Eligibility Rules for Select Groups

SNAP eligibility rules vary based on who is applying. For certain groups of people, the eligibility rules make it harder to access SNAP (i.e., students and non-citizens), while for others, rules are streamlined or simplified (i.e., seniors and people living with a disability). It is important to evaluate each individual’s eligibility, since some people in a household might be eligible even if others are not.


A student is any person who is:

  • 18 through 49 years of age
  • Physically and mentally fit
  • Enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher education

Institution of Higher Education:
Any institution at the post high school level that normally requires a high school diploma or equivalency certificate for enrollment, including but not limited to:

  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • Business schools
  • Vocational schools
  • Trade or technical schools
  • Correspondence schools
  • Online courses
  • Colleges or universities that offer degree programs regardless of whether a high-school diploma is required

Enrolled in a College Meal Plan:
Students receiving 50% or more of their meals (based on 3 meals for seven days equaling 21 meals) from a college meal plan are not eligible to receive SNAP as they are considered to be living in an institution. The SNAP office must screen each student to identify the number of meals the student is granted under their meal plan.

Determining Student Eligibility

When working with students who are applying for SNAP, you must first determine if they meet the criteria to be considered an “eligible student” under SNAP rules.

Under these rules, students who are 18 to 49 years old and enrolled at least halftime in an institution of higher learning cannot get SNAP unless they meet at least one of the following exceptions:

Student is working:

  • Employed an average of 20 hours a week or more
  • Self-employed, working an average of 20 hours a week and making an average income equal to the federal minimum wage multiplied by 20 hours

Student has one or more of these individual characteristics:

  • 17 years old or younger
  • 50 years old or older
  • Physically or mentally unfit for work: the individual has an illness, condition or life circumstance, whether temporary or permanent, that reduces or affects their ability to work 20 hours a week.
  • Primary caretaker of a household member who is under age 6 or is incapacitated
  • Primary caretaker of a household member between the ages of 6 and 11, if no adequate childcare is available that would make it possible to work and go to school
  • A single parent enrolled full time who is responsible for the care of children under age 12

Student participates in qualified government program:

  • Receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Receives unemployment benefits
  • Participating in state or federal work-study
  • Attends a State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) community, comprehensive, or technology college and is enrolled in a qualified certificate or degree Career and Technical Education (CTE) program
  • Attends an Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) and is enrolled in a qualified CTE program, remedial courses, basic adult education, literacy, or English as a second language
  • In school through SNAP Employment and Training (E&T), Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) or the Department of Labor program

For help determining if a student meets any of these exemptions, see the Student Eligibility Checklist.

Eligible Students are Exempt from Work Rules

Students determined to be “eligible students” under SNAP rules are exempt from:

  • SNAP E&T work requirements, and
  • SNAP time limit rules for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD)—currently suspended until February 28, 2025

Students Who Do Not Qualify for SNAP

Students who do not meet one of the above exceptions are excluded from the SNAP household, and neither the income nor the resources of the ineligible student will be used in determining eligibility for the rest of the household. However, if the student makes any cash contributions to the remaining members of the household, this will count as income. The rest of the household members may still be eligible.

Continuing Eligibility of Students

Eligible students remain eligible between school breaks (vacations, summer, etc.) unless the student graduates, is suspended or expelled, drops out, or does not intend to register for the next school term (excluding summer semesters).

Exception: Students who have work-study lose their SNAP eligibility between semesters if the break is a full month or longer and in summer months, unless the work-study continues or they fit into another exemption.

Ineligible students remain ineligible between school breaks (vacations, summer, etc.) unless the student graduates, is suspended or expelled, drops out, or does not intend to register for the next school term (excluding summer semesters).


Citizen: a person (other than a child of a foreign diplomat) who is born in: one of the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands or the Northern Mariana Islands, and who has not renounced or otherwise lost their citizenship. Citizens can apply for SNAP, but must qualify under eligibility rules to receive benefits.

Naturalized Citizen: a person born outside of the U.S. who has lawfully become a U.S. citizen. Naturalized citizens can apply for SNAP, but must qualify under eligibility rules to receive benefits.

Non-citizen: a person who lives in the U.S. but has yet to become a naturalized citizen. Non-citizens who are legally present in the U.S. may be eligible for SNAP if/when they meet additional criteria.

Repatriation: the act or process of restoring or returning someone or something to the country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship; the act of repatriating or the state of being repatriated.

Undocumented Non-citizens: those who cannot prove they are legally present in this country. These individuals are never eligible for SNAP.

Non-citizens Who Are Eligible for SNAP

The desk guide prepared by OTDA (LDSS-4579) lists the categories of non-citizens who are eligible for SNAP (as well as cash assistance and Medicaid), along with what documents can be used to verify their status.

To receive SNAP benefits, the non-citizen must:

  1. Have “qualified alien” status and
  2. Meet a condition that allows qualified non-citizens to get SNAP

Qualified Alien Status

All non-citizens must meet one criterion from each list. See LDSS-4579 for further clarification on non-citizen status.

Non-citizens with Qualified Alien Status

  • Asylees
  • Amerasian immigrants
  • Certain domestic violence survivors
  • Certain Hmong or Highland Laotian non-citizens
  • Conditional entrants
  • Lawful permanent residents (LPRs or “green card” holders)
  • North American Indians born in Canada
  • Persons whose deportation or removal has been withheld
  • Persons paroled for at least 1 year
  • Refugees

Qualified Non-citizens Eligible for SNAP

  • Adults who have held qualified alien status for at least five years
  • Amerasian immigrants
  • Asylees
  • Children under 18 with a qualified alien status
  • Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan entrants (paroled for at least a year)
  • Disabled individuals with qualified alien status
  • LPRs on active military duty or with honorable discharge status, as well as their spouses and children under 18
  • LPRs with substantial work history in the U.S. (“40 quarters” test—see details later in this section)
  • Persons whose deportation or removal has been withheld
  • Refugees
    • Ukrainians citizens and nationals granted humanitarian parole between February 24, 2022, and September 30, 2023 (including spouses and children granted humanitarian parole after September 30, 2023). See the section on Providing Assistance to Ukrainians below for more details.

Providing Assistance to Ukrainians

Reference Documents

Due to armed conflict in Ukraine, the U.S. has several provisions that allow certain Ukrainian individuals and families, or non-Ukrainians who lived in Ukraine (all referred to as Ukrainians), to meet immigration-related eligibility requirements to enroll in federally funded benefits such as Temporary Assistance (TA), Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Here we will focus on SNAP eligibility for Ukrainians.

OTDA informed SNAP offices of the following immigration statuses being granted to Ukrainians, along with SNAP eligibility rules for each status:

  • Humanitarian Parole granted May 21, 2022, under the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022
  • Humanitarian Parole granted April 21, 2022, under the Uniting for Ukraine program

For more information on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) documents that verify if a Ukrainian has been granted humanitarian parole see 22 TA/DC059.

SNAP Eligibility for Ukrainians Granted Humanitarian Parole

Under provisions in the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act signed into law on May 21, 2022, people listed below meet the non-citizen eligibility requirements to enroll in SNAP without being subject to a five-year waiting period, and continue to meet the non-citizen requirements to participate in SNAP for as long as they are granted parole and meet all other SNAP eligibility criteria: 

  • Citizens or nationals of Ukraine granted parole status between February 24, 2022, and September 30, 2023 
  • Spouses or children of such Ukrainian citizens or nationals granted parole status after September 30, 2023 
  • The parents, legal guardians, or primary caregivers of a Ukrainian citizen or national determined to be an unaccompanied child and are granted parole status after September 30, 2023 

Ukrainians who meet the above criteria are:

  • Not subject to a waiting period (five-year ban) in order to receive SNAP.
  • Exempt from sponsor-deeming requirements. Sponsor income, resources and contributions are not to be considered when determining eligibility for SNAP.

Previously, under the Uniting for Ukraine program signed into law in April 2022, Ukrainians and their family members who had a supporter/sponsor in the U.S. were considered for humanitarian parole on a case-by-case basis, for a period of up to two years.

Ukrainian parolees who previously applied and were denied SNAP under the regular rules for parolees may now reapply for SNAP under the provisions of the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act. 

Ukrainian individuals paroled into the U.S. prior to February 24, 2022, must meet the regular SNAP non-citizen eligibility rules. 

Reference Documents

Helping Evacuees from Afghanistan

OTDA has informed SNAP offices that many Afghan individuals coming into the U.S. will fall into 3 new categories of Qualified Non-Citizens eligible for SNAP under non-citizen SNAP rules:

  • Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders
  • Afghan Special Immigrant SQ/SI Parolees
  • Afghan Humanitarian Parolees (through March 31, 2023)

The parole period has ended for the groups from Afghanistan who may be eligible for SNAP listed above. See below for information on how certain non-citizens can apply for re-parole.

Read more about providing SNAP assistance to evacuees from Afghanistan.

Non-citizens in the U.S. for Humanitarian Reasons

Qualified non-citizens who came to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons—including refugees, asylees, and those with a withholding of deportation—continue to be eligible for SNAP benefits even if they adjust their status to LPR.

Certain Non-citizens Can Apply for Re-parole

Reference Documents

SNAP offices have been informed that certain non-citizens can request re-parole based on urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit through a new streamlined process from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Effective immediately, the following non-citizens are eligible to file form 1-31 Application of Travel Document:

  • Non-citizens already paroled into the U.S. who are requesting a new period of parole, or re-parole, to remain in the U.S.; or
  • Afghan nationals paroled into the U.S. on or after July 31, 2021, with “OAR” or “PAR” classes of admission.

For more information about the streamlined re-parole application process for Afghan parolees, districts may refer to the Re-Parole Process for Certain Afghans webpage on USCIS’s website.

In instances where a non-citizen applies SNAP and is denied because they are unable to provide immigration documentation that supports a non-citizen status that would be satisfactory for benefit eligibility, SNAP offices are encouraged to direct those non-citizens to contact their immigration attorney and/or call the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) hotline: 1-800-566-7636.

Reference Documents

Qualifying for SNAP Using the 40 Quarters Test

LPRs who can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work history are qualified to receive SNAP. One quarter is the equivalent of a three-month period; therefore roughly 10 years of work equals 40 quarters. To count as a qualifying quarter, a worker must have earned a minimum salary during that quarter. Quarters of work history can be shared with some family members. Quarters earned during a marriage can be shared between spouses, even if separated or deceased (but not if divorced), and between parents and their children (for quarters worked before the child’s 18th birthday, including quarters worked before the child was born). The SNAP office will get the social security records of any worker’s quarters claimed by an applicant.

Households Containing Ineligible Non-citizens

Households containing ineligible non-citizens can still get SNAP if someone in the household is an eligible non-citizen or a U.S. citizen. Even undocumented parents can apply for SNAP on behalf of their eligible non-citizen or citizen children.

Immigration Reporting Requirement

There is an immigration reporting requirement in the SNAP Law that makes some families with undocumented members reluctant to apply. The law requires the state SNAP agency to report “aliens it knows to be unlawfully present” to the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS). However, NYS SNAP offices have been instructed to report only those individuals who present evidence of a USCIS determination that they are not in the United States lawfully, such as a final Order of Deportation or falsified immigration documents. The SNAP office is required to give the names and addresses of non-citizens who have a final Order of Deportation or falsified immigration documents to OTDA, not to USCIS.

SNAP workers do not have the authority to contact Immigration directly. If a SNAP worker threatens to report a non-citizen to USCIS to get them to withdraw their application, that is a violation of the Civil Rights Law and should be brought to the attention of the supervisor, the Commissioner, or OTDA.

Permanent Block of Public Charge Rule

On December 23, 2022, a final public charge rule went into effect and cements the public charge policy in the longstanding 1999 interim field guidance. This means that DHS can no longer consider an individual’s use or potential use of SNAP as a factor in a public charge test.

USCIS defines “public charge” as an individual who is likely at any time to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”

A public charge test is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or is eligible to receive lawful permanent residence or LPR status. When a non-citizen applies for LPR status or for a visa, they are subjected to an assessment of their life circumstances to determine if they are likely to become a public charge in the future.

This final rule means that DHS will not consider the receipt of SNAP, Medicaid, and public housing benefits as part of a public charge determination.

With the final rule in place, DHS will continue to use the 1999 interim field guidance issued by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. This guidance makes it clear that the use of most public benefits programs, such as health, nutrition, and housing programs, will not have an impact on an individual’s immigration status.

Find more information and resources here.


Striker: a worker who takes part in an organized work stoppage, refusing to perform job duties until certain demands are met.

The following people are not considered strikers:

  • People who have been locked out
  • People out of work because of someone else’s strike
  • People in a different bargaining unit who are afraid to cross a picket line
  • People exempt from work registration under SNAP E&T rules (other than those exempt because they are working)
  • Strikers who have been permanently replaced

If the primary wage earner of a household is participating in a job action (on strike, a walk-out, etc.), the striker and the whole household are ineligible for SNAP unless they were eligible for benefits before the strike began. Thus, the striker’s income before the strike will be budgeted and applied to the entire household as if they were still working. In this case, other household members cannot simply exclude the striker to establish a separate case. A household cannot get more SNAP benefits because its income goes down during the strike. If the striker leaves the household, the remaining household members become eligible again.

Fleeing Felons and Probation Violators

Reference Documents

Fleeing felon: a person with a felony warrant pending against them.

Probation violator: someone who has broken the terms or conditions of probation.

Both fleeing felons and probation violators may be identified by computer matches and denied SNAP. However, other household members may continue to be eligible for SNAP, and special budgeting rules apply.

According to OTDA, SNAP offices must not discontinue SNAP benefits for anyone with a warrant based on an alleged probation or parole violation. Those types of warrants do not constitute a determination of a violation.

Reference Documents

Seniors and People with a Disability

Senior: anyone 60 years or older.

Person with a Disability: anyone determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration and most likely receiving a federally related disability benefit including:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability (SSD)
  • Disability-related Medicaid
  • Veterans Administration (VA) Disability 100%

Note: The surviving spouse or child of a deceased veteran may be entitled to the above VA Disability benefits if they are determined to have a disability described below:

  • Surviving spouse of a veteran considered in need of regular aid and attendance by the VA, or permanently housebound;
  • Surviving child of a veteran and considered by the VA to be permanently incapable of self-support;
  • Surviving spouse or child of a veteran and approved to receive compensation for a service-connected death or pension benefits for non-service-connected death, based on VA determination. The surviving spouse or child must also have a disability considered permanent under the Social Security Act.

For details, see the SNAP Sourcebook Section 5, pp. 56-67.

SNAP Programs for Seniors and People with Disabilities

New York State provides multiple pathways to SNAP participation for seniors and people with disabilities. The Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP), NYS Nutrition Improvement Project (NYSNIP) and the NYS Combined Application Project (NYSCAP) are special projects designed to improve access to SNAP for these vulnerable groups. Specific eligibility requirements determine which route to SNAP a potentially eligible senior or disabled person may take. See Programs to Help Seniors and Disabled Applicants Access SNAP for more information.

Expanded Categorical Eligibility

In NYS seniors and people with disabilities can have higher gross incomes and still qualify for SNAP under Expanded Categorical Eligibility. To qualify, gross monthly income must be at or below 200% of poverty for households containing an elderly or disabled member

Note: Seniors or people with disabilities who have incomes over 200% of the federal poverty limit may still be eligible for SNAP but only if their resources are below the resource limit and they pass a net income test.

Other Rules That Help Seniors and People with Disabilities Access SNAP

Establishing separate household status
If a person lives with others and is both elderly and disabled, they may be able to establish separate household status for SNAP purposes if:

  • The income of their housemates does not exceed 165% of the federal poverty limit (see the SNAP Standards & Deductions Reference Sheet for the full FPL chart), or
  • A person is severely disabled and lives with others, but their food is being purchased and prepared separately from the people they live with.

Telephone interviews—households comprised of all seniors and/or adults with disabilities and no earned income are granted telephone interviews automatically.

Medical deduction—seniors and those with a disability who qualify for SNAP may be entitled to a larger monthly benefit by deducting out-of-pocket medical expenses over $35. By reporting these expenses in the SNAP application process, seniors can get even more help paying for food each month. See the SNAP Medical Expense Deduction Worksheet for more.

Appointing an authorized representative who can apply on their behalf, attend the interview, and use the EBT card to make purchases. This option is available to all SNAP applicants, but it is most useful to seniors and people with disabilities.