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Alien Eligibility

How is Alien Eligibility Established?

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) established new alien eligibility criteria for Public Assistance benefits. A subset of aliens were identified as "specially qualified" aliens.

The Welfare Reform Act of 1997 amended the Social Services Law by adding a new section 122.  As a result of this change, "specially qualified" aliens are able to receive PA, if otherwise eligible. "Qualified aliens" who entered the United States before August 22, 1996 are able to receive PA, if otherwise eligible.  The Act also provides that the income and resources of a sponsor of an alien, who has signed an affidavit of support pursuant to section 213A of the NIA as amended, shall be deemed available to such alien for determining eligibility for FA, other public assistance funded under the Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant and Medicaid.

Most aliens who entered the country on or after August 22, 1996 are ineligible for Family Assistance benefits for at least five years. Most qualified aliens, however, may receive Safety Net assistance. Citizen children of non-citizen parents, if otherwise eligible, can receive PA benefits. Illegal aliens continue to be ineligible for PA.

What is a "Qualified Alien"?

  1. A refugee admitted under Section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act;
  2. An asylee granted asylum under Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act;
  3. A person whose deportation was withheld under Section 241(b)(3) or 243(h) of the  Immigration and Nationality Act;
  4. A Cuban and Haitian entrant (as defined in section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980;
  5. An alien admitted into the United States as an Amerasian immigrant as described in section 402(a)(2)(A)(i)(V) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1612(a)(2)(A));
  6. A person lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States;
  7. A person paroled into the United States under Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for a period of at least one year;
  8. A person granted conditional entry into the United States under Section 203(a)(7) of the Immigration and Nationality Act;
  9. A battered spouse and dependents meeting the criteria of Section 431(c) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. To be a qualified alien under this provision, an alien must demonstrate that:
    • The Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Executive Office for Immigration Review has granted a petition or application filed by or on behalf of the alien or the alien's child under one of several subsections of the INA; and
    • The alien or the alien's child has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the U.S. by a spouse or parent of the alien or by a member of the spouse's or parent's family residing in the same household as the alien, but only if the spouse or parent consents to or acquiesces in such battery or cruelty and in the case of a battered child, the alien did not actively participate in the battery or cruelty; and
    • There is a substantial connection between the battery or extreme cruelty and the need for the public benefit sought (defined under the Federal Register, Vol. 62, No. 142, pages 39874 - 39875.); and
    • The battered alien or child no longer resides in the same household as the abuser.

What is a "Specially Qualified Alien"?

  1. A refugee admitted under Section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, for a period of five years from the date the person was admitted into the United States as a refugee;
  2. An asylee granted status under Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, for a period of five years from the date that the asylee was granted status;
  3. A person for whom deportation was withheld, under Section 241(b)(3) or 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, for a period of five years from the date that the deportation was withheld;
  4. A Cuban Haitian entrant (as defined in Section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980) for a period of five years from the date such status was granted;
  5. An alien admitted into the United States as an Amerasian Immigrant as described in Section 402(a)(2)(A)(i)(V) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1612(a)(2)(A)) for a period of five years from the date the person was admitted into the United States;
  6. A person lawfully admitted for permanent residence into the United States who has worked for forty quarters as defined under Title II of the federal social security act, or can be credited with such qualifying quarters exclusive of any quarter after December 31, 1996 in which such person received any federal means tested assistance whose entry into the United States was at least five years earlier or who entered the United States prior to August 22, 1996;
  7. Any qualified alien who is on active duty, other than duty for training, in the United States Armed Forces or who has received a discharge characterized as honorable and not on account of alienage, or their spouse or unmarried dependent child of any such alien who is also a qualified alien.

What are the Eligibility Criteria?

No person except a citizen or a specially qualified alien shall be eligible for the federal Food Stamp program, Family Assistance, Safety Net Assistance, or services funded under Title XX of the federal Social Security Act, except as follows:

  1. A qualified alien, who is not a specially qualified alien, who was a lawful resident of the United States before 8/22/96, or who was a lawful resident of the United States on or after 8/22/96, for five or more years, is, if otherwise eligible, eligible for Family Assistance, Safety Net Assistance, and services pursuant to Title XX of the federal Social Security Act, but shall be ineligible for the federal Food Stamp program.
  2. A qualified alien, who is not a specially qualified alien, who entered the United States on or after 8/22/96 but who was a legal resident of the United States for less than five years shall, if otherwise eligible, be
  3. eligible for Safety Net Assistance, but shall be ineligible for Family Assistance or Food Stamps.
  4. An alien whose status is not within the meaning of the term qualified alien, but who is otherwise permanently residing in the United States under color of law (PRUCOL); as such term was used on August 21, 1996, by the federal Administration for Children and Families is, if otherwise eligible, eligible for Safety Net Assistance.
  5. A person paroled into the United States under Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for a period of less than one year is, if otherwise eligible, eligible for Safety Net Assistance.
  6. Nothing shall preclude the receipt by an alien of community based non- cash assistance in accordance with the directions of the US Attorney General.
  7. Any alien, including an alien who is not a qualified alien, is eligible for adult protective services and services and assistance relating to child protection to the extent that such person is otherwise eligible pursuant to this Section and the Regulations of the department.
  8. An alien is eligible for additional state payments for aged, blind and disabled person under social services law only to the extent that such person is not ineligible for federal SSI benefits due to alien status.

What is the Referral Requirement?

The following shall be immediately referred to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, or the nearest consulate of the country of the applicant or recipient for such service or consulate to take appropriate action or furnish assistance:

  1. Any applicant or recipient who has been determined to be ineligible for Family Assistance or Safety Net Assistance because he or she is an alien unlawfully residing in the U.S., or
  2. Any applicant or recipient who has failed to furnish evidence that he or she is lawfully residing in the U.S.

What is the Reporting Requirement?

Each social services district shall report monthly to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance the name and address and other identifying information known to it with respect to any alien known to be unlawfully in the United States. The information the district provides to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance will be transmitted to the federal government according to federal law and regulation.

What are the Documentation Requirements?

At application and each recertification for the federal Food Stamp program, Family Assistance, Safety Net Assistance, or Title XX services, the applicant/recipient must, as a condition of eligibility, provide documentation as follows:

  1. Documentation of United States citizenship or immigration or alien status granted by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for each member of the Public Assistance household.   (NOTE: Once citizenship is obtained, it does not have to be verified at each recertification; however, immigration status must be documented at every recertification.)
  2. For any member of the household who is not a U.S. citizen, documentation as to the alien status granted to them by INS.
  3. For all applicants/recipients who were lawfully admitted for permanent residence, documentation regarding their lawful entry into the U.S. prior to 8/22/96.
  4. If the alien documents that they were lawfully admitted for permanent residence on or after 8/22/96, documentation regarding the number of quarters of qualified employment they worked or can be credited with
  5. For all non-citizens, who are serving in the United States Armed Forces or veterans discharged under honorable condition from the United States Armed Force, and their spouses and unmarried dependent children must provide documentation that they are qualified aliens.

NOTE: The applicant/recipient is responsible for providing the required documentation. If he/she cannot provide the needed documentation, the Agency must provide reasonable assistance to help the applicant/recipient to obtain the documentation. If a specific document is required, and the Agency is going to take action for failure to provide the document, the Agency must provide assistance to the applicant/recipient for anything that is out of client control to obtain. Once the documentation is provided, the applicant/recipient is not required to obtain it again, unless the applicant/recipient has an immigration status that can be changed.

What are the Food Stamp Implications?

In addition to meeting all other food stamp eligibility requirements, alien applicants/recipients must fall into one of the following eight categories in order to receive federal food stamps:

  1. An alien admitted to the U.S. as a refugee under section 207 of the INA may receive food stamps for 5 years after attaining refugee status.
  2. An alien admitted as an asylee under section 208 of the INA may receive food stamps for 5 years after attaining asylee status.
  3. An alien whose deportation is withheld under section 241(b)(3) or 243 (h) of the INA may receive food stamps for 5 years after deportation is withheld.
  4. An alien who has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence may receive food stamp benefits with no time limit if that alien is:
    • a veteran with an honorable discharge not related to his/her alien status
    • currently on active military duty, or
    • the spouse or unmarried dependent child of an honorably discharged veteran or alien on active duty.
  5. An alien who has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence and has worked 40 qualifying quarter of coverage under Title II of the Social Security Act (or can be credited with such quarters) may receive food stamp benefits with no time limit.
  6. An alien who has been granted status as a Cuban/Haitian entrant as defined in section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980 within the last five years, may receive food stamps for the first five years after attaining status.
  7. An alien who has been admitted to the United States as an Amerasian immigrant pursuant to sections 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1988, may receive food stamps for the first five years after attaining status.
  8. An alien who is a battered spouse or their children who have filed a petition with INS and meet the criteria as described in Section 431(c) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. (Food Assistance Program only)

Effective 9/1/97, a state and local food stamp program which is referred to  as the Food Assistance Program (FAP), is available if an individual:

  1. is otherwise eligible to receive federal food stamp benefits except for the non-citizen provisions as indicated above.
  2. had been living in the U.S. on 8/22/96, and residing in the same district in which the application for the Food Assistance Program is being made; and
    either:
    • be under 18 years of age, or
    • elderly or disabled
  3. has not been absent from the U.S. for more than 90 days within the 12 month period immediately preceding the date of application for FAP.
  4. apply to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization for U.S. citizenship 30 days from the date of application for FAP (if eligible to apply.)

What are the Medical Assistance Implications?

Qualified aliens who are eligible for Family Assistance are eligible for full federally funded Medicaid. Qualified aliens who are not "specially qualified aliens" and who entered the U.S. on or after 8/22/96 are not eligible for full federally funded Medicaid benefits during their first five years with a qualifying status. Such aliens may receive federally funded coverage for emergency services, if otherwise eligible.  However, such individuals may be eligible for public assistance benefits in the Safety Net Assistance program.  And, under the stipulations of Aliessa v.Novello, they may be entitled to full Medicaid benefits funded through state and local levy.

Aliens who are not qualified aliens, but who are determined to be permanently residing in the U.S. under color of law (PRUCOL), are not eligible for full federally funded Medicaid benefits, but may receive federally funded coverage for emergency services. However, such individuals may be eligible for public assistance benefits in the Safety Net Assistance program.  And, under the stipulations of Aliessa v. Novello, they may be entitled to full Medicaid benefits funded through state and local levy.

Non-immigrant and undocumented aliens are only entitled to federally funded coverage for emergency services, if otherwise eligible.


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Dennis J. Packard
Commissioner

797 Broadway
Schenectady, New York  12305-2704
Ph: 518-388-4470
Fax: 518-388-4644


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