Food Assistance for Immigrants

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You may have been told you are not eligible for the Food Assistance Program (FAP, also known as Food Stamps) because you are an immigrant. That may not be true. Depending on your immigration status, you may be eligible for FAP. Even if you are not eligible for FAP, other members of your household might be.

FAP Eligibility

Non-U.S. citizens must have an “acceptable status” to be eligible for FAP. Many factors can affect eligibility and it can be complicated to know if you have acceptable status. If you have questions about your status, you may want to contact a legal services office for help. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find a legal services office in your area.

Generally, all non-citizen children with permanent resident status (green cards) or VAWA are eligible for FAP. Non-citizen adults who have permanent resident status or VAWA for five years or more are also eligible. Asylees and refugees are also eligible for FAP. Some other categories of immigrants are also eligible, including certified victims of human trafficking and Cuban/Haitian entrants.

Immigrants not in one of the eligible categories cannot get FAP. People who refuse to share their immigration status are also not eligible. However, one person’s ineligible immigration status will not stop others in the household from getting FAP. Here is an example:

A household has three members, Brenda, Lauren, and Fred. Fred is not lawfully present in the U.S., and therefore, not eligible for FAP. Fred’s status will not affect Brenda and Lauren’s eligibility based on immigration status. Brenda and Lauren are eligible to get FAP, so they can.

All household members have to be counted when someone is applying for FAP. However, the application allows you to say who wants to apply for benefits. If one member does not have eligible immigration status, the applicant can say that person does not want to apply for FAP. In the example above, if Brenda was the applicant, she would list Lauren and Fred as being household members. But she could say that Fred is not applying for FAP.

The same is true in the more common situation where an ineligible parent is applying for FAP for their eligible minor children. Taking the example above, if Fred is Brenda and Lauren’s father, Fred can complete the application for Brenda and Lauren, and say that he is not applying for FAP for himself.

While Fred may not be applying for FAP, his assets and income might be considered when determining whether the household is eligible, and how much FAP they get.

Can Applying for FAP Impact My Immigration Case?

Generally, no. Only asylees, refugees, and a few other special groups of non-citizens are eligible for FAP. Non-citizens not in those groups would be denied. Even when a non-citizen adult has a green card, they are not eligible for FAP for five years. Getting FAP after five years with a green card has no effect on naturalization.

If you are in the U.S. on an employment visa, your sponsor (employer) cannot stop you or your family from getting FAP.

Will MDHHS Share My Information with Immigration?

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is in charge of FAP for Michigan. Generally, MDHHS is not allowed to share any information with U.S. immigration authorities about non-citizen applicants.

MDHHS workers may share information with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when there is a final order of deportation against an applicant. The same is true if USCIS or an immigration judge determines an applicant is unlawfully present.

What If My English is Limited?

MDHHS must provide you with an interpreter if you need one. You also have a right to bring your own interpreter if you prefer. The application is also available in different languages. You can apply online, and have someone help you.

If you have questions about whether your immigration status makes you eligible for FAP, contact your local MDHHS office. Your local legal services office may also be able to help you. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a legal services office in your area.