2143 Qualified Non-Citizen Status for Food Assistance -"See Policy Memo # 03-02-01 re: "Restoration of Food Assistance Benefits for Non-citizens".

Eligibility for food assistance benefits is limited to the following groups of qualifying non-citizens who also meet state residency requirements:


This includes non-citizens who entered the country or were granted one of the qualifying statuses after August 22, 1996. Documentation requirements are specified in the Non-Citizen Status/Program Qualification Chart in the Appendix. Also refer to the Guidance on Non-Citizen Verification - Food Assistance Program, Appendix Item A-2.


2143.1 Non-citizens Eligible Indefinitely Effective April 1, 2003 - Effective April 1, 2003 non-citizens meeting one of the following qualifying statuses are eligible indefinitely after the date of entrance or the date status was granted:


  1. Refugees admitted under 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA);

    Non-citizens who are victims of a severe forms of trafficking are eligible for food assistance to the same extent as non-citizens who are admitted to the United States as refugees under Section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. See 2144;

    NOTE: Effective December 19, 2009, Iraqi and Afghani Special Immigrants (SIVs) are eligible for food assistance benefits to the same extent and for the same time periods as refugees. Iraqi and Afghani aliens and family members who claim special immigrant status must provide verification that they have been admitted under section 101(a)(27) of the INA. See Appendix item A-13 for a list of documents that will confirm Iraqi and Afghani special immigrant status.

  2. Asylees granted asylum under 208 of the INA;

  3. Non-citizens whose deportation has been withheld under Section 243(h) of the INA or removal withheld under Section 241(b)(3) of the INA;

  4. Cuban or Haitian entrants as defined in section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980; or

  5. Persons admitted as an Amerasian immigrant pursuant to section 584 of the Foreign Operational Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1988.

NOTE: Prior to the Farm Bill of 2002, non-citizens noted above were only eligible for 7 years after the date of entrance in the U.S. or the date status was granted. The Farm Bill changed the law to state that non-citizens as described above who have been in the U.S. for a period of five years or longer are eligible for food assistance. For all practical purposes therefore, the above categories of non-citizens qualify for food assistance indefinitely. The main group of non-citizens affected by the new 5 year requirement are legal permanent residents who formerly could only qualify if they had 40 qualifying quarters of coverage. See the next section.


2143.2 Non-Citizens Who Qualify After 5 Years from the Date of Entry or the Date Status was Granted - The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (also known as the Farm Bill) authorizes food assistance eligibility to a legal immigrant who has lived in the United States for a period of five years or longer, or has had the listed statuses (one of the following) for five years or longer. This provision is effective April 1, 2003. The five year waiting period applies to the following non-citizens, age 18 or older: (See 2143.3 (c) for non-citizens under 18.)


  1. Persons admitted for lawful permanent residence (see NOTES that follow);

  2. Persons paroled into the United States under Section 212(d)(5) of the INA;

  3. Persons granted conditional entry under Section 203(a)(7) of the INA as in effect before 4/1/80; or

  4. Persons who meet 2142.2 (c), with a pending or approved Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) case or family based petition before INS.

NOTE: Lawful permanent residents formerly could only qualify for food assistance when they had worked 40 qualifying quarters of coverage (or by being credited with such qualifying quarters) as defined under Title II of the Social Security Act. 40 qualifying quarters equates to approximately 10 years of work. The 40 quarter requirement was not removed when the Farm Bill was passed. For all practical purposes, therefore, effective April 1, 2003, lawful permanent residents are eligible after they have lived in the United States for five years or longer. In some very rare situations, a lawful permanent resident who has not been in the U.S. for five years or longer may qualify by having worked 40 qualifying quarters. This may occur for example, if the person worked legally in the U.S. but lived in another country, or a person is using the 40 qualifying quarters of a spouse to qualify because he/she has not been in the country for five years. Refer to Appendix Item A-4, Guidance on 40 Qualifying Quarters.


NOTE: The five year waiting period does NOT apply if the person meets one of the criteria in 2143.1 or 2143.3.


2143.3 Special Non-citizen Provisions - Persons who meet one of the following are eligible for food assistance indefinitely and without the 5 year waiting period described in 2143.2.


  1. Persons who are admitted for lawful permanent residence and meet one of the following:

    1. are receiving benefits for blindness or disability as defined in the Definition of Common Terms, Appendix Item X-6, regardless of the date of entry into the U.S.

    2. were lawfully residing in the country on 8/22/96 and were 65 years of age or older on August 22, 1996 (born on or before 8/22/31) or

    3. are lawfully residing in the country, regardless of date of entry, and are currently under 18 years of age.

    4. NOTE: Once a person qualifying under this provision turns age 18 they must qualify under another non-citizen eligibility criteria to remain eligible. If they do not qualify under any other criteria, the person will have to meet the five year criteria of 2143.2.

      NOTE: The five year U.S. residency requirement does not apply to the above three special categories of lawful permanent residents.

  2. Persons who are honorably discharged veterans or on active duty in the United States Armed Forces. The spouse and/or dependent children of such non-citizens would also be deemed as meeting non-citizenship provisions. (Includes individuals who served in the Philippine Commonwealth Army during WWII or as Philippine Scouts following the war. This change is pursuant to the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.)

  3. American Indians born in Canada to whom the provisions or Section 289 of the INA apply and members of an Indian Tribe as defined in Section 4(e) of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. This provision is intended to cover Native Americans who are entitled to cross the U.S. border into Canada. Includes among others, the St. Regis Band of the Mohawk in New York Sate, the Micmac in Maine, and the Abanaki in Vermont.

  4. Members of a Hmong or Laotian tribe at the time the tribe rendered assistance to US personnel by taking part in a military or rescue operation during the Vietnam era beginning August 5, 1966 and ending May 7, 1975. The spouse or unremarried surviving spouse and unmarried dependent children of such individual are also eligible


2143.4 Non-citizens Unable or Unwilling to Provide Immigrant Documentation - Non-citizens that are unable or unwilling to provide immigrant documentation are considered household members, but they are not included in the household size or considered in any of the non-financial tests. Persons “unable” include non-citizens who may have lost their immigrant papers and do not want to go through the process to obtain them again, or persons who are not in the country legally. Persons “unwilling” to provide immigrant documentation include those who do not want to participate in the Food Assistance Program as well as those who have failed to respond to a request for information regarding immigrant status or documentation. Their income, expenses, and resources are counted in full in determining the eligibility of the remaining household members. See KEESM 4212.3.

Note: If a secondary verification is required in SAVE, and the agency does not have a reply to the request for secondary verification, the provisions of this section do not apply. The person would be considered ineligible and prorated income and deductions would be counted instead of full income and deductions.  See the KEES User Manual for further information on system processing.


2144 Victims of Trafficking - The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Public Law No. 106-386, makes adult victims of severe forms of trafficking who have been certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees. Children who have been subjected to trafficking are also eligible like refugees but do not need to be certified. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (TVPRA), Public Law 110-193, expands the categories of non-citizens eligible to participate under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to include minor children, spouses and in some cases the parents and sibling of victims of severe trafficking. Also see item 5 below.


HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will make certification determinations and issue letters of certification for victims of severe forms of trafficking. ORR also will issue similar letters for children who have been subjected to trafficking.


When a victim of trafficking applies for benefits (cash, medical, food assistance, etc.), the procedures for refugees are in effect with the following exceptions:


  1. Accept the certification letter provided by ORR as proof of a status that confers eligibility for benefits instead of requiring USCIS documentation, such as the I-94 Arrival/Departure Card. Applicants must submit the original certification letter to receive benefits.

  2. Call the trafficking verification toll-free number, 1-866-401-5510 to confirm the validity of the certification letter or similar letter for children and notify ORR of the benefits for which the individual has applied. (NOTE: at this time, SAVE does not contain information about victims of severe forms of trafficking. Until further notice, do not contact SAVE concerning victims of severe forms of trafficking.) See item 5.

  3. The individual's "entry date" for refugee benefits purposes is the certification date, which appears in the body of the certification letter or letter for children.

  4. Issue benefits to the same extent as a refugee, provided the victim of a severe form of trafficking meets other program eligibility criteria (e.g., income levels).

    Record the expiration date of the certification letter or letter for children so that benefit-granting agencies will be prepared to conduct re-determinations of eligibility at that time.

  1. Victims of trafficking are issued T Visas. Under the TVPRA, eligible relatives of trafficking victims are entitled to visas designated as T-2, T-3, T-4 or T-5 (collectively referred to as "Derivative T Visas"), and after issuance of the visas are eligible for federally funded benefits to the same extent as direct victims of severe trafficking, provided that they meet the other eligibility criteria for the programs. Under TVPRA, the relatives of victims of trafficking are entitled to Derivative T Visas under the following conditions:

It should be noted that a copy of the certification letter is not to be accepted. The client must present the "original" letter in order to qualify for benefits. Even if you know that an individual has been certified as a trafficking victim, that individual is not eligible for benefits until they have presented the original certification letter. It should also be noted that the Act does not give victims of trafficking refugee status under immigration laws. Rather, victims of trafficking are treated like refugees for benefits purposes.

If an individual applies who appears to qualify as a trafficking victim but the individual does not have the supporting documentation, the worker should contact EES Administration for guidance. Refer to Appendix Item A-2, Guidance on Noncitizen Verification - Food Assistance Program.