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Will receiving SNAP benefits hurt my immigration status?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

SNAP benefits are not cash assistance benefits. If you receive SNAP, it should not create a “public charge” problem. This has been the long standing position of USCIS over many years and has not changed as this book goes to print.

The US Department of Homeland Security has longstanding policy of programs that do not create “public charge” including SNAP benefits, WIC and other non-cash benefits. See 2011 fact sheet posted at USCIS.gov/news/fact-sheets/public-charge-fact-sheet 

Additionally, under state and federal privacy rules, state, DTA workers are not authorized to report you or share information with immigration authorities, including your photo, unless you give written permission. The information on your application is private. 106 C.M.R. § 360.400. See DTA Brochure, “What Non-Citizens Need to Know.” Appendix D.

If you are not sure about your status or need legal advice, consult an immigration specialist.

DTA Policy Guidance:

Online Guide Sections: SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Noncitizen > Noncitizen Introduction

Additional Guidance
  • DTA policy confirming that DTA staff must not report any immigrant to USCIS unless the immigrant shows DTA a final order of deportation; reporting done through DTA Central. Transitions FYI, (Jan. 2004)
  • Guidance confirming that “unlawfully residing” is when the immigrant has a Final Order of Deportation or other formal U.S.C.I.S. document that shows a determination made of unlawful status. Transitions Hotline Q&A, (Feb 2002). 
    Additional sources for information on immigrants and public benefits can be found at the National Immigration Law Center, and the Mass. Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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