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What if you are not a citizen?

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

Some non-citizens are eligible for TAFDC. If you are a non-citizen who is not eligible for yourself, you can apply for your children if they are eligible. There are four groups of non-citizens who meet non-citizen eligibility rules.

  • Refugees and other non-citizens granted special legal status because they are fleeing persecution, including
    • persons who entered the U.S. as refugees,
    • persons granted asylum after entering the U.S.,
    • persons granted withholding of deportation or removal,
    • certain Vietnamese Amerasians (generally individuals fathered by U.S. military members during the Vietnam conflict),
    • certain Cuban or Haitian nationals who have parole status, an order of supervision, a pending application for asylum, or meet other rules for Cuban/Haitian entrants,
    • Afghan or Iraqi military interpreters and their families granted Special Immigrant status, or
    • victims of trafficking in human beings.

    Persons in this group meet non-citizen rules without any waiting period and whether or not they have become lawful permanent residents.

  • Lawful permanent residents ("green card" holders or "LPRs") or non-citizens granted humanitarian parole status for at least a year who
    • have had lawful permanent resident or parole status for a minimum of five years, or
    • previously were refugees or had another refugee group status (see above), or
    • have been continuously present in the U.S. (with no long interruptions) since at least August 21, 1996 (even if lawful permanent resident or parole status was granted within the past five years).
  • Veterans of the U.S. military and active duty military personnel who are lawfully residing in the U.S. (even if not LPRs), their spouses, surviving spouses who have not remarried, and their children; and
  • Battered non-citizens who meet certain legal status requirements and were abused by a spouse or parent (and the children or parents of battered non-citizens). See What are the special non-citizen eligibility rules for battered immigrants and their families?.

See 106 C.M.R. § 203.675; F.O. Memo 2005-22 (June 1, 2005) (battered non-citizens F.O. Memo 2007-52 (Sept. 28, 2007) (Cuban/Haitian entrants F.O. Memo 2010-09 (Mar. 16, 2010) (Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants DTA Transitions, Oct. 2012, p. 4.

Advocacy Reminders

  • A child born in the United States is a citizen regardless of the parent's immigration status. Citizens also include most people born abroad to or adopted by a U.S. citizen. See DTA Transitions, May 2006, p. 3. If your child is eligible but you yourself do not meet the non-citizen requirements, you can apply for and receive benefits for your citizen child but not for yourself. See Getting TAFDC for your children if you are a non-citizen.
  • For details on how DTA verifies non-citizen status, see DTA Operations Memos 2013-14A (May 2, 2013). DTA must give you a reasonable time to provide documentation and should not delay or deny benefits until documentation is provided. St. 2010, c. 131, § 182.
  • If you are an eligible non-citizen parent, but your child does not meet non-citizen rules (for example, if your child is a lawful permanent resident who entered the U.S. within the past five years), you may be eligible for yourself because you have a dependent child in your care even though the child is not eligible for benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 203.560. See DTA Transitions, November 2002, p. 2; DTA Transitions, May 2007, p. 3.
  • A disabled adult who does not meet TAFDC non-citizen requirements may qualify for EAEDC (Elders, Disabled and Children benefits) if he or she meets all EAEDC requirements. DTA Field Operations Memo 2008-43 (Aug. 15, 2008). The EAEDC Advocacy Guide explains EAEDC disability rules and procedures. See under Legal Advocacy Guides. DTA has not agreed that disabled non-citizen children can qualify for EAEDC but DTA hearing officers have approved benefits for them.
  • There are different non-citizen eligibility rules for Emergency Assistance (shelter and rehousing services for homeless families), see the Emergency Assistance Advocacy Guide and for SNAP (food stamps). See Food Stamps/SNAP Advocacy Guide: An Advocate's Guide to the Food Stamp/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Massachusetts.
  • If you are a non-citizen, receiving TAFDC cash assistance may make the immigration authorities think you will not be able to support yourself  and will become a “public charge” primarily dependent on the government for support. This can be a problem if you are applying for a green card (permanent resident status) or want to leave the U.S. and return. Receiving TAFDC does not by itself make you a “public charge,” but you should consult an immigration specialist before applying for a green card or leaving the U.S. If you are already a lawful permanent resident or you are a refugee or asylee waiting to become a lawful permanent resident, receiving TAFDC will not affect your ability to become a citizen. Receiving TAFDC will also not make you a “public charge” if you are a refugee or asylee, have an approved VAWA petition, or hold a U-visa. For more information on public charge, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; the National Immigration Law Center; or MassLegalHelp.
  • DTA does not count the income of a sponsor unless you actually receive it and does not count sponsor assets at all. DTA Field Operations Memo 2008-65 (Dec. 8, 2008). DTA also does not count sponsor income or assets for SNAP (food stamps) except in a few very special circumstances.
  • DTA cannot report you to immigration authorities unless you are under a final order of deportation and you show DTA a copy of the final order. 106 C.M.R. § 203.675. You can choose not to provide DTA with information about your non-citizen status. See DTA's brochure, "What Immigrants Need to Know," attached to F.O. Memo 2004-34 (Sept. 30, 2004).

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