Eligibility Rules

Listed below are some of the basic rules and the kinds of proof you may need during your interview. Your case may be completed faster if you bring the proof with you to the interview.

If you have trouble getting papers (documents) or information you need, the case manager may be able to help you. If the papers are not easy to get, you may be able to give the name and phone number of someone, such as your employer, who can confirm your statements.

Citizenship and Immigrant Status: 

Some people who are not U.S. citizens are not eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). There are exceptions for refugees, asylees, immigrants whose deportation has been withheld, Cuban/Haitian entrants, Amerasians and some immigrants legally admitted for permanent residence, parolees, aliens granted conditional entry, and certain battered spouses and children. Border Crossing Native Americans, certain Iraqi and afghan immigrants, victims of human trafficking and Hmong or Laotian tribe members may also be eligible. Even if some members of your household are not eligible, those who are may be able to get food supplement benefits.

Social Security Numbers: 

You will have to provide a Social Security number for every household member, including children, except for undocumented immigrants applying on behalf of others. If any household member, other than an undocumented immigrant does not have a Social Security number, he or she will have to apply for one.

Work Rules:

With certain exceptions, able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 years of age must register for work, accept an offer of suitable work, and take part in an employment and training program when referred to one by the local department of social services.


Most students ages 18 through 49 who are enrolled in college or other institutions of higher education at least half time are not eligible for SNAP. However, students may be able to get SNAP benefits if otherwise eligible if they:

  1. get cash assistance benefits under a TCA program;
  2. take part in a State or federally financed work study program;
  3. work at least 20 hours a week (no averaging);
  4. are taking care of a dependent household member under the age of 6;
  5. are taking care of a dependent household member over the age of 5 but under 12 and do not have adequate child care to enable them to attend school and work a minimum of 20 hours, or to take part in a State or federally financed work study program; or
  6. are a single parent in school full-time with a child under 12; or
  7. are assigned to or placed in a college or certain other schools through:
    1. a program under the Work Force Investment Act,
    2. a program under Section 236 of the Trade Act of 1974,
    3. an employment and training program under the Food Stamp Act, or
    4. an employment and training program operated by a State or local government.
  8. are receiving disability and receiving SSI, SSA or VA disability payments, or
  9. have a disability verified by a doctor or licensed psychologist.



After adding all of your household’s countable income, the case manager will subtract certain deductions.  The following deductions are allowed for all households:

  1. standard deduction;
  2. 20 percent of earned income;
  3. actual costs of dependent care costs for children and disabled adults if this care is needed so that a household member can work, look for a job, or get training or education leading to a job;
  4. legally owed and paid child-support payments;
  5. shelter expenses and utility expenses;
  6. medical expenses over $35 a month for household members who are age 60 or older or receiving certain disability payments.


Proof: Verification for the following is required:

  1. verification of income, such has but not limited to: paystubs, letter from employer or award letter.
  2. child-support payments, such as a court order and cancelled checks and the legal obligation to pay;
  3. verification of legal immigrant status for eligible immigrants;
  4. medical expenses for individuals 60 or older or disabled;
  5. any information which is questionable or conflicting.

Finding Out if You Qualify

After your interview, the local department will send you a notice.

If you do not qualify for SNAP benefits, the notice will provide the reason.

If you qualify for benefits, the notice will explain how much SNAP benefits you will get. It will also tell you how many months you can get SNAP benefits before you must reapply.

If you think your application has been wrongly denied or that you have not gotten the correct amount of SNAP benefits, you should tell the office. If they do not agree, you must ask them to have your case reviewed by a fair hearing official. For more information about fair hearings, see the section entitled Your Rights.

Receiving Your Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits

If the office finds that you are eligible, you should get your SNAP benefits no later than 30 days from the date you first applied, unless you qualify for faster service. If you have no income (or very little income) for the month and you need help right away, you may qualify for Expedited SNAP benefits within 7-days. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are issued to households on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, called the Independence Card. You use this card to buy your food.