SNAP food benefits for Lawful Permanent Residents

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

If you have a “green card,” you are a Lawful Permanent Resident or an “LPR.” Many LPRs who are low-income can get SNAP. Some LPR adults need to have a green card for 5 years before they can get SNAP.

But, there is no 5-year wait for the following LPRs:

Can my LPR or citizen children get SNAP even if I can't?

Yes. LPR and United States citizen children can get SNAP without any waiting period. You can always apply for your children even if you are not eligible. However, you still need to tell DTA about your income.

I used to have a different immigration status before I got a green card. How does that affect my benefits?

Some LPR immigrants first entered the U.S.s as a refugee or other special status. If you are an LPR now, but you had a special “qualified” status before, you do not need to wait 5 years to get SNAP. These special “qualified” statuses include:

  • Certain nationals from Cuba, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine
  • Asylees, Refugees, and immigrants granted Withholding of Deportation.
  • Certain Amerasians.
  • Immigrants who are Victims of Human Trafficking.

See the SNAP Advocacy Guide for more details.

What kind of special work history do I need so that I do not have to wait five years?

If you are an LPR adult, you do not have to wait for 5 years to get SNAP if you have 10 years (40 calendar quarters) of work history. The 10 years of work history can include any combination of:

  • Work done in the U.S., 
  • A spouse’s work in the U.S. while you were married, 
  • Work your parents did in the U.S. before you turned 18, including work they did before you were born, and
  • Work in certain countries outside the U.S.

You do not need to earn a lot to claim work history. For example, if you earned at least $6,040 in 2022, that amount counts as 4 quarters of work.

DTA should ask you about your work history in the U.S.. They can double check this with Social Security.  Be sure to tell them if your spouse or your parents also have work history.


Claiming work your spouse or parent did so you can get SNAP does not impact your spouse’s or parent’s ability to get Social Security, SNAP or other benefits.

If you don’t have proof of work history when you apply for SNAP, DTA must give you 6 months of SNAP while they and you work on getting enough proof.

Will receiving SNAP hurt my chances of getting a green card or becoming a citizen?

No. SNAP does not affect your chances of getting a green card or becoming a U.S. citizen. See Understanding public charge.

How can I apply for SNAP if I don’t speak English?

You have the right to apply for SNAP in the language you prefer. DTA must give you an interpreter for appointments and send you letters in your primary language. If you don’t understand what workers are telling you, and they refuse to get you an interpreter, call an advocate!

Learn more at Your right to an interpreter from DTA.

If I work, can I still receive SNAP?

Many low wage workers qualify for SNAP. The amount of your benefits depends on the size of your family, how much income you have, and certain types of costs you have. Tell DTA how much you pay for rent, childcare costs, and any child support you pay to a child outside the home. If you are 60 or over or get a disability benefit, tell DTA about any healthcare costs you have. If you have a low income, it is worth applying.

What if I was sponsored by a relative?

Some immigrants get their LPR status through a family member or employer called a “sponsor” A sponsor may have signed a contract (an affidavit of support) agreeing to support them. If your sponsor gives you income regularly, this income will count in determining your benefits. If your sponsor doesn't give you regular income, then their income does not count.

The same rules apply to LPRs who qualify for cash benefits (TAFDC or EAEDC).

Next steps

More information about getting SNAP if you are an immigrant is in the SNAP Advocacy Guide.

If you think you may be eligible, you have a right to apply for SNAP at DTA. You can appeal if you are denied or turned away.


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