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Immigrant Children Eligible for Food Stamps

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Immigrant children eligible for food stamps, regardless of their entry date

Immigrants' Rights Update
October 1, 2003

Effective October 1, 2003, "qualified"* immigrant children became eligible for food stamps, regardless of their date of entry into the United States. According to the USDA, approximately 60,000 children will benefit from this change. Under the new law, children are not subject to "immigrant sponsor deeming rules," which means that their sponsor's income and resources will not be counted in determining their eligibility for benefits. These children are the third and final group of immigrants whose food stamp benefits were restored under the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 ("2002 Farm Bill"). In October 2002, food stamps were restored to "qualified" immigrants receiving disability-related benefits, regardless of their date of entry into the United States, and in April 2003, persons who have lived in the United States in "qualified" immigrant status for at least five years secured access to these critical benefits. The Bush administration estimated that, once the restorations are fully implemented, the 2002 Farm Bill will have restored nutrition assistance to over 400,000 immigrants, including low-wage working families, children, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

The following immigrants are now eligible for food stamps:

  • Children under 18 years old.

  • Refugees, persons granted asylum or withholding of deportation/removal, Cuban/Haitian entrants, Amerasian immigrants, persons granted Iraqi or Afghan special immigrant status, and victims of trafficking. Eligibility continues even if these immigrants become lawful permanent residents. (This bullet was updated 2/25/10; "persons granted Iraqi or Afghan special immigrant status" was added to the list of eligible categories.)

  • Persons who have been in "qualified"* immigrant status for at least five years.

  • Lawful permanent residents with credit for 40 quarters of work history. This includes work performed by a spouse during the marriage and by parents before the immigrant was 18 years old.

  • Veterans, active duty military personnel, their spouses, un-remarried surviving spouses and children who are "qualified" immigrants.

  • "Qualified" immigrants who are receiving disability-related assistance.

  • Seniors born before August 22, 1931, who were lawfully residing in the U.S. on August 22, 1996, and are now "qualified" immigrants.

  • Hmong and Laotian tribe members who are lawfully present in the U.S.

  • Members of federally recognized Indian tribes or American Indians born in Canada.

Immigrant adults whose sponsors signed an enforceable affidavit of support (Form I-864) may be subject to "immigrant sponsor deeming" and/or sponsor liability. Deeming does not apply to children under 18. For details on other exceptions to these rules, please see the USDA Guidance, "Non-Citizen Requirements in the Food Stamp Program" at www.fns.usda.gov/fsp/rules/Legislation/pdfs/Non_Citizen_Guidance.pdf, or NILC's summary of this Guidance at www.nilc.org/foodnutiru03.html.

* Qualified immigrants are: lawful permanent residents; refugees; persons granted asylum, withholding of deportation/removal, or conditional entry; persons granted parole into the U.S. for at least one year; Cuban/Haitian entrants; and battered spouses and children with a pending or approved (a) self-petition for an immigrant visa, or (b) immigrant visa filed for a spouse or child, or (c) application for cancellation of removal/suspension of deportation. Parents and children of the battered child/spouse may also be "qualified."