Citizenship and Alien Status Requirements for all Programs


Revised June 27, 2016


This section provides basic definitions of various citizen and immigrant statuses relevant for determining eligibility for federal and state programs.

WAC 388-424-0001 Citizenship and alien status - Definitions

  • Clarifying Information

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-424-0001

Eligibility for all programs must determine an individual's citizenship or alien status. An individual will fall into one of the following four groups for purposes of benefits eligibility:

  • Citizen or U.S. National;
  • Lawfully Present Qualified Aliens;
  • Lawfully Present Non-Qualified Aliens; or
  • Undocumented Aliens.
Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. DACA individuals are non-qualified aliens who have been granted deferred action, but unlike other deferred action individuals, they are not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. DACA individuals may be eligible for state-funded assistance, including MCS, SFA, and FAP. DACA individuals must be coded CL in the INS Stat field on the ALAS screen in ACES.

Consult the "Decision Trees" in Appendix I for an overview of citizenship and alien status eligibility rules. For a list of typical citizenship/immigration documents and some sample documents, see the National Immigration Law Center NILC Guide in Appendix II.

For guidance on how to read a Visa, I-94 or Permanent Resident Card select the appropriate link.

If uncertain as to the individuals eligibility for benefits do not deny or approve without review of the NILC guide or if needed clarification please contact appropriate program staff below.

For cash or food eligibility:

For medical eligibility:

Contact your HCA Area Representative at


  1. Child Citizenship Act of 2000. To acquire citizenship under the Act, persons must have met all the conditions in WAC 388-424-0001 on or after February 27, 2001. The Act applies to children related to the citizen parent by birth or adoption only - stepchildren are not included unless also adopted. Once the terms of the Act have been met, subsequent changes in the parents' marital status, such a separation or divorce, have no bearing on the child's citizenship. Nor does it matter whether the parent in question was a U.S. citizen at the time the child entered the U.S.
    If the child is 18 years or older when the parent becomes a citizen, child citizenship laws do not apply and he/she must independently apply for naturalization. For information on the Department's naturalization assistance program, see the Social Services Manual, SSI Facilitation Chapter, Section E, subsection on SSI facilitation.
    For persons who automatically become citizens under terms of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 or previous legislation, USCIS issues no documentation unless requested. Clients themselves may not be aware that they or their children are already citizens. If there is uncertainty about whether a particular client has met the conditions for automatic citizenship, you might want to refer them to an immigration attorney or the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Western Washington at 206-587-4009 or in Eastern Washington at 509-854-2100.
  2. Born Abroad/Acquisition of Citizenship. It is possible that a child or grandchild of a U.S. citizen who was born abroad may have acquired citizenship at birth. In such cases, citizenship may depend on which parent is a U.S. citizen, how long the citizen parent resided in the U.S., and whether the parents were married at the time. A person that might belong to this category should be referred to an immigration attorney for advice.
  3. American Indians. The term "American Indian" refers to tribes throughout North America, including Canadian tribes. American Indians born outside the United States are eligible for federal benefits to the same extent as U.S. Citizens if they are:
  • Canadian-born American Indians who are at least 50 percent American Indian blood. This category does not include the spouse or child of such a person unless he or she also possesses 50 percent American Indian blood (request tribal verification that verifies 50% American Indian blood).
  • Canadian-born American Indians who are less then 50 percent American Indian blood who have been continuously residing in the U.S. since prior to December 24, 1952.
  • A member of a federally-recognized Indian tribe (see Governor's Office of Indian Affairs website) or Alaska Native villages and corporations (see Federal Register Notice).

Non-citizen cross-border Indians who do not meet the criteria above are considered undocumented unless they have another immigration status with USCIS.

 Non-citizen American Indians have the same eligibility for benefits as U.S. Citizens, but citizen documentation requirements do not apply.  they will need to supply tribal verification they meet the requirements above.

4. Lawfully present alien" - Refers to any non-citizen presently permitted to remain in the United States. "Lawfully present" means that USCIS has actively granted these immigrants permission to remain in the U.S. and has issued documentation that is currently valid as to their status. A lawfully present alien must still meet state residency requirements in WAC 388-468-0005 to qualify for benefits.

5. "Qualified alien" and "Non-qualified alien" are terms used in federal immigration law and do not by themselves indicate whether an immigrant is eligible for benefits. "Qualified", "non-qualified" and undocumented aliens may be eligible for some benefits.

6. Hmong or Highland Laotian tribe members:

  • They may be eligible for federal benefits based on the individual's qualified alien status. For example, after tribe members are admitted as refugees.
  • If not eligible under a qualified alien status, they must be lawfully present in the U.S. and must sign the following statement under penalty of perjury to be eligible for federal benefits: I was a Hmong (or Highland Laotian) tribe member when the tribe assisted the U.S. military during Vietnam era (August 5,1964 to May 7, 1975). See Appendix III for a printable version of this statement.
  • The tribe member must be born prior to May 8, 1975. The tribe member's spouse and unmarried dependent children do not have to be tribal members in order to qualify for federal benefits.

7. The following lawfully present non-qualified aliens may be eligible for State funded assistance:

  • Abused aliens who are a relative of a U.S. citizen with an approved I-130 petition but not meeting the other requirements of battered immigrants, as described in WAC 388-424-0001. Abused aliens who have self-petitioned under VAWA but not yet received "Notice of "Prima Facie" eligibility, as described in   .
  • Applicants for adjustment of status, asylum, cancellation of removal, suspension of deportation or withholding of deportation or removal.
  • Cancellation of removal, deferred action or suspension of deportation granted. (Note: if a person is granted cancellation of removal or suspension of deportation based on having been abused or granted deferred action based on an approved self-petition as an abused alien, they are a "qualified alien").
  • Deferred enforced departure granted.
  • Family Unity granted.
  • "K", "S", "U" or "V" statuses, designated on a person's visa, allow holders to work and eventually to adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status.
  • Lawful temporary residents under the amnesty program of the Immigration Reform and control Act (IRCA), including those admitted under Sections 210 ("special agricultural workers") and 245A of the INA.
  • Citizens of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia or Palau. These individuals have special rights under Compacts of Free Association and are lawfully allowed to enter, reside and work in the U.S. but are not U.S. Nationals.
  • Order of Supervision granted.
  • Paroled into the U.S. for a period of one year or less.
  • Residing in the U.S since prior to January 1, 1972.
  • Eligible to petition as special immigrant juveniles. these are juveniles who have been declared a "dependent of the state" and eligible for long-term foster care due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.
  • Stay of deportation or removal granted.
  • Temporary protected status granted.
  • Voluntary departure granted - definite or indefinite time.

8. Expired Documents versus Expired Status.

  • Many immigrant documents have expiration dates. Some immigrants lose their immigrant status when their immigrant document expires; however, many do not.
  • Qualified Aliens: Qualified alien status does not expire even if the document is expired, with the following exceptions:
  1. Parolees - Their status expires after the expiration date. Parolees usually have an I-94 arrival/departure record stamped with an entry and expiration date. Some may have their expiration date stamped "waived" or "indefinite".
  2. Lawful Permanent Resident with Conditions (2 year Conditional Residents) - Conditional residents receive a 2 year LPR card based on a recent marriage to a U.S. citizen. At the end of the 2 years, they must either file a joint petition to remove the condition or a request for a waiver of the joint filing requirement (for grounds that include divorce and /or domestic violence). Clients with this expired status need to be asked for proof of a pending petition to remove the condition or copy of application to waive the joint filing requirement.
 Battered immigrants may face difficulties in filing to remove the condition on residence.  You may want to refer such clients to an immigration attorney or Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Western Washington at 206-587-4009 or Eastern Washington at 509-854-2100.


  • Non-Qualified Aliens: Some lawfully present non-qualified aliens have temporary status or pending applications and consequently their status may expire when their document is expired or when a final denial of their application is issued, with the following exceptions:
    1. Citizens of Marshall Islands, Micronesia or Palau - They may have a birth certificate, current or expired I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, current/expired passport, or other document verifying they are citizens of one of these countries.
    2. Persons granted cancellation of removal or suspension of deportation.
  • Additional Information Regarding Specific Document Types and Status: 1. I-797
    1. Notice of Action may or may not have an expiration date. It is used to notify the client that a fee was paid, an application was accepted, the case is pending, a step in the process is completed, or status is approved. Immigrants with I-797s are undocumented unless it verifies that status has been approved.
      • An example that a step in the process has been completed but status has not been approved is the Notice of Approval for "Immigrant Petition for Relative". This is the initial step in the family -related immigrant application process. It solely establishes relationship. It does not establish status. If this is the only document provided, the immigrant is considered undocumented for purposes of benefits eligibility.
      • An example that status is approved is the "Approval Notice" of an I-360 Self-Petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In most cases a VAWA self-petitioner will first receive a "Prima Facie" notice, indicating that the petitioner has submitted evidence sufficient to establish a case. Both notices verify that the client is a "Qualified Alien" and their status does not expire.
    2. Order from Immigration Judge - An order is issued because the immigrant is or has been in removal proceedings. The Judge provides a decision notifying the immigrant whether the immigrant can remain in the country. The order does not have an expiration date.
      • An example of a status granted by an "Order from Immigration Judge" are "Granted withholding of deportation" which is a "Qualified Alien" category and "Order of Supervision" which is a non-qualified alien category.
    3. Form I-589 - Applicant for Asylum (non-qualified alien) does not have an expiration date, however, USCIS is required to provide a decision within 180 days. Despite this requirement, some asylum applicants may not receive a decision within the 180 day deadline. If the document is more than 180 days old staff will need to check USCIS website (see below) to determine if it is still pending a decision. If still pending a decision, the asylum applicant retains their non-qualified status.
If an applicant for Asylum is a national of Cuba or Haiti they are Cuban/Haitian Entrants eligible for benefits to the same extent as refugees while their application is pending.


  • In cases with expired immigration documents, direct clients to apply with USCIS for renewal with instructions to submit the new USCIS form I-912 "Request for Fee Waiver", at the same time they apply for the new documents. As public benefit's recipients, DSHS clients are eligible for Fee Waiver with their application.
    • Form I-912, "Request for Fee Waiver", and instructions on how to complete this form, are now available on he USCIS website at USCIS - FORMS. Fee Waiver Guidance can be found at USCIS - Fee Waiver Guidance.
  • If USCIS denies the fee waiver request, they will notify the client with a notice of rejection and an explanation why the fee waiver request was denied. In these cases, copy the notice of rejection into the client's file and offer help paying for the documents. If USCIS approves the fee waiver request, the client will also be notified.
  • Staff can check the current case status of pending USCIS documents by entering the receipt number on the document at
If unable to verify claim is still pending using the USCIS website the client will need to provide updated documentation from USCIS as to their current status.  You may want to refer the client to an immigration attorney or Northwest Immigration Rights Project in Western Washington at 206-587-4009 or Eastern Washington at 509-854-2100.
  • All non-qualified aliens with expired documents or no current claim or document pending with USCIS, would be considered undocumented for purposes of benefits eligibility.

9. Reporting or release of information regarding immigrants.

  • Release of information about immigrant clients is subject to he same confidentiality rules that govern release of all client information to outside parties, including law enforcement agencies such as USCIS.
  • The department is only obligated to report legal immigrants in the case of the "indigence exemption" from sponsor deeming. See WAC 388-450-0156 for a description of this reporting requirement.
  • The department's obligation to report the presence of undocumented immigrants to USCIS has been very narrowly defined by the federal government. Such a report is only to be made in the following circumstances:
    1. An administrative law judge (ALJ) has determined that an individual is unlawfully present in the U.S., in the course of the individual's pursuing eligibility for federally funded benefit (including TANF, non-emergency Medicaid, CHIP, SSI and federal Basic Food); and
    2. The ALJ's finding is supported by a determination by USCIS, such as a Final Order or Deportation.
  • The department is only expected to make a determination about an individual's legal or illegal immigration status if such determination is necessary to decide whether the individual is eligible for benefits. Undocumented immigrants should never be required to contact USCIS themselves.
  • If you believe a report to USCIS is required, based on all the above circumstances, contact the appropriate immigrant eligibility program manager. Do not contact USCIS directly.

10. When requesting information necessary to determine citizenship or alien status, be sensitive to the right of clients not to be discriminated against on the basis of race, color or national origin. All similarly situated clients should be treated in the same manner. For example, while it is necessary to clarify questionable information to establish eligibility, clients should not be singled out for closer scrutiny simply because they look or sound "foreign."

ACES Procedures

Recording Citizenship / Alien Status

Completion of the (ALAS) Screen for Non-Citizens

Decision Trees

Revised April 18, 2013


Appendix I - Citizenship and Alien Status Decision Tree: Basic Food

Cash/Medical Programs Based on Citizenship/Alien Status

Date of Entry

Revised March 25, 2011


This section explains how to determine an alien’s “date of entry” into the United States. It describes which groups of aliens are subject to the five-year bar on receipt of federal means-tested benefits and which groups are not. Finally, it describes how to determine the date on which the five-year bar begins.

WAC 388-424-0006 Citizenship and alien status - Date of Entry

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-424-0006 

  1. Determining whether a person has entered the U.S. before August 22, 1996.
    A person is not subject to the five-year bar for TANF or medical assistance if he entered the U.S. before August 22, 1996 even if he did not obtain a “qualified” immigration status until some time after he entered. As long as a person “continuously resided” in the U.S. from the earlier date, that date will be considered the “date of entry”. Continuously resided means the person may only have left the U.S. for short periods of time.
    However, an applicant for federal BF who became “qualified” on or after August 22, 1996 and who requires 5 years of residency for eligibility, cannot count years of residence before he became a “qualified alien” toward his 5 year residency requirement.
EXAMPLE: A person came to the U.S. in 1992 as an undocumented alien and resided in the U.S. since that time, making annual trips to her country of origin to visit parents. In July 1999 she self-petitioned under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and received a notice that she and her children have a “prima facie case” (see WAC 388-424-0001).  She is a "qualified alien" and not subject to the five- year bar because her entry date is 1992. She and her children are eligible for TANF and medical.  Since she is not currently eligible for federal Basic Food under any other provision of the law (not an armed services member or veteran or married to one) she will become eligible in July 2004, after 5 years residency as a “qualified alien”. Her children are eligible now. (See WAC 388-424-0020 for a complete description of federal Basic Food eligibility.)
EXAMPLE: A person came to the U.S. in 1992 as a visitor for three months. The person came again in 1994 as a student and returned to his country of origin in 1995. He came to the U.S. again after he obtained lawful permanent resident status on October 10, 2001. He did not continuously reside in the U.S. prior to August 22, 1996. His date of entry is October 10, 2001. He is not a veteran or on active duty in the U.S. military (or the spouse or dependent child of such a person). He is barred from TANF, non-emergency Medicaid, and SCHIP for five years until September 30, 2006.
  1. How to determine the date a battered immigrant becomes a “qualified alien."
    For immigrants such as parolees, refugees, and asylees, the date that they become a “qualified alien” is on their I-94 card and later on their lawful permanent resident (“green”) card. However, the date that a battered alien becomes “qualified” is the date of the approval (or notice of prima facie case) of a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petition or the date that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse petitioned for the family visa application. These dates will not be the same as the date the alien was granted lawful permanent residence and will not be the date on the green card.
EXAMPLE: A person came to the U.S. in 1997 as an undocumented alien. She married a lawful permanent resident who received notice of his family visa petition on March 1, 1998. She is a victim of domestic violence and no longer living with him. She has not yet adjusted to lawful permanent residence and does not have her green card. The date she became "qualified" is March 1, 1998 because that is the date of the family visa petition. Her five-year bar will be over on February 28, 2003. (When she has her adjustment interview on June 1, 2003 that will be the date on her green card.)
  1. Aliens who are exempt from the five-year bar. Those who are exempt from the five-year bar due to immigration status (refugee, asylee, withholding of deportation/removal, Cuban/Haitian entrant, Special Immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Amerasian lawful permanent resident) remain exempt after they have adjusted to lawful permanent residence and have a "green card". The code on their green card will tell under what provision of law they came to the U.S.  For more information on documentation, Immigration Status codes, benefit eligibility and step-by-step process, please see desk aid Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants Benefits.
EXAMPLE: A refugee came to the U.S. on September 1, 1999. One year after coming to the U.S. he adjusted to lawful permanent residence. His green card is dated to his date of entry and has the code “RE-6”, for refugee (see page 70 in the NILC Guide in Appendix II). He is not subject to the five-year bar, even though he is currently a lawful permanent resident.

Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-424-0006 

  1. You may use whatever document the client provides if you decide it adequately confirms residence in the U.S. A person claiming to have continuously resided in the U.S. may use many types of proof such as, but not limited to:
    1. Medical records;
    2. Pay Stubs;
    3. School records;
    4. Tax records; or
    5. Utility bills.
  2. You may accept a written and signed statement from the client when the client is unable to provide any proof and has experienced special circumstances. See the VERIFICATION chapter for further guidance.
    For more information about verifying an asylee’s entry date, see “Asylum Documentation” under WAC 388-466-0005, Clarifying Information.

Social Security Number Requirements

Revised August 21, 2015


The purpose of this section is to explain the special situations that affect immigrants when there are requirements for a Social Security number (SSN) in federal and state benefit programs.

WAC 388-424-0009 Citizenship and alien status - Social Security Number (SSN) Requirements

The rules and information below supplement information provided in the SSN Chapter (WAC 388-476-0005 ).

Clarifying Information -  WAC 388-424-0009

  1. Some immigrants who are "qualified" and some who are "non-qualified" (see WAC 388-424-0001 ) are not immediately eligible for employment authorization and therefore may not be issued an SSN:
    1. For example, most political asylum applicants who have a notice that their political asylum application has been received and is being processed must wait six months or longer before they can apply to work in the U.S.
    2. Abused immigrants whose spouse has filled out an I-130 or who have a Notice of Prima Facie eligibility may sometimes have to wait for months or years before they are authorized to work legally.
  2. Some immigrants who do not have work authorization can sometimes get a non-work SSN (see Worker Responsibilities #1 below), but staff in most Social Security Administration (SSA) offices will deny these applications.
  3. Abused immigrants who are filing a petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will often receive a Notice of Prima Facie eligibility that does not specifically list their children, even though the children are listed in the original application. Children of abused immigrants are considered eligible for benefits to the same extent as the primary applicant, even though they will often be unable to get a non-work SSN.
  4. SSA staff are not familiar with many immigration documents that are used to show “qualified alien” status (such as the Notice of Prima Facie eligibility under VAWA) and will often not accept these documents as proof of lawful status (see Table 5, page 62 in the NILC Guide in Appendix II for a list of documents). In addition, new SSA requirements that immigrants have evidence of date of birth and identity may prevent many immigrants who have lost their documents (often as a result of fleeing persecution or escaping domestic violence) from getting a non-work number.
  5. Sometimes a client may choose not to provide an SSN (and consequently be excluded from the AU) but the Department inadvertently learns of their SSN (for example, through a pay stub the client provides to verify income). In such cases we continue to honor the individual client’s wish to be excluded from the assistance unit.
    Alternatively, a client may choose not to provide an SSN midway through the process of applying for benefits, or at a recertification, even if they have already provided it. The guiding principle is that we will honor client choice. A client may choose to be excluded from the assistance unit by not providing an SSN at any point.
    However, we may still use a valid SSN in our possession for verifying income and resources. Staff should explain to the immigrant that the SSN will only be used to verify income and resource information and will not be released to federal immigration authorities. Sometimes, a client may not have a valid SSN but is attempting to provide evidence of income or resources to comply with Department requirements – he or she should be allowed to remove the SSN from these documents and should not be discouraged from providing proof of income.

Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-424-0009

  1. If the client is applying for a federal program which requires an SSN and a current and valid SSN is not available, the Department is responsible for providing the client with assistance in applying for an SSN. (If the client needs financial assistance to complete this process, the Department will assist as well - follow procedures in the Verification Chapter, Worker Responsibilities #9)
  2. If the client has already tried to apply at the local Social Security Administration (SSA) office and has been denied, the Department should issue benefits (if the client is otherwise eligible) and, if the customer requests our assistance, take the following steps:
    1. Draft a letter on Department letterhead which specifies the names of all family members applying for benefits and requests that the SSA issue a non-work SSN for each. The letter must explain that the SSNs are being requested so that the clients can participate in the federal programs for which they are eligible. List all programs which apply. See Appendix VI for link to a sample SSN request letter.  Please see the Non-work SSN Request Process Instructions for more information (for staff use only). 
    2. If a client is unable to get either a regular or non-work SSN, request an Exception to Rule (ETR) and continue benefits until client is work-authorized. Also ask the client to re-apply for an SSN once she is eligible for and has received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.
    3. If the client is able to get a non-work SSN, document the number in ACES and remind the client that this SSN cannot be used to work.
  3. Some persons in a household may not be a part of the assistance unit (AU) which is applying for assistance (for example, undocumented parents of citizen children). In such a case, SSNs for those non-AU members are not a requirement for processing the application of the applying AU.

Veteran Status

Revised March 25, 2011


WAC 388-424-0007 Citizenship and alien status - Armed Services or Veteran Status

  • Clarifying Information and Worker Responsibilities

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-424-0007

A veteran is a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service of the U.S., who fulfilled the minimum active duty service requirements or 24 months of continuous active service, whichever is less, and was honorably discharged or released. Veterans also include men and women who died while on active duty in the U.S. armed forces or forces under U.S. command. For purposes of determining a surviving spouse or dependent child's eligibility for benefits, a person who died after being released from active duty in the U.S. armed forces is also a veteran.

Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-424-0007

Obtain evidence of armed services or veteran status. For those veterans who are Hmong or Highland Lao who fought with the U.S. in Southeast Asia, have the veteran or family member sign the statement in Appendix III

Citizenship and Alien Status - Work Quarters

Revised March 25, 2011


WAC 388-424-0008 Citizenship and alien status - Work Quarters


Earnings Required for Work Quarters for Recent Years

This chart shows the amount of earnings needed to qualify for each SSA work quarter of coverage for 1978 through 2011.


Calendar Year

Amount Needed for a Quarter of Coverage

Amount Needed to Qualify for Four Quarters