Iraqi & Afghan Legal Permanent Residents with Special Immigrant Visas Eligible for SNAP & Federal Benefits Without 5 Year Wait


On December 26th, 2007. President Bush signed an Omnibus Appropriations Act that included language (Section 525) authorizing a limited time period of refugee benefits for immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan who entered as legal permanent residents with Special Immigrant Visas (SI-1) rather than refugee status. Many of these Special Immigrant visa recipients were military interpreters for the U.S. military during these conflicts.

These Iraqi and Afghan noncitizens with special immigrant status were eligible for certain public assistance programs, including TAFDC and Food Stamps, for a limited time period. Afghan noncitizens with special immigrant status and their family members were eligible for benefits for up to six months (alter extended to eigh months). Iraqi noncitizens with special immigrant status and their family members were eligible for benefits for up to eight months. Once the six- or eight-month period ended, these individuals and their families were subject to the five-year bar on receipt of public assistance unless they qualified for benefits under another qualified noncitizen status. In order to receive benefits, these noncitizens must meet all other eligibility requirements.  See Field Ops Memo 2008-26 and Field Ops Memo 2009-36

Legislation enacted pursuant to Section 8120 of the December 19, 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill (Public Law 111-118) removed this five year bar. Iraqi and Afghan immigrants granted legal permanent residence status through SIV process now qualify for federally funded federal food stamps, Medicaid, SSI or TANF benefits without a five year wait.

USDA has issued formal guidance to provide food stamp/SNAP benefits to Iraqi and Afghan legal permanent residents granted special immigrant visas (SIV) status, without five year wait. Here's the link to USDA's just issued guidance, dated 1/29/2010:

Although DTA has nto yet implemented guidance, any Iraqi or Afghan LPRs should qualify under this provision immediately.