49. How does my work history help so I don’t wait 5 years for SNAP?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) with 40 qualifying quarters (10 years) of work history can often qualify for SNAP without the 5-year waiting period.1

You can get work history 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 and other countries done after certain dates. See the DTA Online Guide page on LPRs (Verifying 40 Quarters) for the current list of allowable countries.
  • Work done by your spouse while married, including work done by a common law spouse even if you were not legally “married” (but you lose your spouse’s quarters upon divorce).
  • 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 the approved foreign countries.
Amount of earnings needed

You can get credit for past work history - even if you did not earn a lot. For example, based on the Social Security Administration’s quarters of coverage tables, you will get credit for 4 quarters if you earned (gross) at least $6,920 for calendar year 2024. In many cases, you may have worked for just one month and still get the full 4 quarters for that year.

Using spouse or parent work history

As noted above, a SNAP household can use the work history of a spouse or parent to achieve 40 quarters of work history. Here’s two examples:

Example 1

Clara and Jose are LPRs. They both have been working consistently and paying taxes since they arrived in the U.S. Clara has 12 quarters of work (3 years work with 4 quarters in each year) and Jose has 32 quarters of work (8 years with 4 quarters in each year). Clara can count her 12 quarters and her husband’s 32 quarters of work for a total of 42 quarters of work. Jose can claim Clara’s 12 quarters and his own. Clara and Jose are both eligible for SNAP; neither need to wait 5 years.

Example 2

Siobhan got her LPR status 2 years ago. Her parents lived and worked in the U.S. for 21 years, including for 10 years when Siobhan was a minor living with relatives in Ireland. Siobhan’s earnings are up and down, so she applied for SNAP. She can count her own work history for SNAP and her parent’s work history before she turned age 18. She qualifies for SNAP through the combination of her and her parent’s work quarters from when she was a minor (and also, if needed, before she was born)


Claiming the work history of a spouse or parent to qualify for SNAP does not impact their FICA or Social Security. They can still claim all their work history when they file for Social Security benefits.

Earnings while undocumented

Check with an immigration specialist before claiming credit for work done in the U.S. if you - the wage earner - did not have work authorization or a valid SSN. You may be able to correct your earnings record with Social Security if the earnings report is not accurate, but we recommend contacting an advocate to do this.

Restrictions on work history claimed

Under the federal rules, the LPR 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 (federal MassHealth), or SCHIP (health benefits for children).

If the wage earner got these benefits for an eligible child or spouse - but did not receive any benefits for themselves - the wage earner does not lose the right to claim the countable work quarters.

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.
Receipt of Social Security survivor’s benefits should be sufficient proof of work quarters for SNAP. See DTA Transitions, Quality Corner, pg 6 (July 2002),

DTA may be able to get information about your work history through the SSA Quarters of Coverage History System (QCHS).

If you think your spouse or parent(s) before you turned 18 have work history, tell DTA so they can inquire about this person’s work history directly with SSA. To get information about a parent or spouse, DTA should send the Social Security Administration a Request for Quarters of Coverage Based on Relationship form. DTA will ask you for the spouse or parent’s name, SSN, date of birth, relationship to you, and which years and quarters you are seeking to confirm.

Pending SNAP eligibility

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 SSA2.

DTA Online Guide

See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON 5 Online Guide for this section.


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