Verification of Citizenship/Alien Status as Applicable to Older Americans Act andOther Programs Administered by the Aging Network

Letter from the Assistant Secretary for Aging:
Verification of Citizenship/Alien Status as Applicable to Older Americans Act and Other Programs Administered by the Aging Network

Dear Colleague:

This is to inform you of verification requirements of citizenship and alien status applicable to the Older Americans Act (OAA) and other programs that you may administer. In an August 4, 1998, Federal Register notice, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has identified 31 programs that provide "Federal public benefits" as defined in Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), P.L. 104-193 (see attached list of programs). Barring important exceptions discussed below, these programs must verify applicants' immigration and citizenship status to ensure that only qualified aliens receive the programs' benefits and services. The HHS Federal Register notice provides guidance on services or benefits wholly or partially funded with HHS resources; services or benefits wholly funded by state or local governments may be state or local public benefits per section 411 of PRWORA. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has released a "Proposed Rule on Verification of Eligibility for Public Benefits" published in the Federal Register on August 4, 1998.

Administration on Aging (AoA) administered OAA programs are not on the list published by HHS as they do not provide "Federal public benefits" as defined in Title IV of PRWORA. Hence, new verification requirements promulgated by DoJ are not applicable. Non-citizens, regardless of their alien status, should not be banned from services authorized by the OAA and administered by the AoA based solely on their alien status.

PRWORA restricts access to "Federal public benefits" to qualified aliens. The statute defines a "qualified alien" as:

  1. an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (the "Act");
  2. an alien granted asylum under Section 208 of the Act;
  3. a refugee admitted to the United States under Section 207 of the Act;
  4. an alien paroled into the United States under Section 212(d)(5) of the Act for a period of at least one year;
  5. an alien whose deportation is being withheld under Section 243(h) of the Act as in effect prior to April 1, 1997, or whose removal is being withheld under Section 241(b)(3) of the Act;
  6. an alien granted conditional entry under Section 203(a)(7) of the Act as in effect prior to April 1, 1980;
  7. an alien who is a Cuban Haitian entrant as defined in Section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980; or
  8. an alien who (or whose child or parent) has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the United States and otherwise satisfies the requirements of 8 U.S.C. 1641(c).

Listing of a program in the HHS Federal Register announcement does not imply that all services provided under the program are "Federal public benefits" and subject to verification requirements. Some services under these programs may not be provided to individual, household, or family eligibility units and therefore do not constitute "Federal public benefits" subject to verification requirements. Providers should also be aware of important exemptions to the verification requirements established by PRWORA, including those for the provision of in-kind, community-based services necessary for the protection of life or safety. Also, under section 432(d) of PRWORA (as amended by section 508 of the "Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996"), nonprofit charitable provider organizations are not required to determine, verify, or otherwise require proof of eligibility of any applicant for benefits even if they provide "Federal public benefits" as identified in the HHS Federal Register Notice.

More information on the Federal Register notices by HHS and DoJ may be found on the AoA web page at


Jeanette C. Takamura
Assistant Secretary for Aging

Attachment: Non-exempted HHS Programs which provide "Federal public benefits"

  • Adoption Assistance,
  • ADD--State Developmental Disabilities Councils (direct services only),
  • ADD--Special Projects (direct services only),
  • ADD--University Affiliated Programs (clinical disability assessment services only),
  • Adult Programs/Payments to Territories,
  • Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Dissertation Grants,
  • Child Care and Development Fund,
  • Clinical Training Grant for Faculty Development in Alcohol & Drug Abuse,
  • Foster Care,
  • Health Profession Education and Training Assistance,
  • Independent Living Program,
  • Job Opportunities for Low Income Individuals (JOLI),
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP),
  • Medicare,
  • Medicaid (except assistance for an emergency medical condition),
  • Mental Health Clinical Training Grants,
  • Native Hawaiian Loan Program,
  • Refugee Cash Assistance,
  • Refugee Medical Assistance,
  • Refugee Preventive Health Services Program,
  • Refugee Social Services Formula Program,
  • Refugee Social Services Discretionary Program,
  • Refugee Targeted Assistance Formula Program,
  • Refugee Targeted Assistance Discretionary Program,
  • Refugee Unaccompanied Minors Program,
  • Refugee Voluntary Agency Matching Grant Program,
  • Repatriation Program,
  • Residential Energy Assistance Challenge Option (REACH),
  • Social Services Block Grant (SSBG),
  • State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).