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Home Page > Government Aid and Services > Hunger and Nutrition > Food Stamps/SNAP

Food Stamp/SNAP Law Changes Make it Easier for Some Immigrants to Get Food Stamps/SNAP


How can an alien get food stamps/SNAP?

In order to receive food stamps/SNAP, an alien must be a “qualified immigrant.” Qualified immigrants include legal permanent residents, asylees, refugees, people paroled in the public interest for one year or more, certain conditional entrants, Cuban/Haitian entrants, and most non-citizen spouses and children who are victims of domestic violence. Many qualified immigrants are already eligible for food stamps/SNAP. But many immigrant families have been unable to get food stamps/SNAP because the program limited the number of years some non-citizens could receive benefits. It also imposed tough rules about lengthy work histories. More immigrant families will now be eligible for food stamps/SNAP.

What changes does the law make?

The new law expands the program to include:

  • “Qualified immigrants” with disabilities who are receiving disability benefits for their condition, regardless of their date of entry into the United States. This change was effective October 1, 2002.

  • “Qualified immigrants” who have been in the United States for five years (regardless of the amount of time that they have worked in the U.S.).

  • Removal of the seven-year cap on food stamps/SNAP for refugees, asylees, and parolees, if they have been in qualified immigrant status for five years. (This change is effective as of April 1, 2003, but food stamp/SNAP offices will begin accepting applications in March.

  • “Qualified immigrant” children regardless of date of entry. (This change is effective as of April 1, 2003, but food stamp/SNAP offices will begin accepting applications in March.)

What if everyone in my household is not eligible for food stamps/SNAP?

If you live in a household with both eligible and ineligible immigrants, the household may apply for food stamps/SNAP for the eligible household members. The ineligible household members are considered “non-applicants.” Non-applicant household members must provide their names and income information, but they do not have to provide Social Security numbers or information about their immigration status to the food stamp/SNAP office.

If you need more information about food stamps or other government benefits, you can contact LSNJ-LAW™, the statewide toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) for more information.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2003 issue of Looking Out for Your Legal Rights®.


This information last reviewed 10/28/11.


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Low-income New Jerseyans can get free legal help by phone: call our toll-free hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Outside of New Jersey, please call 732-572-9100 and ask to be transferred to the hotline.