54. How does DTA count the income of an ineligible immigrant?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Some ineligible immigrants live with other people who are eligible for SNAP, such as an immigrant parent living with U.S. citizen children. There are two different calculations depending on the immigration status:

Households with legally-present but ineligible immigrants

If you are lawfully residing in the U.S. but are ineligible for federal SNAP benefits – or you choose not to be part of the SNAP household – DTA uses a special calculation to determine the federal SNAP benefits for the household1.

DTA’s calculation for households with lawfully present but ineligible immigrants involves three steps in which the ineligible but lawfully present immigrant is excluded and included in the calculation to arrive at the correct federal SNAP benefit.2


Juana is an applicant for political asylum and was granted Employment Authorization. However, Juana is not eligible for federal SNAP until she is approved for asylum. Juana has two children who are both U.S. citizens. She currently earns $1,250/month gross income and pays $700 rent, plus heat and cooling costs. Her children have no income. Here’s how DTA calculates her federal SNAP benefits:

  • Step 1: DTA calculates SNAP for all household members, including the ineligible immigrant and their income.

DTA calculates the benefits for three people, including Juana and her two children. DTA counts all of Juana’s income and allows the income deductions. The SNAP would be $727/month.

  • Step 2: DTA calculates SNAP for the eligible household members excluding the ineligible immigrant and their income. If the eligible children have countable income, their income is counted to determine their SNAP benefits.

In Juana’s case, the children have no countable income. The SNAP for 2 persons with no countable income is $535 a month.

  • Step 3: The household is eligible for the SNAP amount that is lower between Step 1 and Step 2. The rationale is so that households with ineligible immigrant members do not get more SNAP than if all members were U.S. citizens.

In Juana’s case, the benefit for the children is $535, the amount in Step 2 - which is less than the $727 from Step 1. 

Households with “undetermined status” members

If you are undocumented or in an “undetermined” immigrant status, the SNAP benefit calculation is harsh. DTA will count all your income toward the eligible members, without considering your needs3. This calculation is identical to the calculation for households with a member who is sanctioned due to an Intentional Program Violation. See counting income of someone not eligible in your SNAP household.


In the case of Juana, above, suppose she does not have any proof of legal status. Because Juana has “undetermined status,” DTA will count 100% of her income against a SNAP calculation for the 2 children only. The children will receive only $496 in SNAP benefits.


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