Texas Food Stamps for Non-Citizens: What you Need to Know

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Nutrition care and food security are the main goals of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides food for low-income families. Although non-citizens without any documentation or immigration papers are ineligible to participate in SNAP, many non-citizens with documentation or legal residence are eligible. Research has found that many eligible non-citizens are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to. One reason for this is that non-citizens who are not eligible for SNAP are not aware that they can still apply for benefits for their eligible family members.

Basic Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible as a non-citizen, you must be able to demonstrate that you:

  • Have been residing in the U.S. for at least 5 years
  • Are able to show that you have worked 40 quarters
  • Are under 18
  • Have a disability
  • Were born on or before August 22, 1931.
  • Have a military affiliation

You may still be eligible for SNAP benefits if you don’t meet one of the above conditions if you are a refugee, victim of human trafficking, have asylum, are from Cuba or Haiti, have Iraq or Afghanistan immigrant status, are native American born overseas, are Highland or Hmong Laotian, have been in the country since 1996, or are already receiving benefits for a disability.

What counts as a disability?

Applicants will be considered disabled and eligible for SNAP benefits if they are currently receiving Medicaid or SSI disability payments, even if these benefits are funded by the state.

What counts as a military connection?

The USDA grants no waiting period for qualified members of the military and their spouses and dependent children. If you were honorably discharged from military service, then you will still be eligible for SNAP benefits.

What if I cannot provide verification of my U.S. citizenship?

SNAP applicants who indicate on the application form that they are a U.S. citizen, and should be given SNAP benefits. However, if your citizenship status is questioned by administration, then you might still be able to get witness testimony in writing to meet the eligibility requirements.

Will my SNAP benefits be denied if I was already denied previously due to immigration status?

Your SNAP benefits will not be denied if you currently have legal non-citizen status.

Conditions Causing Ineligibility

Undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as temporary visitors but have overstayed their visas are not eligible for SNAP benefits. Individuals who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are not eligible for SNAP benefits unless they are from Cuba or Haiti. Having a U Visa also generally makes a person ineligible for benefits, with a few exceptions, in the case of battered immigrants or those with LPR status. Also, individuals who are lawful non-citizens, but are on student visas or H-1B worker visas are ineligible. Non-citizens who have suffered abuse, or had parent who was abused, are considered eligible for SNAP under the 12-month battered non-citizen determination. To get SNAP benefits under these conditions requires the applicant to submit Form I-130, for a spouse, widower or parent, or to file a self petition, or an application for stay of deportation due to domestic violence in the U.S. Sufficient evidence for abuse includes homelessness, mental health counseling, medical attention, or disability due to abuse.

What if I have been a U.S. resident for five years, but not consecutively?

If you have been a resident of the U.S. for 5 years total, but nonconsecutively, you are still eligible for SNAP benefits. However, if you left the U.S. for over six months, your residency status is interrupted unless you provide evidence of future intent to resume seeking residence in the U.S.

Important Tips on Registering as a Non-Citizens

SNAP applicants are not required to speak English to receive SNAP benefits as long as they have immigration papers. Enrolling in the SNAP program does not cause any changes in immigration status or decrease the possibility of becoming an American citizen. The SNAP program will not use an applicant’s information for deportation purposes or in any way that hurts the applicant’s legal residence in the U.S. It is important to be aware of your rights when making purchases with your Texas EBT card. Currently, stores are supposed to accept the TX LoneStar Card even if the customer does not have matching photo identification. The USDA wants all household members to be able to use the same EBT card, and not need separate cards for each family member. However, a store can deny an EBT purchase if someone is attempting to use three or more LoneStar cards for one purchase.

Effects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA)

The PRWORA had limited non-citizen SNAP eligibility to those who have 40 qualifying work quarters, veteran status, or refugee/asylum status. However, the Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act (AREERA) and the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act expanded SNAP eligibility to other groups.