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SNAP/Food Stamps for Legal Permanent Residents

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed November 2013

1 - I have a “green card.”  Can I get SNAP?

If you have a green card, you are a Legal Permanent Resident or an “LPR.”  Many LPRs who are low income can get SNAP. Some LPR adults need to have 5 years after getting their green card before they can get SNAP.

But, there is no 5-year wait for LPR adults who receive a disability-based benefit (like EAEDC, TAFDC, or MassHealth for disabled people). There is also no 5 year wait for LPRs who have special work history in the US or for LPR children under 18 years of age. Call your local legal aid office if you have questions about whether you can get SNAP. 

2 - I used to have a different immigration status before I got my green card.  How does that affect my benefits?

Some LPR immigrants first entered the
U.S. as a refugee or other special status. If you are an LPR now, but you had a special “qualified” status before, you do not need to wait 5 years to get SNAP. These special “qualified” statuses include Cuban/Haitian entrants, Asylees, Refugees, certain Amerasians, Iraqi and Afghan SIV holders, immigrants who are Victims of Human Trafficking or who have been granted Withholding of Deportation. Consult an advocate if you need more information about these statuses.

3 - Can my LPR or citizen kids get SNAP even if I can't?

YES!  LPR and
U.S. citizen children can get SNAP without any waiting period. You can always apply for your kids even if you must wait 5 years to become eligible or your status does not meet program rules. However, even if you are not eligible you still need to tell DTA about your income.

4 - What kind of special work history do I need so that I do not have to wait five years?

If you are an LPR and told you have to wait five years, you do not have to wait if you have 10 years (40 calendar quarters) of work history. You do not have to have earned a lot of money for you to claim work history. The 10 years of work history can include work you did in the United States and work that your spouse did if you are still married.  It also includes work that your parents did before you turned age 18, even if you are an adult now.  

DTA will ask you about any work history you have in the United States and they can double check this with Social Security.  Be sure to tell them if your spouse or your parents have work history. It does not affect your spouse or parents to count their work history to help you get food stamps.   

5 - Will SNAP hurt my chances of getting a green card or becoming a citizen?

No.  SNAP will not affect your chances of becoming a
US citizen, nor do they hurt the chances of getting a green card. SNAP is not "cash assistance benefits".

6 - How can I get SNAP if I don’t speak English?

You have the right to apply for SNAP in the language you prefer. The SNAP office (DTA) is required to provide you with interpreters for appointments and send you letters in your primary language.  If you don’t understand what workers are telling you, and they refuse to get you an interpreter, call an advocate!  

7 - If I work can I still get SNAP?

Many low wage workers qualify for SNAP. The amount of your benefits depends on the size of your family, how much income you have, and your expenses. The amount of your rent, heat, utilities, childcare expenses, child support you pay and medical bills (if you are elderly or disabled) are taken into account when figuring out your benefits. The immigration status of other members of your family and how long they have had that status can also make a difference. If you have a low income, it is usually worth applying!

Even if you do not have an immigration status that makes you eligible, you can always apply for your children if they are US citizens or legal permanent residents.

8 - What if I was sponsored by a relative? 

Some immigrants get their LPR status through a family member (sponsor) – who may have signed a contract (an affidavit of support) agreeing to support them. If your family member who sponsored you provides you with regular income, this income will count in determining your benefits, along with any other income you have. If you are low income and your family member who sponsored you does not provide you with regular income, then their income does not count.  

The same rules apply to LPRs who qualify for cash benefits (TAFDC or EAEDC).

Get Legal Help

Before you talk to USCIS always speak with an Immigration Specialist.

Get Legal Help

Before you talk to USCIS always speak with an Immigration Specialist.


  • Immigrants and Public Benefits
    • Thursday, April 7, 2022

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