of INA in effect prior to 4/1/80
  • Cuban or Haitian entrant as defined in 501(e) of Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980 or
  • A battered spouse, battered child or parent or child of a battered person with a petition pending under 204(a)(1)(A) or (B) or 244(a)(3) of INA
The following aliens are only eligible for 7 years after admitted or granted status:
  • Refugee admitted under 207 of INA
  • Asylee granted asylum under 208 of INA
  • Deportation withheld under 243(h) or 241(b)(3) of INA
  • Cuban or Haitian under 501(e) of REAA
  • Amerasian immigrant under 584 of Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Program Appropriations Act

The following are eligible indefinitely:

  • LPR who can be credited with 40 quarters of work
  • Military connection (veteran, active duty, spouse and children.)
  • Lawfully in U.S. on 8/22/96 and under 18
  • Lawfully in U.S. on 8/22/96 and disabled or blind
  • Lawfully in U.S. and 65 or older on 8/22/96

The following aliens may be eligible even if they are not qualified aliens as specified in the left column, and they may be eligible for an indefinite period of time:

  • Certain Hmong or Highland Laotians and spouse and children (many are admitted as refugees);
  • American Indians born in Canada to whom section 289 of INA applies, and members of Indian tribes as defined in section 4 (e) of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. 450(e). This provision was intended to cover Native Americans who are entitled to cross the U.S. border into Canada or Mexico. It includes, among others, the St. Regis Band of the Mohawk in New York, the Micmac in Maine, the Abenaki in Vermont, and the Kickapoo in Texas.