Food Assistance for Immigrants
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was created to help low-income families during difficult economic times by providing families with food stamp benefits. Every SNAP household receives a LINK card, similar to a debit card, to purchase food at most grocery stores. Each month, a set amount of money is put on the LINK card. The amount of money that you receive on your LINK card depends on the number of people in your household, as well as your income and expenses. You must reapply for food stamp benefits every six months or your LINK card will expire.
If you or your family is in need of food assistance, please continue reading to learn if you are eligible for food stamps and how to apply, or call our multilingual information hotline 1-877-537-7460 to find out what services are available to your family in your native language.
SNAP Eligibility Requirements
1. You must be an Illinois resident.
2. You must be a U.S. citizen, qualified immigrant/refugee, or legal permanent resident for 5 or more years.
3. You must be within the income guidelines
You can also determine your eligibility by using the SNAP Eligibility Calculator
For instructions on how to determine eligibility for mixed-status families or households, the income must be prorated and cannot be calculated using the SNAP Eligibility Calculator. For step-by-step instructions on how to prorate the income for mixed-status families, visit: http://icirr.org/content/snap-eligibility.
*Only Department of Human Services (DHS) and Health and Family Services (HFS) caseworkers can determine eligibility for SNAP benefits. The above are guides to help you learn whether you should apply. Find the Cash, SNAP, and Medical Policy Manual and Workers' Action Guide here. If you are undocumented, you are personally ineligible for Food Stamps. There are other food options in Illinois for which immigration status is not an issue. One of these is WIC (Women, Infants and Children) which you can receive if you have recently had a child. To learn more about WIC click here. Your child can also receive free or reduced-cost school breakfast and lunch, regardless of immigration status.
What if only some people qualify?
If you do not qualify for food stamps, but your children do, your children can apply for SNAP benefits. When applying, the adult is a “non-applicant” and will not receive any benefits. The IDHS caseworker is prohibited from asking for information about the immigration status of non-applicants.
Will SNAP hurt my immigration status?
Receiving food assistance will not hurt your immigration status or your application for permanent residency or citizenship. The Immigration and Naturalization Services announced in 1999 that as long as immigrants obtained food benefits for which they were, receiving food benefits will not affect immigration status. How to Apply for SNAP Benefits for
Contact or visit an Immigrant Family Resource Program provider near you for more information in your own language and free assistance in completing your application. You can also apply for SNAP online using the online application. If you would like to request a paper copy of the application, you can call your local Illinois Department of Human Services office.
The application process begins the day your local IDHS office receives your signed application. You will be asked to come to the office for an interview or participate by phone if you are unable to come to the office. The IDHS caseworker will ask you for various types of documents that include:
- Proof of identity.
- Proof of Illinois residency, which can be an identification card, or if not available, a utility bill or piece of mail with your name and home address.
- Proof of income, which can be your most recent pay stub so that you can prove that you are within the income limits.
- Social security card, passport, and state identification card for all people on your application.