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Although President Trump has expressed time and time again that U.S. government benefits are being used up by foreign nationals who enter into the U.S, it is important to be aware of the facts as this is not entirely true. The truth is, government benefits are never just handed out and there is an extensive process that both immigrants and U.S. citizens must go through before they are approved for them.  In most cases, an immigrant who has been granted permission to come and live and/or work in the U.S. must be sponsored by a petitioner. This petitioner is responsible for filing the application for entry as well as providing proof of income indicating that they take in enough money to not only support themselves but also this person they are requesting to bring in.


Many individuals who enter from another country simply don’t qualify upon their arrival for any government benefits and must wait a long period of time, usually between five to seven years before they can even consider applying. Below we highlight individuals who would be considered to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, which is a federally funded program that covers the cost of most foods.

  • Qualified alien children under 18. If the parents of these children are undocumented, they likely won’t want to file for benefits for their children as this could jeopardize their own ability to live in the U.S.
  • Refugees who were admitted under section 207 of INA.
  • Victims of trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
  • Asylees under Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
  • Elderly individuals born on or before August 22, 1931 and who lawfully resided in the U.S. on August 22, 1996.
  • Lawful permanent residents with a military connection.
  • Lawful permanent residents in the U.S. that are receiving government payments for disability or blindness.
  • Amerasian immigrants under 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act.

To learn about who else might qualify for food stamps and those who do after being subjected to a waiting period, visit the USDA site.

One thing to keep in mind is that if an immigrant enters the U.S and remains undocumented, they are only a few government benefits that they are entitled to collect. The programs that serve undocumented immigrants include:

  • School meal programs
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Head Start
  • Emergency Medicaid- This will cover a childbirth but will not cover acute medical situations.
[Source: Econo Fact].

Other than what’s mentioned above, an immigrant, whether they are undocumented or not who just enters the U.S. is very limited in what they can receive in terms of government assistance


Charles Kuck

Managing Partner