How does my work history help so I don’t wait five years for SNAP?

We are in the process of updating the SNAP Advocacy Guide, so some of the information is no longer current.  In the meantime, you can read or download a PDF of the 2023 guide from

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

LPRs with 40 qualifying quarters (10 years) of work history can often qualify for SNAP without the five year waiting period. 106 C.M.R. § 362.220(B)(7)(f) and (g). Establishing work history may also qualify you for TAFDC benefits, certain MassHealth benefits, or federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if you are severely disabled or age 65 or older.

You can get work quarters credit for the following:

Work you did in the United States or a U.S territory.

■ Work in any of 25 foreign countries where the U.S. recognizes work, including Europe, Australia, Chile, France, Japan, and South Korea, after certain dates (for example, work done in Ireland after Sept 1993). See the DTA Online Guide page on LPRs Verifying Work History for full list of allowable countries and dates.
Work done by your spouse while married, including work done by a common law spouse even if you were not legally “married”, after separation but before divorce (you lose your spouse’s quarters upon divorce), and/or in the US and 25 foreign countries.

Work done by your parents before you were 18. This includes work done by your parents before you were conceived, born, or adopted – including work done in the US and 25 approved foreign countries.
You can get credit for past work history even if you did not earn a lot. For example, you will get credit for 4 quarters if you earned at least $4,800 or more in gross annual earnings in calendar year 2014. And you will get credit for 4 quarters if you earned at least $980 gross earnings in 2005. You can have worked in just one month or quarter and still get the full 4 quarters of countable work. See DTA’s Online Guide page on LPRs Verifying Work History for the minimum earnings needed for 4 quarters of work.


Check with an advocate before claiming credit for work done in the U.S. when the wage earner did not have work authorization or a valid Social Security Number.

Restrictions on getting credit for work history

Under the federal rules, the LPR adult or child cannot claim credit for work done after December 31, 1996, if the wage earner also received one of the following federal means-tested benefits while working: TAFDC, SNAP, Medicaid or MassHealth, or SCHIP (health benefits for children).
If the wage earner was a grantee for an eligible child or spouse, but did not receive any benefits for him or herself, the wage earner does not lose the right to claim the countable work quarters.

Example 1

Clara has been a lawful permanent resident for 3 years. She recently lost her job in a factory. Her husband Jose has been here for 8 years. They both have been working consistently, and paying taxes since they arrived in the U.S. Clara has 12 quarters of work (3 years with 4 quarters in each year). Jose has 32 quarters of work (8 years with 4 quarters in each year). The couple never received SNAP, Medicaid or any other federal means-tested benefits. Clara can count her 12 quarters and her husband’s 32 quarters of work for a total of 42 work quarters. Clara can apply for SNAP, she is not required to wait 5 years.

Example 2

Siobhan is from Ireland. She is age 31 and got her LPR status a few years ago. Her mother and father both lived and worked (and paid taxes) in the U.S. for 21 years, including for 8 years when Siobhan turned age 10 while she was staying with her grandmother in Ireland. Siobhan has been working as a home health aide but her income is inconsistent so she applies for SNAP. Siobhan can count her own work history for SNAP, but also her parent’s work history in the U.S. before she turned age 18. Even though she is 30 and got her LPR status less than 5 years ago, she can likely qualify for SNAP through the combination of her current work history and her parent’s work history when she was a minor.

Proving 40 quarters of work history

Work history can be confirmed through pay stubs, employer statement, union records, W-2, federal or state tax returns, SSA records, proof of self-employment earnings and business expenses, records of employment in other states, or from foreign countries where work history is accepted.

DTA can also get information about work history through the SSA Quarters of Coverage History System (QCHS). QCHS records do not include work quarters of a spouse or parent that is not a DTA client. DTA can also request from SSA the work records of a spouse or parent if you are able to provide enough information to identify that person. If you think your spouse (or parent before you turned 18) may have work history, be sure to tell DTA so they can inquire about this person’s work history as well. DTA should send the Social Security Administration a “Request for Quarters of Coverage History Based on Relationship” (SSA-513 Form).

DTA should issue you SNAP benefits for up to 6 months if you need time to verify work history or while DTA is waiting on a response from SSA. 106 C.M.R. § 362.220(B).

Advocacy Reminder:

  • Only LPRs with countable work history are exempt from the 5 year bar. Immigrants with humanitarian parole or battered immigrants cannot claim work history, unless granted LPR status.
  • You can correct your earnings record with Social Security in some situations if the earnings report is not accurate. Contact an advocate for more information about work history.

DTA Online Guide:

Additional Guidance:
● Receipt of Social Security survivor’s benefits as a surviving spouse is sufficient proof of work quarters for SNAP purposes. Transitions, Quality Corner (July 2002)
● No overpayment of SNAP benefits paid for 6 months while LPR pending verification of work quarters, even if LPR work history is ultimately not verified. Transitions FYI (June 2006)

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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