Citizenship and Alien Status

Citizenship and Alien Status Requirements for all Programs


Revised January 5, 2024


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

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the federal statutes that govern the entire immigration law. It is codified in Title 8 of the U.S. Code, starting with Section 1101.

For a list of typical citizenship/immigration documents see the:

CSD staff: For guidance on how to read a Visa, I-94 Class of Admission Codes, or I-551, Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Category Codes and ACES 3G Coding refer to information in the Training – CSD Desk Aids - Immigration Section of the CSD Internal SharePoint website.

Release of information regarding non-citizens is subject to the same confidentiality rules that govern release of all DSHS clients’ data to outside parties. For more information on confidentiality of individually identifiable data, please see RCW 74.04.060. The department is only obligated to report clients’ information to the federal government when a sponsored immigrant receives federally funded benefits under the "indigence exemption". See WAC 388-450-0156, (7) for a description of this reporting requirement.

When requesting information necessary to determine citizenship or immigration status, be mindful of client rights. DSHS does not discriminate based on race, color or national origin. All similarly, situated clients should be treated in the same manner.

Request immigration status information only when needed to determine an applicant’s eligibility for public benefits. Never ask undocumented immigrants to contact United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) themselves.

Notify your supervisor if you believe a report to USCIS is necessary.

Eligibility for public benefits depends on an individual's citizenship or immigration status. All individuals fall into one of the following four groups for purposes of benefits eligibility. For more information, click the links for each category:

  • U.S. Citizens or U.S. Nationals
  1. U.S. Citizens or U.S. Nationals
  2. Born Abroad/Acquisition of Citizenship
  3. American Indian
  4. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000
  • Lawfully Present Qualified Aliens
  1. Lawfully present alien
  2. Qualified aliens
  3. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), or “green card” holder
  4. Five Year Bar and Humanitarian Immigrants
  5. Refugee
  6. Withholding of Removal or Deportation, or Removal Withheld
  7. Hmong or Highland Laotian tribe members
  8. Parolee
  9. Sponsored Immigrants
  • Lawfully Present Non-Qualified Aliens
  1. Lawfully present non-qualified aliens
  2. Lawfully present non-qualified aliens, who may be eligible for state funded assistance
  3. Applicant for Asylum
  4. Citizens of Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Federal State of Micronesia (FSM), or Republic of Palau
  5. Nonimmigrants who are in the U.S. for a specific purpose and limited time
  • Undocumented Aliens
  1. Undocumented Aliens

Additional Information

The links below provide additional information for determining immigration status for individuals applying for public benefits:

Consult the Decision Tree in Appendix I for an overview of citizenship and alien status eligibility rules.

  1. U.S. Citizens and U.S. Nationals.

Persons born in the United States or in U.S. territories, under the terms listed below, are U.S. citizens at birth. This includes persons born in:

  • Puerto Rico, on or after April 11, 1899;  
  • Canal Zone or the Republic of Panama, between February 26, 1904 and October 1, 1979, and one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of the person’s birth.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands, on or after January 17, 1917;  
  • Guam, on or after April 11, 1899; and
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) on or after May 28, 1975 and their children, if under age 18 on that date.

U.S. Nationals are persons born in:

  • American Samoa,
  • Swains Island, or
  • Northern Mariana Islands, who did not choose in 1975 to become U.S. citizens.

U.S. nationals have the same eligibility for public assistance benefits as U.S. citizens.

  1. Born Abroad/Acquisition of Citizenship.

It is possible that a child or a 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.

If unable to verify, refer individuals to an immigration attorney at the Northwest Justice Project, or the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (Western Washington - 206-587-4009; Eastern Washington - 509-854-2100).

  1. American Indian is a term used to identify enrolled members of federally recognized tribes in the U.S. and Canada (see Governor's Office of Indian Affairs website) and Alaska Native villages and corporations.
NOTE: American Indians, including those who are born outside the U.S., have the same eligibility for benefits as U.S. citizens and do not have to provide U.S. citizenship documentation.

To qualify for benefits they must provide verification of tribal enrollment showing they are:

  • Members of a federally recognized Indian tribe (see Governor's Office of Indian Affairs website) or Alaska Native villages and corporations  and have a proof of tribal enrollment, or
  • Canadian-born American Indians, who are at least 50% American Indian blood. This category does not include the spouse or child of such a person, unless he or she also possesses 50% of American Indian blood, or
  • Canadian-born American Indians who are less than 50% American Indian blood, and who have been continuously residing in the U.S. since prior to December 24, 1952.

American Indians, who do not meet the criteria above, are undocumented unless they have another immigration status with USCIS.

  1. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 applies to children related to a citizen parent by birth or adoption only. Stepchildren are not included unless also adopted. To acquire citizenship under the Act, persons must meet all the conditions in WAC 388-424-0001 (5) (d-f) on or after February 27, 2001. If the child is 18 years or older when the parent becomes a citizen, child citizenship laws do not apply and the child must independently apply for naturalization. Once the terms of the Act are 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.

For persons who automatically become citizens under terms of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 or previous legislation, USCIS does not issue documentation unless requested. Clients may not be aware they, or their children, are already citizens.

If the client is uncertain about whether they meet conditions for automatic citizenship, refer them to an immigration attorney at the Northwest Justice Project, or the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (Western Washington - 206-587-4009; Eastern Washington - 509-854-2100).

  1. Lawfully present alien is any non-U.S. citizen presently permitted by the Department of Homeland Security, one of its agencies, or the Department of Justice to remain in the United States. A lawfully present alien must have current and valid proof of their status such as documentation issued by USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or Department of Justice. A lawfully present alien must also meet state residency requirements in WAC 388-468-0005 to qualify for benefits.
  1. Qualified aliens are lawfully present immigrants defined in federal law as one of the following:
  • Lawful permanent resident, US Code §1641(b)(1);
  • Asylee, US Code §1641(b)(2);
  • Refugee, US Code §1641(b)(3);
  • Hmong or Highland Lao are members of a Hmong or Highland Laotian tribe which rendered military assistance to the U.S. during the Vietnam era (August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975), and are "lawfully present" in the U.S.;
  • Certified as a victim of human trafficking by the federal office of refugee resettlement (ORR) and their eligible family members;
  • Special immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan are individuals granted special immigrant status under INA §101(a)(27);
  • “Alien” paroled under INA § 212(d)(5) for at least one year, US Code §1641(b)(4);
  • “Alien” granted withholding, US Code §1641(b)(5);
  • “Alien” granted conditional entry under INA § 203(a)(7) as in effect before April 1, 1980, US Code §1641(b)(6);
  • Cuban and Haitian entrant as defined in § 501(e) of Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980, US Code §1641(b)(7);
  • Admitted as an Amerasian Immigrant from Vietnam through the orderly departure program, under section 584 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, incorporated in the FY88 Continuing Resolution P.L. 100-212;
  • Certain battered “aliens” as defined in US Code §1641(c)(1)-(3).
NOTE: A person is a qualified alien if granted cancellation of Removal or Suspension of Deportation based on abuse, or Deferred Action based on an approved self-petition as an abused alien.
  1. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), or “green card” holder is a person who has permission to live and work in the U.S. permanently. An LPR status holder may apply for naturalization after living in the U.S. for five years (three years, if married to a U.S. citizen). LPRs are lawfully present and qualified immigrants.
  1. Five Year Bar and Humanitarian Immigrants.

Sec. 403 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) states that immigrants, who entered the U.S. on or after August 22, 1996, are not eligible to receive federally-funded benefits for five years from the date they entered the U.S. as a qualified alien. Once they have met the five-year bar, they may qualify for federal benefits, if they meet all other eligibility requirements.

The following categories of aliens, called humanitarian immigrants, are exempt from the five-year bar, regardless of their date of entry into the country:

  • Refugees;
  • Asylees;
  • Cuban and Haitian Entrants;
  • Victims of a severe form of trafficking;
  • Aliens whose deportation is being withheld;
  • Special Immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • Honorably discharged U.S. military veterans, active duty military personnel, and their spouses and unmarried dependent children;
  • Battered aliens, as defined in WAC 388-424-0001(2)(e);
  • Aliens admitted to the country as an Amerasian immigrant

The five-year bar does not apply to aliens, including undocumented, applying for emergency medical treatment, if they meet all other eligibility criteria for the state’s Medicaid program.

  1. Refugee is “an alien outside their country of origin who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of origin because of persecution or on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” as defined by sec. 101 (a) (42) of the INA
  1. Withholding of Removal or Deportation, or Removal Withheld is an immigration status, similar to asylee. It is usually granted by an Immigration Judge to an alien under section 241 (b)(3) or 243(h) of the INA. The USCIS or the Department of Justice withholds an alien’s deportation because of a threat to life or freedom in the person's home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The Personal Work Responsibility and Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PWRORA) of 1996, codified at 8 U.S.C. 1612 (a)(2)(A) exempts aliens whose deportation (removal) was withheld from the five-year bar on federally funded benefits. For more information on eligibility for benefits see WAC 388-424-0020(2)(iv).
  1. Hmong or Highland Laotian tribe members:
  • Must be born prior to May 8, 1975. The tribe member's spouse and unmarried dependent children do not have to be tribal members to qualify for federal benefits.
  • Must be lawfully present in the U.S. and must sign the following statement under penalty of perjury to be eligible for federal benefits, if not eligible under a qualified alien status: 

    “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.

  1. Parolee is a person granted authority to enter the U.S. in an emergency, or because it serves the humanitarian or public interest. Some parolees are allowed to enter the U.S. temporarily, e.g., to receive medical treatment. Others are permitted to enter with the understanding that they will remain permanently by adjusting their immigration status. If parole is in the U.S.:
  • At least one year or longer, the parolee is a lawfully present qualified immigrant.
  • For less than a year, the parolee is a lawfully present non-qualified alien.
  1. came to the United States on a family-based visa. They are required to have a “sponsor”, who is usually an immediate family member with income at least 125% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Starting December 19, 1997 sponsors are required to sign a legally enforceable USCIS form I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is a contract between the sponsor and the U.S. government.

Federal law does not limit the sponsor’s obligations to only the first 5 years of the sponsored immigrant being in the U.S. The sponsored immigrants’ eligibility for federal and state funded benefits do not terminate nor substitute for the sponsor’s obligations.

The I-864 Affidavit of Support commits the sponsor (or sponsors) to financial support of the sponsored immigrant, which ends only if the alien:

  • Becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen;
  • Has worked or can be credited with 40 work quarters under the  Social Security Act (can include spouse’s quarters);
  • Becomes subject to removal or no longer has Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status and has departed the U.S.; or
  • Dies.

Divorce does not terminate a sponsor’s obligation to a spouse. 

NOTE: We do not deem the sponsor’s income to battered aliens and their dependents, who self-petitioned under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

State and federal programs have different rules and eligibility requirements, and sponsored immigrants still may be eligible for some state-funded benefits. For more information, see WAC 388-450-0156 and EA-Z Manual, Income, Allocation and Deeming.

  1. Lawfully present non-qualified alien is a term used in federal immigration law. It does not indicate whether an alien is eligible for benefits. Non-qualified aliens have temporary permission to stay in the U.S. If their application for status adjustment is denied, so is their temporary permission for remaining in the U.S., and their immigration documents are not re-issued after they expire.

    Non-qualified aliens may be eligible for some benefits. For more information, see WAC 388-424-0001, and EA-Z Manual Section - Citizenship and Alien Status Requirements Specific to Program.

    All non-qualified aliens with expired documents and no application pending with USCIS are undocumented for eligibility purposes.

  1. Lawfully present non-qualified aliens, who may be eligible for state funded assistance if they meet all other eligibility requirements:
  • Abused aliens who are a relative of a U.S. citizen with an approved I-130 petition but do not meet the other requirements of battered immigrants, as described in WAC 388-424-0001.
  • Abused aliens who have self-petitioned under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) but have not yet received the Notice of "Prima Facie" eligibility, as described in WAC 388-424-0001.
  • Applicants for:
    • Asylum,
    • Cancellation of Removal,
    • Suspension of Deportation,
    • T visa (victim of trafficking),
    • U visa (victim of crime), 
    • Withholding of Deportation or Removal, or
    • Temporary Protected Status
  • Aliens granted the following immigration statuses:
    • Cancellation of Removal,
    • Continued Presence,
    • Deferred Action,
    • Deferred Enforced Departure,
    • Family Unity,
    • Suspension of Deportation,
    • Stay of Deportation or Removal,
    • Order of Supervision
    • Temporary Protected Status (TPS),
    • Voluntary Departure Granted – definite or indefinite time
  • "K", "S", "U" or "V" visa holders (to allow family to stay together while waiting for the processing of an immigration visa)
NOTE: “K” status holders (fiancé of a LPR or a U.S. citizen) are not sponsored aliens until after the marriage, when the spouse adjusts their immigration status to LPR.
Example: Ron is a U.S. citizen, and Olga is admitted with a “K” visa.  After they are married, they petition the USCIS for Olga to adjust her status to LPR. Ron’s income is deemed after Olga becomes an LPR.
  • 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 Sec. 245A of the INA.
  • Citizens of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia or Palau, who have special rights under the Compacts of Free Association and can lawfully enter, reside, and work in the U.S.
  • Individuals paroled into the U.S. for a period of less than one year.
  • Individuals’ eligible to petition as special immigrant juveniles. These are juveniles who have been declared a "dependent of the state" and are eligible for long-term foster care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are individuals granted deferred action status, but unlike other deferred action individuals, they are not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. DACA individuals may be eligible for state-funded assistance, including ABD/HEN Referral, SFA, and FAP.
NOTE: DACA individuals with expired an Employment Authorization Document are undocumented.
  1. Applicant for Asylum is a person who applied for asylum with USCIS or the Immigration Court, because they fled their country and are unable or unwilling to return due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group. Refer to the INA, Section 208(d)(5) for more information. There are two ways to apply for asylum:
  • Affirmative asylum – application with USCIS and an Asylum Officer makes decision;
  • Defensive asylum - application with Immigration Court, and Immigration Judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) makes decision. It is called defensive asylum because it is used as a defense against removal.

Applicants for asylum are lawfully present non-qualified aliens.

NOTE: If an applicant for asylum is a national of Cuba or Haiti, they are a Cuban/Haitian Entrant, eligible for benefits to the same extent as refugees while their application is pending.
  1. Citizens of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Federal State of Micronesia (FSM), and Republic of Palau (PAL) are citizens of sovereign nations. They are not citizens of the U.S., or U.S. nationals. Under the Compact of Free Association Act of 1985, citizens of RMI, FSM and PAL are lawfully present nonqualified aliens. They may live, study and work in the U.S. for an unlimited length of stay.

To enter the U.S. they are not required to have visas, but they must be lawfully admitted into the U.S. and have verification of admission. To confirm their citizenship and entry status they may provide:

  • Current or expired passport with admission stamp and notation that typically says “CFA/PAL” (Compact of Free Association/Palau), “CFA/FSM” (Compact of Free Association/Federated States of Micronesia), or “CFA/MIS” (Compact of Free Association/Republic of Marshall Islands), or
  • Current or expired I-94 Arrival/Departure Record with a notation “CFA/PAL” (Compact of Free Association/Palau), “CFA/FSM” (Compact of Free Association/Federated States of Micronesia), or “CFA/MIS” (Compact of Free Association/Republic of Marshall Islands) and the letters “D/S,” which stand for “duration of stay”. It means they are not limited to a specific amount of time, or
  • Other documents verifying their citizenship of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia or Palau and entry status.

An electronic I-94 can be accessed with client permission and printed at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, I-94 website.

  1. Nonimmigrants who are in the U.S. for a specific purpose and limited time are also non-qualified aliens, who have a permanent residence abroad to which they intend to return at the end of their stay. They all are in the U.S. for a limited time and do not meet residency requirements of WAC 388-468-0005.
  • B1 and B2 visas often come attached because their requirements are basically the same. The B1 visa is for business visits and the B2 visa is for tourism and medical visits. There is no limit on how many times a person may visit the U.S. for a maximum of 180 days per visit in any given period of time.
  • The student visas, J, F, and M visas, are for persons visiting the U.S. in the pursuit of education.
    • J visa is an Exchange Visitor visa for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs.
    • F visa is for students who may remain in the U.S. for the entire time they remain full-time students with current enrollment.
    • M visa is for students permitted to remain in the U.S. for one year initially, with the option of applying for an extension of status up to three years.

Most international students can obtain part-time on-campus jobs. Off campus work is allowed only with an Employment Authorization Document.

  1. Undocumented aliens are non-U.S. citizens who do not have authorization to reside in the United States. They may have crossed the U.S. border illegally, or may have come into the country with a non-immigrant visa and did not leave when their period of authorized stay ended (“overstay”), or didn’t show up for check-ins with ICE officers or for their court hearing.

    Under state and federal law, undocumented aliens are not eligible for ongoing food and/or cash assistance.  They may qualify for assistance from the Consolidated Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP), Children’s Health Program, and Alien Emergency Medical (AEM) Program, if they meet eligibility requirements.

 Additional Information

  • Alien is a term used in federal and state law to identify a foreign-born person who lives in the United States, has not naturalized, and is still a citizen of a foreign country.
  • An alien number, also called “alien registration number”, “USCIS number”, “INS number”, or “A number”, is a unique identification number assigned by the Department of Homeland Security to each alien who:
    • Is legally admitted to the United States for permanent residency, or
    • Comes into contact with the agency (for adjustment of immigration status, employment authorization, deportation proceedings, etc.).

The “A” number stays with an alien much like a Social Security Number, until the alien naturalizes. USCIS, ICE, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program - all track alien cases by the “A number”.

What is an Alien Registration Number Desk Aid has examples of immigration documents and correspondence with the “A” number.

  • Immigration status is legal permission to remain in the U.S. under specific conditions defined by a visa category, or other visa document, e.g. Refugee Travel Letter. Customs and Border Protection inspects and admits the alien into the U.S. in the immigration status stated in the immigration documents. The alien receives an admission stamp showing a visa type and the amount of time for which they were admitted.

    Adjustment of Status is a procedure that changes (adjusts) a non-immigrant status to LPR status.

    Example: Mary enters the U.S. under the H-1B status, and while in the U.S., marries a U.S. citizen. She then adjusts her status from H-1B to LPR.
  • Expired Documents versus Expired Status. Many immigration documents have expiration dates. Some immigrants may lose their immigration status when their immigration document expires.  
    • Qualified alien’s status does not expire when the immigration document expires (for example, expired LPR card, USCIS form I-551, does not mean expired LPR status). Exceptions are listed below:
      • Parolee’s status expires after the expiration date on their I-94 arrival/departure record. If their expiration date is stamped "waived" or "indefinite", it means that they are paroled for longer than a year and can adjust their parolee status to LPR. They are lawfully present qualified aliens with a five-year bar on federally funded benefits.
      • Conditional permanent residents (two-year Conditional Residents) receive their LPR status based on a recent marriage to a U.S. citizen. Conditional LPRs have their green cards issued to them for two years only. At the end of two years, they must file a petition with USCIS to remove the condition. Ask a client with an expired conditional LPR card for proof of a pending petition, or application to waive the filing requirement. If no proof is provided, the client is undocumented.
NOTE: Abused immigrants may face difficulties in filing a petition to remove the condition on residence.  Refer such clients to an immigration attorney at the Northwest Justice Project, or the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (Western Washington - 206-587-4009; Eastern Washington - 509-854-2100).
  •  Qualified aliens may lose their immigration status if their deportation is ordered by an Immigration Judge;
  • DACA individuals’ immigration status expires with the expiration date on their Employment Authorization Document.
  • Additional Information About Specific Documents:
    • USCIS form I-797, Notice of Action, may or may not have an expiration date. The USCIS form I-797 notifies clients that a certain action was taken on their case, such as filing fee received, application filed, the case is pending, a step in the process is completed, or status is approved.
    • USCIS form I-797, Approval Notice, for:
      • I-360, Self-Petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is, in most cases, issued after a "Prima Facie" notice. In this case, the I-797 indicates the petitioner submitted sufficient evidence to establish eligibility under VAWA. Such notices verify the client is a Qualified Alien and their status does not expire.
      • I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is an example of a completed initial step in the family-related immigration process. It does not grant immigration status or a lawful presence to the beneficiary. It only establishes a relationship between petitioner and beneficiary. If the beneficiary does not already have immigration status, the beneficiary is an undocumented alien.
      • If I-797, Approval Notice, states that USCIS granted or extended client’s immigration status, I-797 will contain a tear-off new I-94 attached to the bottom of the Notice.
    • Order from an Immigration Judge does not have an expiration date. It may be issued when an Immigration Judge decides to:
      • Grant an immigration status, such as asylum, withholding of deportation, or an Order of Supervision; or
      • Place the alien in removal proceedings to deport them from the U.S.
    • Receipt of Application for Asylum, USCIS form I-589, does not have an expiration date. USCIS is required to provide a decision within 180 days. Despite this requirement, many applicants may not receive a decision within the deadline. If the I-589 Receipt date is more than 180 days old, check the asylum application status at USCIS website, Case Status Online - Case Status Search using the receipt number on I-589.
    • Employment Authorization Document (EAD), form I-765, is not a mandatory immigration document and DSHS staff cannot require it as an eligibility condition. However, explain to the client that the EAD is a federally issued ID, and may be used as verification of the client’s lawful presence. EAD may be used as a verification that:
      • Alien has applied for immigration status, the decision is pending, and the applicant is a lawfully present non-qualified alien, or
      • Alien was granted temporary immigration status, or
      • Individual has a current DACA status.

If the client does not have any verification of their current immigration status and refuses to obtain an EAD, the client is undocumented.

  • USCIS form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee, can be submitted to the USCIS at the same time clients apply for the immigration status and documents. When requesting a fee waiver, an alien must clearly demonstrate that they are low income and unable to pay filing fees. USCIS will accept:  
    • Federal income tax documents or a Verification of Non-filing,
    • Verification that annual household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level, or
    • Any other proof verifying household’s low income.

If USCIS approves the fee waiver request, they will notify an applicant by the I-797, Notice of Action.

NOTE: If unable to confirm application status using the USCIS website, ask the client to provide proof of their current immigration status. If necessary, refer such clients to an immigration attorney at the Northwest Justice Project or the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (Western Washington - 206-587-4009; Eastern Washington - 509-854-2100).

Immigration questions should follow established procedures for submission through the Policy Clarification system, so that everyone can view the questions and responses.   

ACES Procedures

Recording Citizenship / Alien Status

  • See Interview - (DEM 2) Client Demographic 2 Screen

Completion of the (ALAS) Screen for Non-Citizens

  • See Interview - (ALAS) Aliens, Students, and Medically Indigent Screen

Decision Trees

Revised May 4, 2021


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

Cash/Medical Programs Based on Citizenship/Alien Status

Date of Entry

Revised April 16, 2019


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. 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.
    For the majority of aliens the date they entered the U.S. and became a “qualified alien” is on their I-94 card or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stamp in their passport, on a Refugee Transportation Letter as a “Date of Entry”, and on their Permanent Resident card as a “Resident Since” date.

A person is not subject to the five-year bar for TANF, or medical assistance if they entered the U.S. before August 22, 1996, even if they did not obtain a “qualified” immigration status until sometime after they entered. As long as the alien “continuously resided” in the U.S. from the earlier date, that date is considered the “date of entry”. “Continuously resided” means the alien only left the U.S. for short periods of time.

However, an applicant for federal Basic Food (SNAP) benefits, who became “qualified” on or after August 22, 1996, and who requires 5 years of residency for eligibility, can’t count time spent in the U.S. before they became a “qualified alien” toward the five-year bar requirement.

EXAMPLE: Alex came to the U.S. in 1992 as a visitor for six months. He came again in 1994 for 1 year as a student and then returned to his country of origin in 1995. Alex came to the U.S. again after he obtained lawful permanent resident status on October 10, 2001. Alex didn’t continuously reside in the U.S. prior to August 22, 1996. His date of entry is October 10, 2001. He isn’t a veteran or on active duty in the U.S. military (or the spouse or dependent child of such a person). Alex is barred from TANF, Basic Food, and non-emergency Medicaid for five years until September 30, 2006.
  1. Aliens who have the five-year bar.

    All aliens, who are lawfully present in the U.S. and aren’t included in the statuses named in WAC 388-424-0006, Citizenship and alien status—Date of entry have a five-year bar on receipt of Basic Food, TANF, and non-emergency Medicaid.

  2. How to determine the date a Victim of Trafficking becomes a qualified alien.

    A victim of human trafficking becomes a “qualified alien” on the certification date stated on a Certification Letter for adults, or a Letter of Eligibility for minors from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The “certification date” on the Letter is also the benefits eligibility date.

EXAMPLE: Elena came to the U.S. in January 2007 on H1B visa as a temporary employee of an IT firm in NY. Instead, she was forced to work in a sweatshop. After 2 years, Elena received assistance from local legal and volunteer agencies. In 2010 Elena was granted a Victim of Trafficking status and received a Certification Letter from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The “certification date” on the letter was June 15, 2010. This is the date Elena became a qualified alien and met immigration status requirements for federally funded assistance.
  1. How to determine the date an asylee becomes a qualified alien.

    The date an asylee becomes a “qualified alien” is the date -

    • Stated on an Asylum Approval Letter, from a USCIS Asylum Office, as the date asylum was granted under §208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA);

    • Immigration Judge decided to grant asylum under §208 of the INA, if  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has NOT appealed the decision;
EXAMPLE: Maggie came to the U.S. in 2006 as a student. She applied for asylum with USCIS on September 1, 2008, and 11 months later received a USCIS decision granting  her asylum. A USCIS letter stated her asylum approval date was August 26, 2009. On this date Maggie became a qualified alien and met immigration status eligibility requirement for federally funded assistance.


  1. How to determine the date a battered immigrant becomes a “qualified alien."
    The date 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 aren’t the same as the date the alien was granted lawful permanent residence and aren’t the date on the Permanent Resident card.

EXAMPLE: Rosa Maria came to the U.S. in 2017 as a student. She married a lawful permanent resident, who received notice of his family visa petition on March 1, 2018. She became a victim of domestic violence and is no longer lives with her abuser husband. She hasn’t yet adjusted to lawful permanent residence and doesn’t have her green card. The date she became "qualified" is March 1, 2017 because that’s the date of the family visa petition. Her five-year bar will be over on February 28, 2022. (When she has her adjustment interview on June 1, 2022, her green card, or Resident Alien Card USCIS form I-551, will have that date as a Resident Since date.)


  1. Aliens who are exempt from the five-year bar.

    Aliens exempt from the five-year bar due to immigration status are listed in WAC 388-424-0006, Citizenship and alien status—Date of entry. Aliens with a status of refugee, asylee, withholding of deportation/removal, Cuban/Haitian entrant, Special Immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Amerasian remain exempt after they’ve adjusted to lawful permanent resident status. The “category” or “class” code on their Permanent Resident Alien (“green”) card identifies under which provision of law they came into the U.S.  For more information on immigration documentation, status codes, benefit eligibility and step-by-step process, please see immigration desk aids located on the CSD website.

EXAMPLE: Lai came to the U.S. as a refugee on September 1, 1999. One year later she adjusted to lawful permanent residence status. Her Permanent Resident card shows her date of entry as September 1, 1999 and has the category code “RE-6”, for “refugee” (see page 70 in the NILC Guide in Appendix II). Lai is not subject to the five-year bar, even though she is currently a lawful permanent resident.

If you have questions regarding eligibility, or how to process a medical only case, please contact Dody McAlpine in the HCA Office of Medicaid, Medicare Eligibility & Policy at (360) 725-9964 or by e-mail at 

Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-424-0006 

  1. Always ask the client for their INS Number, also known as Alien Number, or Alien Registration number, or USCIS # number. It’s a unique number assigned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to each alien admitted to the United States, or who came into contact with the agency (Example: application for asylum). It’s usually begins with an “A” followed by seven, eight or nine digits number and it is listed on all documents and/or DHS correspondence. Enter the INS Number and Date of Entry in corresponding 3G fields.

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 24, 2023


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 – they 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. Create a 14-517 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 14-517 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.   
    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 they are 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 26, 2021


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 2021.


Calendar Year

Amount Needed for a Quarter of Coverage

Amount Needed to Qualify for Four Quarters





































































































































Citizenship and Alien Status Requirements Specific to Program

Citizenship and Alien Status - For Food Benefits

Revised July 10, 2015


This section describes which immigrants are eligible for benefits through federally-funded Basic Food and state-funded Food Assistance Program.

WAC 388-424-0020 How does my alien status impact my eligibility for federally-funded Basic Food benefits?

WAC 388-424-0030 How does my alien status impact my eligibility for state-funded benefits under the food assistance program?

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-424-0030

If a client does not provide proof of the alien status of someone in the assistance unit (AU), the client can withdraw the application or apply for Basic Food without that person. That person is an ineligible AU member under WAC 388-408-0035. Please refer to the VERIFICATION chapter for general rules regarding documentation.

We must deem income to a sponsored immigrant who is not exempt from deeming requirements under WAC 388-450-0156. This includes a sponsored immigrant who is eligible for federal benefits based on being a qualified alien who has lived in the U. S. for five years, if they do not have 40 qualifying quarters of work or qualify for a different exemption.

  1. Proof of alien status:
  2. Income of immigrants and their sponsors:
    • See WAC 388-450-0140  for treatment of income of AU members who are ineligible to receive federally funded Basic Food due to alien status.
    • See WAC 388-450-0160  for treatment of income of a sponsored alien's sponsor.
  3. Deeming requirements for sponsored immigrants: 
    NOTE: An immigrant who is an ineligible member of a federally-funded Basic Food AU should not have his sponsor's income and resources deemed to eligible AU members.
​NOTE: We must deem resources in addition to income when the AU is not Categorically Eligible (CE) as defined inWAC 388-414-0001. See WAC 388-470-0070  for deeming sponsor resources.

4. ​​When a “qualified alien” child turns 18 before being in the U.S. for five years: 

  • If the immigrant turns age 18 before they have been in the U.S. for five years, they must meet one of the other requirements under WAC 388-424-0020  to keep getting Basic Food benefits.
  • The immigrant regains eligibility for benefits after they have been in the U.S. for five years or meet one of the other criteria under WAC 388-424-0020.

5. ​"Lawfully residing"

  • A qualified alien;
  • An alien who has been inspected and admitted and who has not violated the terms of that admission;
  • A parolee (for less than 1 year), except those paroled pending a determination of excludability or for prosecution;
  • A Lawful Temporary Resident;
  • A person under Temporary Protected Status;
  • A Cuban-Haitian entrant;
  • A Family Unity beneficiary:
  • A person granted Deferred Enforced Departure;
  • A person in Deferred Action;
  • An alien who is the spouse or child of a U. S. citizen, whose visa petition has been approved and who has a pending application for adjustment of status;
  • An applicant for asylum or for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture, who has been granted employment authorization or who is under the age of 14 and has had an application pending for at least 180 days.

6.  Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants (SIVs): 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

7.  Haitian Entrants vs. Haitian Nationals Granted Temporary Protected Status:

  • Haitian Entrants granted status under section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980 are qualified aliens and eligible for Basic Food benefits if they meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program Entrants granted status under section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980 are qualified aliens and eligible for Basic Food benefits if they meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • Haitian Nationals Granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are not eligible for federal SNAP benefits.  These persons are PRUCOL as described under WAC 388-424-0001 and cannot receive Basic Food.


Citizenship and Alien Status - For Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Revised April 16, 2019


This section provides information on how a person’s immigration status affects their eligibility for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

WAC 388-424-0010 Citizenship and alien status - Eligibility for TANF

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-424-0010

  1. Provide clients who are Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) with information about naturalization assistance services offered by local community agencies through the DSHS Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance.  See the Social Services Manual, SSI Facilitation - Facilitation Process - SSI Facilitation Process for more information on the Department’s naturalization assistance program.

  2. Take a client’s declaration of U.S. citizenship at face value.  Don’t routinely request proof of citizenship unless there is a specific and substantive reason to, such as an inconsistency in a client's statements or in the information presented on their application for benefits.

  3. Consider immigrants, who are not eligible for federal TANF because of the five-year bar on federal benefits, for the state funded benefits programs. 

  1. The following non-qualified aliens are lawfully present and aren’t eligible for TANF, but could be eligible for state funded benefits, if they meet all other eligibility criteria:

    • Pending applicants for Asylum, or Withholding of Deportation/Removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) if :

      • Over age 14 with an approved work authorization or
      • Under 14 and their application has been pending for 180 days or more;
  • Aliens granted withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT);

  • Aliens paroled into the U.S. for less than 1 year;

  • Aliens in current Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Aliens granted deferred action status, with the exception of Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA);

  • Family Unity beneficiaries;

  • A child who has a pending application for Special Immigrant Juvenile status;

  • Citizens of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.  These persons have special rights under compacts of Free Association and are lawfully allowed to enter, reside and work in the U.S., but they aren’t U.S. citizens or nationals.  They are lawfully present non-qualified aliens unless they have some other immigration status.

  • "U" visa holders;

  • Religious workers under section 101(a)(15)(R) of the INA;

  • An individual with a petition pending for 3 years or more, as permitted under section 101(a)(15)(V) of the INA;

  • A fiancé of a citizen, as permitted under section 101(a)(15)(K) of the INA;

  • Other aliens with a current nonimmigrant status

EXAMPLE A client applying for benefits has an I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) stamp with a "B2" code that is not expired.  According to the NILC Guide, "B2" signifies tourist status.  A person with a tourist status is a lawfully present nonimmigrant and, if otherwise eligible may qualify for benefits. However, an alien with B2 visa is in the U.S. only temporary and doesn’t meet Washington state residency requirements,

EXAMPLE A five-person family applies for benefits.  The father has a Lawful Permanent Resident card (I-551), but the mother and three children only have Employment Authorization Documents (EADs).  All four EADs are coded "A15".  According to the NILC Guide, the "A-15" code indicates "V" status.  These are spouses and children of lawful permanent residents whose visa petitions have been pending for at least three years.  Immigrants with "V" status are lawfully present non-qualified aliens.  These immigrants may qualify for state benefits.  The father may be eligible for federal benefits depending on other factors such as date of entry into the U.S.

EXAMPLE A mother and child applied for benefits. The mother has a valid I-94 Arrival/Departure form stamped with a "U" visa.  The child would likely have been included as a dependent on the mother's U visa application.  Both mother and child are considered "lawfully residing" and may be eligible for state benefits.


  1. Immigrant children and pregnant women, who are:

    • lawfully present non-qualified aliens, as defined in WAC 388-424-0001; and

    • meet residency requirements of WAC 388-468-0005

      are eligible for federally funded medical benefits, unless they are approved under Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA). 

  2. Staff should check eligibility for State Family Assistance (SFA) and Food Assistance Program (FAP), when an applicant is a Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individual.

NOTE: An Employment Authorization Document (EAD, USCIS form I-765), known popularly as a work permit, is a document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and it gives noncitizens a temporary authorization to work. EAD doesn’t confer immigration status, but for eligibility determination purposes, it indicates the client's current immigration status. 

Aliens with a variety of statuses may be issued an EAD.  Unless other current immigration document(s) are provided, an expired EAD means a person's immigration status has expired.  

For more information about I-765 EAD Category Codes please see Employment Authorization Document, Category Codes


Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-424-0010

  1. Always ask client for an INS Number, also known as Alien Number, or Alien Registration number, or USCIS Number #. It usually begins with an “A” followed by a seven, eight, or nine digit unique number assigned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to each alien who is admitted to the United States, or who came into contact with the agency (Example: application for asylum). “A” number is listed on all documents and DHS correspondence. Enter the INS Number and Date of Entry in 3G.


  1. Gather all the information necessary to determine eligibility as described in WAC 388-424-0001WAC 388-424-0006WAC 388-424-0007WAC 388-424-0008, and WAC 388-424-0009. Document immigration status, date of entry, armed service/veteran status, work quarters, and SSN information in ACES. Inform any client who is subject to the five-year bar of the expiration date of their five-year bar and of the need to inform the Department if family members become citizens (including parents who have children under 18).
NOTE: Once the SSN is federally verified, ACES will send back to SSA to verify citizenship status.  If SSA cannot verify citizenship, MPA will receive an alert to work with the client to verify citizenship.
  1. For aliens who have an Affidavit of Support form (I-864) filled out on their behalf, be sure to determine work quarters and citizenship status. If the affidavit is still in effect:
  2. See WAC 388-450-0155 and WAC 388-450-0156  to determine if sponsor deeming applies;
  3. See WAC 388-450-0160  for treatment of the sponsor's income; and see WAC 388-470-0060  for treatment of the sponsor's resources.

ACES Procedures

Alien Emergency Medical

  • See Medical - Alien
  • See TANF Processing for Special Immigrants

Citizenship and Alien Status for State Cash Programs

Revised June 15, 2012


This section provides information on how an alien’s immigration status affects their eligibility for the State Family Assistance (SFA), Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) cash, and Pregnant Women Assistance (PWA) programs. The purpose of SFA is to provide assistance to immigrants and others who are ineligible to receive TANF benefits because of the restrictions imposed under federal welfare reform. ABD provides assistance to disabled or aged individuals, including those who are ineligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to immigrant or other restrictions. Chemical dependency services are broadly available to legal immigrants.

WAC 388-424-0015 Immigrant eligibility restrictions for the State Family Assistance, ABD cash, PWA, and ADATSA programs.

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-424-0015

  1.  ABD and PWA are broadly accessible to immigrants as long as they meet all other program requirements. Non-immigrants and undocumented aliens, as defined in WAC 388-424-0001, are not eligible for ABD or PWA.
  2. Becoming a citizen (naturalizing) is not a program requirement for any state or federal benefit. Generally, a client is not eligible to naturalize until 5 years after they have attained legal status, but there are some exceptions. Refugee resettlement agencies and Community Based Organizations (CBO) provide naturalization assistance to those immigrants receiving state or federal benefits so that they can become citizens. For more information, see the Social Services Manual SSI Facilitation Chapter,  for non-U.S. citizens. Immigrants who don’t become citizens and lose SSI due to expiration of seven years of refugee status (which also affects asylees, victims of trafficking, Cuban Haitian entrants, Amerasians, and those granted withholding of removal) will be provided ABD or TANF, Basic Food, and medical assistance, assuming they are otherwise eligible.

Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-424-0015

  1. Related WACs:
    1. See WAC 388-450-0116  for treatment of the income of household members who are ineligible to receive SFA due to their alien status.
    2. See WAC 388-450-0160 and WAC 388-470-0060  for treatment of income and resources of a sponsored alien’s sponsor.
  2. When a client reports a change in their status, update their alien status on the ALAS screen in ACES. It is particularly important to record changes in status for recipients of state-funded cash or medical programs, as these aliens may become eligible for federal programs as a result of this change in status.

Public Benefit Eligibility for Survivors of Certain Crimes

Revised on: February 5, 2024


This section provides clarifying information to support benefit determination for survivors of certain crimes. Relevant WAC sections include:

  • WAC 388-424-0001 Citizenship and immigration status—Definitions.
  • WAC 388-400-0010 Who is eligible for state family assistance?
  • WAC 388-424-0009 Citizenship and immigration status—Social Security number (SSN) requirements.
  • WAC 388-424-0010 Citizenship and immigration status—Eligibility for TANF.
  • WAC 388-424-0015 Immigrant eligibility restrictions for the state family assistance, ABD cash, and PWA programs.
  • WAC 388-424-0030 How does my immigration status impact my eligibility for state-funded benefits under the food assistance program?
  • WAC 388-424-0035 Verifications—Survivors of certain crimes.

Clarifying Information

  1. Who are survivors of certain crimes?

Survivors of certain crimes are noncitizens and their qualifying family members, who have filed, or are preparing to file an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for:

  • T-Visa (for trafficking victims),
  • U-Visa (for victims of qualifying crimes), or
  • Asylum status and have been harmed by one of the specific crimes described in WAC 388-424-0001(c)(ii)(A)-(C).

For full definitions, see WAC 388-424-0001.

Note: It is extremely important to be sensitive to psychological, cultural, and gender aspects of the trauma these individuals and their families have faced in order to prevent re-victimization. 
Note: Some victims of trafficking cooperate with the Department of Justice on the prosecution of their traffickers. All details of the case are confidential, and they can’t talk about it, nor should they be asked to discuss the details of their case.
  1. What does "preparing to file" mean?

“Preparing to file” means a survivor is preparing to request a T-Visa (for trafficking victims), a U-Visa (for victims of qualifying crimes), or asylum, but has not yet submitted an application to USCIS.This may be for a number of reasons, including the need to gather information for their application, or because the survivor needs to recover from physical, mental, and/or emotional abuse.

  1. Who are victims of human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers force their victims into sexual slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, or forced labor through coercion, fraud, threats, psychological abuse, torture, or imprisonment. Trafficked noncitizens may be eligible for a T-Visa through USCIS.

  1. Who are victims of qualifying crimes?

Victims of qualifying crimes are noncitizens who suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of a qualifying crime that happened in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws and may be eligible for a U visa through USCIS. To be eligible for a U-Visa, victims:

  • Must possess information about the qualifying crime;
  • Must establish with USCIS that they suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime; and
  • Are, were, or are likely to be assisting law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
  1. Who are applicants for asylum?

Applicants for asylum are persons who flee their country and are unable, or unwilling, to return due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. For the full definition, see EA-Z Manual - Definitions, Clarifying Information, #16.

Note: Not all applicants for asylum are survivors of certain crimes. To be a survivor of certain crimes as an asylum applicant, the individual must have filed, or be preparing to file, for asylum and have been harmed by one of the specific crimes described in WAC 388-424-0001(4)(c)(ii)(A)-(C). Individuals who have not been harmed by one of the specified crimes but are applying for asylum are non-qualified lawfully present aliens (see EA-Z Manual Citizenship and alien status - Definitions#15). For more information on what documents verify the asylum process and how to code those individuals in ACES, please see the following: Applicants for Asylum & their Documents.

Note: If a client is going through the asylum application process and provides proof of that process, they become non-qualified lawfully present aliens.

  1. What verifies an applicant meets the definition of a survivor of certain crimes?

The only verification needed to meet the definition of a survivor of certain crimes is a verbal self-attestation by the applicant. Self-attestation must include the applicant stating:

  • They were harmed by a crime and have filed or are preparing to file an application with USCIS for a T visa or U visa; or
  • They were harmed by a crime as described in WAC 388-424-0001(4)(c)(ii)(A)-(C) and have filed or are preparing to file an application with USCIS for Asylum.
Note: Do not ask applicants for additional details regarding their experience- this includes what the crime was or details of the trafficking event.

If an individual states that they are applying for asylum and that the crime happened in their country of origin or they do not initially offer that the crime was one of the crimes described in WAC 388-424-0001(4)(c)(ii)(A)-(C), the individual is not a survivor of certain crimes. Do not ask for further details, but code the individual in ACES as a lawfully present non-qualified alien who is an asylum applicant.

No other documentation or evidence is necessary to verify that an applicant is a survivor of certain crimes. An applicant’s verbal self-attestation is sufficient for program eligibility determination.

Alternative evidence may also be provided in lieu of a verbal self-attestation, only if preferred by the applicant. This may include but isn’t limited to:

  • Police, government agency, or court records or files; 
  • Documentation from a social services, trafficking, or domestic violence program; 
  • A legal, clinical, medical, or other statement from a professional, from whom the applicant has sought assistance in dealing with their situation; or
  • A statement from an individual with knowledge of the circumstances that provides the basis for the survivor's claim (including signed sworn statement by survivor’s advocate).   
  1. Who are qualifying family members?

Qualifying family members are defined in WAC 388-424-0001. They don’t include a family member charged with or convicted of a crime committed against the survivor spouse or a child of the spouse.

A written or verbal statement from the survivor that speaks to how they are related to a qualified family member may be accepted as verification of relationship.

  1. What benefits are survivors of certain crimes potentially eligible for?

Survivors of certain crimes may be eligible for the following state-funded assistance programs, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements for those programs and are not already eligible under other citizenship and immigration rules:

All survivors of certain crimes (and their qualifying family members) who are eligible for SFA, ABD or HEN Referral, may be eligible for Medical Care Services (MCS) if not already eligible for federally funded medical programs.

Note: When screening MCS, children are not added to the MCS (A24) assistance unit. Eligibility for any applying children should be determined under Apple Health for Children – see ACES Manual: Medical Care Services [MCS] Medical – A01, A05, A24 for more information.

Note: Pregnant women who are survivors of certain crimes may be eligible for Apple Health for Pregnant Women. See Apple Health for Pregnant Women | Washington State Health Care Authority for more information.    

Survivors of certain crimes do not likely meet the minimum work requirements for a Working Family Support payment due to their immigration status (WAC 388-493-0010). As a reminder, staff are required to review each household to determine if Working Family Support benefits are an option.

  1. Are survivors of certain crimes eligible for WorkFirst services?

All SFA recipients are required to participate in WorkFirst services. For survivors who are not eligible to work, these services may be geared towards preparing for future employment. This includes English language training, job skills development, job-specific training, etc. Please see WorkFirst Handbook 5.2 for more information.

Note: If a survivor of certain crimes SFA recipient is WorkFirst sanctioned, they would not likely be disqualified from FAP due to meeting exemption criteria (not legally able to work due to immigration status) - see WAC 388-444-0010. When someone is WorkFirst sanctioned, staff are to examine Basic Food/FAP work requirements separately to determine if a Basic Food disqualification is required or if the individual is exempt from those requirements.

    10. Are survivors of certain crimes subject to the public charge rule if they receive public assistance benefits?

The receipt of public assistance is only one of several factors that USCIS considers to determine whether someone is likely to be a “public charge” and is therefore inadmissible. Any survivor of certain crimes assistance applicant or recipient should be directed to consult with an immigration attorney with questions regarding “public charge”. For more information: Public Charge Information | DSHS (

If an applicant asks questions regarding eligibility for specific immigration visas or statuses, staff are to advise them to seek advice from an immigration attorney.

Worker Responsibilities

Applications from survivors of certain crimes should be handled the same as all other applications for cash or food assistance, with the exception of the verification policy below.

  1. What kind of documents are not required for eligibility determination?
  • Passport
  • Regular or non-work SSN
  • Alien Registration number
  • Any USCIS documentation

Absence of these documents does not affect an applicant’s eligibility for benefits. Don’t run applicants’ information through SAVE because the majority of applicants don’t have an immigration status, or may have an expired immigration status.

  1. What are the documentation requirements for staff?

    When verifying an individual is a survivor or a qualifying family member, workers should document the following in the ACES case narrative:

  • The applicant verbally self-attested to being a survivor of certain crimes, or what form of alternative proof was provided; and
  • Date information was provided
  1. The following ACES coding is used to issue benefits to survivors of certain crimes:

    Only use this coding when an applicant qualified for assistance as a survivor of certain crimes is preparing to file an application with USCIS. If they have already filed an application for status with USCIS, they may be eligible for benefits as a non-qualified or qualified alien. Assess based on verification provided and proceed based on that information.

  • Citizen Status - Undocumented Alien (U)
    • This coding bypasses SAVE requirements.
  • Citizenship Verification Code – Preparing to File/Survivor of Certain Crimes (PF)
  • SSA/SSN Referral – Undocumented Alien
    • This coding bypasses entering a SSN. The worker should still enter an SSN if the applicant has one to work under.
  • Other Federally Qualifying Status as "NQ" (No Federal Qualified Status)
    • This coding bypasses entering a SSN. The worker should still enter an SSN if the applicant has one to work under.
  1. At eligibility review, are survivors of certain crimes required to provide verification they have applied for visa/status in order to continue receiving benefits?

​No, the only verification that is required in order to continue benefits is verbal self-attestation that the recipient is a survivor and is continuing to prepare to file, per WAC 388-424-0035.

If the recipient states that they applied for asylum, a T visa, or a U visa with USCIS, staff are to request e verification (a copy of receipt). The survivor may also provide their USCIS receipt number verbally, allowing staff to check the USCIS website directly to verify an application has been filed. In a scenario where verification was requested and the individual failed to provide the receipt and/or the worker cannot verify via the USCIS website that an application was filed, the individual would still be eligible for continued benefits, based solely on their self-attestation that they are continuing to prepare to file.

  1. What happens when a survivor of certain crimes's immigration status changes?

Once new verification is received from the recipient, workers should: 

  • Update the client’s Citizenship status information in ACES; and

  • Establish eligibility for benefits.

Resources, Desk Aids and Links

Citizenship and Identity Documents for Medicaid

Citizenship and Identity Verification Documents – T1 – T4

T1 Documents (Only Tier 1 documents are considered by the federal government to document both citizenship and identity).

  • US Passport.
  • Enhanced Drivers license or state ID (only if issuing state verifies citizenship to issue enhanced document)
  • Certificate of Naturalization.
  • Certificate of Citizenship.
  • Tribal Membership Card with picture.

T2 Documents

  • Official state/county US birth certificate. ***
  • Other certification of birth issued by the Department of State.
  • Department of Health (DOH) printout for Washington State Birth
  • US Citizen ID card.
  • Final adoption decree in the US.
  • Evidence of civil service employment by the US government before June 1976.
  • Official military record of service that shows a US place of birth.

***NOTE: A "hospital" birth certificate is considered by the federal government to be a souvenir and DOES NOT meet the federal requirement for any "T" level of verification.

T3 - Examples

The T3 tier of verification must be created 5 years before the date of initial application or eligibility review.

  • Religious records within 3 months of birth showing US place of birth.
  • Early school record showing a US place of birth.
  • Insurance company records (life or health), that indicate a US place of birth.
  • US hospital record created at the time of birth, indicating a US place of birth such as:
    • Chart notes of the birth.
    • Hospital records of the baby's stay in the hospital.
  • Other document that shows a U.S. place of birth that was created at least 5 years prior to the client’s initial application for Medicaid.

T4 - Examples

  • Federal or State census record indicating US citizenship or US place of birth.
  • Institutional admission papers indicating a US place of birth and created 5 years before the date of initial application or review.
  • Other medical records (clinic, doctor, or hospital), created five years before the date of initial application or review that indicate a US place of birth.
  • Citizenship Affidavit (DSHSH 27-033)
  • The Citizenship Documentation and Identity Declaration form (DSHS 13-789) does not fulfill this requirement.
  • Clients exempt from citizenship requirements due to SSI, Medicare or receiving SSA disability if no level T1 or T2 exists.

Identity - Examples

  • A current state driver's license with individual's picture.
  • A state identity card with individual's picture.
  • A US American Indian/Alaska Native tribal document.
  • Military identification card with individual's picture.
  • For disabled individuals in residential care facilities the facility administrator or director may submit affidavits attesting to the client's identity.

A child under the age of 16 (or 16-17 if they have no ID verification above) may present the following documents as evidence of identity:

  • Citizenship Documentation and Identity Declaration form (DSHS 13-789) signed by the parent or guardian attesting to the child's identity.
  • School record (including daycare and nursery school records)
  • Clinic, doctor or hospital record.

Immigration Law Center (NILC) Guide

Revised September 27, 2023


National Immigration Law Center (NILC) Guide

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) publishes the "Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs, Fourth Edition". This appendix gives you access to sections of the NILC Guide, which contain descriptions and pictures of key citizenship and immigration documents, and information on how to decipher the coding on these documents.

  • While this information was current as of the 2002 NILC Guide publication date, it is not a complete list of immigrant statuses and documents.
  • Other types of immigrant eligibility questions should be submitted to the Policy Clarification Database through your Regional Financial Coordinator.

Sample SSN Request Letter

Revised September 20, 2011


Click the following link to complete the SSN Request  used to request a non-work SSN from the Social Security Administration on behalf of clients applying for benefits.

Citizenship and Alien Status - Statement of Hmong/Highland Lao Tribal Membership

Revised March 25, 2011


Statement of Hmong/Highland Lao Tribal Membership

I declare, under penalty of perjury, that I was a Hmong or Highland Laotian tribe member when the tribe assisted the U.S. military during the Vietnam era (8/5/64 to 5/7/75).





Work Quarters Barcode Procedures

Revised March 25, 2011