How does DTA count the income of an ineligible immigrant?

We are in the process of updating the SNAP Advocacy Guide, so some of the information is no longer current.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

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 benefits – or you choose not to be part of the SNAP household – the SNAP benefits for the family members you live with are calculated using a special calculation. 106 C.M.R §365.520(B)(2)

The SNAP regulations define a broad group of immigrants who are considered “lawfully residing.” See 106 C.M.R §362.240(A). This list includes immigrants with work authorization such as applicants for asylum, TPS or pending VAWA petitions, as well as LPRs subject to the 5-year bar.

DTA’s calculation for households with lawfully present but ineligible immigrants involves three steps whether the ineligible but lawfully present immigrant is excluded and included in the calculation to arrive at the correct benefit under 106 C.M.R §364.600(C).

This three step calculation is best explained through an example:


Juana is an applicant for political asylum and was granted Employment Authorization. However, Juana is not eligible for 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 benefits:

Step 1: DTA calculates the benefit amount the family would receive if the Juana was SNAP eligible.

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 (20% earnings disregard, $167 standard deduction and the max $569 shelter deduction). Juana has net income of $264 a month. The maximum benefit for a household of three is $509. After subtracting 30% of net income, the SNAP benefit is $430/month.

Countable net income after deductions:


Maximum benefits for household of 3 persons:


Subtract 30% of $284 (countable net income):

– $79

Benefit for this HH ($509 less 1/3 net income):


Step 2: DTA calculates SNAP for the eligible household members excluding the ineligible immigrant and his/her 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 benefit for 2 persons with no countable income is $355 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 immigrant-headed households get no more SNAP than if all members were U.S. citizens.

In Juana’s case, the benefit for the children is $355, the amount in Step 2, which is less than the $430 from Step 1.

Households with “undetermined status” members

If you are an 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 needs. 106 C.M.R.§365.520(A). This calculation is identical the calculation for certain sanctioned household members. See How does DTA count the income of someone not in my 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 benefit level for the 2 children only. The children will receive only $276 in SNAP benefits.

Countable net income after deductions:


Maximum benefits for household of 2 children:


Subtract 30% of countable net income:

– $79

Benefit for this HH ($355 less 1/3 net income):


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