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Policy updates on SNAP and shared custody; Immigrants and 5 year bar

Thanks to so many of you who attended last Thursday’s Basic Benefits Training on Immigrants and Benefits. We had close to 150 participants, just underscoring how critical this basic immigrant/benefits eligibility information continue to be for local community groups. MLRI has great resources on-line if you still  have questions about which immigrants qualify for SNAP, cash, health care, and links to resources that can help you interpret immigration document codes.

Here some SNAP Policy Updates and Reminders:

1.  SNAP eligibility and shared custody of children

DTA recently issued a series of Q&As on how to determine the SNAP eligibility of children living in joint custody situations (e.g. part time with each parent). This Q and A is contained the February 2012 Transition Hotline section and conveniently posted at our legal services website at this link: 

Here’s the bottom line: a) eligibility for the children depends on where they consume the majority of meals each week or month, and not necessarily the legal terms of a joint custody agreement or court order; b) both parents cannot receive SNAP for the same children. If the shared custody is 50/50 – the parents need to chose based on where the child/ren spends the most time.

2.  Immigrant status and the five year bar

Questions keep surfacing about when the 5 year bar (waiting period for SNAP benefits) applies to legal immigrants seeking benefits. This is indeed confusing, and especially when comparing eligibility between programs.**  Here’s the skinny on the 5 year bar in the SNAP program:

a.  There is NO 5 year wait for immigrant children (e.g kids who are LPRs, parolees, children of eligible battered immigrants). So, while an LPR or battered immigrant parent may need to wait out the 5 years, the children should qualify immediately.
b.  There is NO 5 year wait for any LPR, parolee or battered immigrant adults who are receiving a disability-based benefit such as MassHealth as disabled, EAEDC or TAFDC with a disability coding that meets a disability severity threshold. (Call MLRI if you need help figuring this out). Special rules also apply to elder legal immigrants who may have a disability.
c.  There is NO 5 year wait for any LPR with 40 quarters (10 years) of countable work history. This can be work history of the LPR, the spouse, or the parent of the LPR before the LPR turned 18 years (and including all the years prior to birth) and does not involve a lot of earned income.
d.  There is NO 5 year wait for any LPR who previously got legal status as a refugee, asylee, Cuban/Haitian entrant or one of the other protected status.
e.  To count the 5 years, be sure to include any time the adult immigrant has in prior "qualified" status as a parolee. For battered immigrants, the 5 years start from the date of the filing of the relative or VAWA petition (special rules apply - see links below).


* For more details and policy links on SNAP and immigrant eligibility, go to Questions 20 – 28 of the Food Stamp/SNAP Advocacy Guide at: 

* Check out the USDA Non-Citizen Guidance at:

* An MLRI produced cross walk chart governing the immigrant rules for SNAP and the cash programs of TAFDC, EAEDC and SSI  is available at: 

* For WHO to contact at MLRI for immigrant related benefits questions -

MassHealth, SCHIP, etc: Vicky Pulos

SNAP and cash benefits:  Pat Baker

Housing: Judith Liben

Immigration status: Iris

The NEXT Food SNAP Coalition is Tuesday, March 27th (10 to Noon) at St Francis House.