CalFresh for Immigrants – 2021 Guide

We get a lot of questions from our readers about CalFresh for immigrants. In this post, we are going to explain in detail the rules around CalFresh and non-citizen, including answering the following frequently asked questions:

  • Can immigrants get CalFresh?
  • What is the rule about undocumented immigrants and California Food Stamps?
  • If I get CalFresh, will it affect my immigration status?
  • Are there special eligibility requirements for non-citizens applying for SNAP in California?

"Can immigrants get CalFresh"

This post will cover:

  • What is CalFresh?
  • CalFresh Eligibility
  • CalFresh Eligibility for Immigrants
  • Public Charge Rule for CalFresh
  • CalFresh Income Limits
  • How to Apply for California Food Stamps
  • CalFresh for Immigrants FAQs

What is CalFresh?

CalFresh is the name for the California Food Stamps program. It is also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

The SNAP program is a federal nutrition program that helps people with low income buy healthy food.

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, convenience stores, and some farmers’ markets and co-op food programs.

The CalFresh program is a nutrition program. It is not a welfare cash assistance program (which is called TANF).

Also, you do not have to be receiving TANF to get CalFresh.

Furthermore, CalFresh is a federal entitlement program. This means anyone who is eligible will receive benefits. You will not be taking away benefits from someone else if you apply.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees SNAP at the federal level.

In California, the program is managed by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).

If approved for CalFresh, you can get up to $204 a month per household member on an EBT card.

CalFresh Eligibility

Here are the general eligibility requirements to get CalFresh:

Identity

You must have documentation to prove your identity. The following are acceptable:

  • Driver’s license
  • Work or school ID
  • Birth certificate

Residency

To be eligible for CalFresh, you must be a resident of the state of California.

Furthermore, you must apply in the county you live in.

As a result, you will have to prove that you are a resident of the county where you submit your application.

Social Security Numbers

Anyone applying for CalFresh must either provide a Social Security number or proof they have applied for a Social Security Number.

However, household members that are not eligible for CalFresh do not have to provide or apply for a Social Security Number.

Special Eligibility Requirements

If you fall under one of the following groups, there are special eligibility requirements you need to be aware of.

  • Elderly/disabled individuals
  • Students
  • Immigrants
  • Adults age 18-49 without dependents

Click here for details or Contact your local food stamps office for details:

Resources Requirement

Effective February 1st, 2011, assets for most CalFresh applicants and recipients will not be considered or verified to determine eligibility for CalFresh.

There is an exception for certain elderly or disabled households.

However, any income generated from resources (e.g. bank account interest, stock dividends, rental income, etc.) is counted as part of the household’s total gross income.

CalFresh Eligibility for Immigrants

When you apply for CalFresh, you will be required to provide Proof of Immigration Status for eligible household members.

Only U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens may get CalFresh.

Which immigrants can get CalFresh?

A household can get CalFresh if at least one person:

  • Is a US Citizen
  • Is a green card holder
  • Has refugee status, asylum, or parolee status
  • Has, or is applying for, a U-Visa or T-Visa
  • Is an applicant for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) relief
  • Is a Cuban or Haitian entrant

An individual does not qualify for CalFresh if:

  • The person is here on a student, work, or tourist visa
  • The person is here under DACA
  • They are here under TPS, unless you meet the other qualifying factors
  • They are undocumented

Generally, non-citizens that are in the U.S. temporarily, such as students or tourists are not eligible just as undocumented individuals are not eligible.

However, people who are not eligible because of their immigration status can always apply for CalFresh on behalf of other household members, like US-born children.

If you don’t see your immigration status on here, talk to a local expert on public benefits and immigration.

Documents Required as Proof of Immigration Status

  • A copy of your green card (both sides)
  • A copy of your most recent paperwork for a U Visa, T Visa, asylum, refugee or parolee status, or a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) petition
  • Naturalized U.S. citizens may be asked to provide a copy of their U.S. passport or naturalization papers

If you are applying only for other people in your household, you don’t have to provide proof of your immigration status.

Public Charge Rule

“Public Charge” is a term used to describe an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

This dependence is determined if the person receives public cash assistance or use of long-term care at government expense.

The US Immigration Agents use the public charge test when someone applies to enter the U.S. through an immigrant visa or applies for permanent residence.

“Public charge” can be used to deny you entry into the United States or reject your application for permanent residence.

New Public Charge Rule by Trump Administration

The Trump Administration has recently changed the definition of a public charge.

This change is expected to go into effect on Monday, February 24th, 2020.

For more on the new rule, see our post on CalFresh Public Charge here.

What’s the New Public Charge Rule?

The most recent change to this process broadens the definition of “public charge,” or what makes a person likely to need assistance.

According to the new rule, the public charge includes accessing these programs:

  • CalFresh/SNAP
  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal (with exceptions for emergency services, coverage of children under 21, pregnant women, and new mothers.)
  • Federal Housing (Section 8 Housing Vouchers and Project-Based Section 8)
  • Cash assistance programs (SSI, TANF, or similar tribal programs)

Is CalFresh Public Charge?

If you meet the eligibility for CalFresh and are approved to receive benefits, you will not become a public charge.

Here are some things to know about CalFresh and Public Charge:

    • You will NOT become a public charge because you are getting CalFresh.
    • If you get CalFresh, it will NOT hurt your chances of getting a green card.
    • You will NOT lose your green card because you are getting CalFresh.
    • Applying for CalFresh will NOT affect your (or your family’s) immigration status.
    • You will NOT be denied U.S. citizenship because you get CalFresh benefits.
    • Public charge rules do not apply to programs like CalFresh, WIC, and school lunch programs.
    • All children born in the U.S. can get CalFresh benefits if they qualify. It does not matter where their parents were born.
    • Even if sponsored non-citizens refuse CalFresh benefits, the rest of their household can still get benefits.

For complete details about CalFresh and public charge, see our post on Is CalFresh considered a Public Charge?

CalFresh Income Limits

The most important eligibility requirement for CalFresh is the income limit.

The CalFresh program has two income tests: gross and net monthly income limits.

However, it is important to note that CalFresh rules exclude some money from being counted as income to the household.

CalFresh Gross and Net Income Limits

Household Size Gross monthly income
(200 percent of FPL)
Net monthly income
(100 percent of FPL)
1 $2,128 $1,064
2 $2,874 $1,437
3 $3,620 $1,810
4 $4,368 $2,184
5 $5,114 $2,557
6 $5,860 $2,930
7 $6,608 $3,304
8 $7,354 $3,677
Each additional member +$748 +$374

To arrive at your net income, you have to take your gross income and subtract allowable deductions.

Here are the deductions that are allowed.

How to Apply for California Food Stamps

"3 ways to apply for Calfresh benefits"

There are 3 ways you can apply for food stamps in California.

Option 1 – Apply online

You can apply online through the California benefitscal.org website (as shown in the image below).

Depending on your county of residence, you will be redirected to one of the following websites to apply:

MyBenefits CalWIN
C4YourSelf
YourBenefitsNow

Click here to get started with your online application for CalFresh.

Option 2 – Apply at CDSS Office Near You

You can apply in person at the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) office near you. Click here to locate a CDSS office.

Option 3 – Download California Food Stamps Application

You can download an application, complete it, and mail it to your county CDSS office or submit it in person.

"calfresh application"

CalFresh for Immigrants FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about CalFresh for Immigrants, including the CalFresh Public Charge rule.

Is CalFresh welfare and you are considered a “Public Charge” when you receive CalFresh benefits?

CalFresh is not welfare and it is not cash aid. The program is funded by USDA.

“Public Charge” is a term used to describe an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

This dependence is determined if the person receives public cash assistance or use of long-term care at government expense.

CalFresh is not cash aid, and you will not be considered a “Public Charge” if you receive CalFresh.

What benefits are not included under the public charge rule?

The benefits below do not fall under the public charge rule and will not hurt your chances of getting a green card:

  • Disaster relief
  • Emergency medical assistance
  • State, local, or tribal programs (other than cash assistance) that are not federal
  • Benefits received by your family members
  • Education
  • Child development (such as Head Start or Early Head Start)
  • Employment and job training programs
  • Transportation vouchers or non-cash transportation services
  • Federal earned income tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Student loans
  • Energy assistance
  • Free and reduced school lunch
  • WIC
  • Medicaid for children and pregnant women
    and any other benefit not specifically listed in the Public Charge proposed rule.

If someone in my family is undocumented, can I still apply for CalFresh?

Yes, and here are a few helpful points to consider:

First, undocumented parents can apply for children who have citizenship or eligible immigrant status.

Additionally, CalFresh does not share information with immigration enforcement officials.
You can tell your caseworker that a non-citizen in your family does not want to be considered for benefits.

Also, once you do that, your caseworker is not permitted to ask for proof of their immigration status.

Furthermore, you do not have to provide proof of immigration status for anyone who is not applying for benefits for themselves.

Finally, benefits used by children or other household members don’t negatively impact undocumented family members.

However, it is important that you are honest about your immigration situation (and everything else) when applying for CalFresh.

Does getting CalFresh affect my ability to get citizenship or a green card?

Getting CalFresh does not affect your ability to get citizenship.

This is because the public charge test is not a part of the process of applying for citizenship.

Furthermore, it also does not affect most people applying for a green card, except in very rare cases.

This is true because almost all immigrants who are eligible for CalFresh are exempt from the public charge test.

See the official USCIS guidance.

If you still have questions, consult an attorney who is knowledgeable about public benefits and immigration.

What if I need benefits because of the coronavirus?

USCIS will not consider testing, treatment, or preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of the test they use to determine if someone is a public charge.

That is the case even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits (e.g. federally-funded Medicaid).

Will Stimulus Checks be Considered a Public Charge?

No. Receipt of stimulus funds under the CARES Act will not be considered in assessing public charges.

That is because stimulus funds are a tax credit; not a public benefit.

CalFresh for Immigrants Summary

Here’s the bottom line:

A household can get CalFresh if at least one person:

  • Is a US Citizen
  • Is a green card holder
  • Has refugee status, asylum, or parolee status
  • Has, or is applying for, a U-Visa or T-Visa
  • Is an applicant for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) relief
  • Is a Cuban or Haitian entrant

Public Charge is a term used to describe an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

However, those who are eligible for CalFresh are not considered a public charge.

Also, USCIS will not consider testing, treatment, or preventative care for COVID 19 as a public charge.

Finally, receipt of stimulus funds under the CARES Act will not be considered in assessing public charges.

Questions?

We hope this post on CalFresh for Immigrants was helpful.

If you have further questions about the Public Charge Rule, CalFresh, or California EBT Card, please let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out our other articles about CalFresh and CalFresh EBT, including:
Restaurants that Take CalFresh in California
How to Apply for California P-EBT
California P-EBT Extension for 2020/2021
CalFresh Account Login Help
How much will I get in CalFresh in 2021?
January Extra Food Stamps Schedule
February Extra Food Stamps Schedule