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Food Assistance for Legal Immigrants

Immigrating to the US can place an immense financial burden on families and individuals who choose to do so, as the costs are often large enough to take out their entire savings.

This puts them in a fairly difficult situation, as once they’ve finally set into their temporary/permanent housing option, they’ve got to deal with food costs, and more often than not, their finances aren’t enough to sustain this.

Due to this obvious problem, the federal government has created a number of programs to help legal immigrants cover their food expenses, one of which is FAP, otherwise known as the Food Assistance Program for Legal Immigrants.

With the help of FAP, immigrants can gain access to government benefits that can make their life a lot easier until they’ve secured an income large enough to sustain all their expenses.

Keep reading to learn more about FAP and what you as an immigrant can do to benefit from it.

How does it work

Due to being a food assistance program, FAP works identically to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, meaning that qualifying individuals and families will get access to EBT cards, which they can then use to purchase approved items.

The current budget for the program has been set to 100% of the SNAP benefits level, and this has been effective for the past 8 years and counting.

Of course, the program also requires the applicant to have immigrated to the US legally, as well as for their income level to be in line with the requirements for SNAP benefits.

Once determined eligible, qualifying individuals will receive deposits on their aforementioned EBT card on a monthly basis, with the funds having the ability to be carried over into the next month should they not be used entirely.

This can help with budgeting and give immigrants much more options during the months when they’ll have excess funds to work with.


Currently, there are two very distinct immigrant groups that FAP is applicable to.

In general, FAP benefits are available to any qualifying alien who has yet to meet the criteria for SNAP, whether it’s due to their age, work quarters, or the 5-year time frame as a qualifying alien in the US.

These individuals/families will then cycle through the program for the following 5 years or less until they become eligible for federal benefits.

On the other hand, though, we have nonqualifying aliens who won’t normally qualify for federal benefits unless certain changes are made to their immigrant status.

The law refers to these individuals as PRUCOL, or Persons Residing Under the Color Of Law, and they can continue receiving their FAP benefits indefinitely until they qualify for SNAP or some other form of federal food assistance program.

Other requirements

Apart from at least one member of your household having a qualifying immigrant status, other criteria have to be met in order to qualify for FAP benefits.

Due to being a need-based program, the main criterion is the net income of the household, which needs to be at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.

Certain expenses can be used to improve your chances, as they are deductible, these expenses being child support payments and medical expenses for any elderly/disabled members of the household.

On top of income level, the household’s total amount of assets must be under $15k in order to qualify, which applies to any cash or properties under the ownership of any member of the aforementioned household.

Much like income level, there are certain exceptions, as your retirement accounts and the home you live in will not contribute to your assets.

Being eligible for SDA or SSI means that you won’t have to undergo an examination of your assets.

FAP for college students

No one knows how rough food expenses can be on one’s budget better than college students, and with the US having such prestigious educational institutions, it’s not uncommon for immigrants to be enrolled in their programs.

Of course, student status only applies to individuals that are between the ages of 18 and 49 and are currently enrolled in a post-secondary education program here in the US.

Other criteria include being eligible for cash assistance, having no capability of being part of the workforce, whether you’re enrolled full or half-time, and even if you do have some sort of income, you must work at least 20 hours per week, earning the federal minimum wage for the work you’ve done during this time.

Bottom line

FAP benefits are available to a number of individuals that immigrate to the US, and as long as they went through all the paperwork and entered the country legally, they’re practically set to receive benefits.

Naturally, there are other restrictions in order to prevent the program from being abused, but apart from being low income and your immigration status, few other things will prevent you from collecting your benefits and making life as an immigrant in the US easier for yourself and your family.