Residency Requirements

Revised October 9, 2014


Most programs are limited to Washington residents. This category explains who meets that requirement and when a person may be exempt from the residency requirement.

WAC 388-468-0005 Residency

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-468-0005

If residency requirements are questionable for an individual determine if the individual meets one of the following conditions:

  1. Intends to continue living in Washington permanently or for an indefinite period of time; or
  2. Entered the state looking for a job; or
  3. Entered the state with a job commitment.

Residency depends on a person's intent or purpose in coming to WA state at the time of application and renewal.

Primary Custodian of a Child

The parent considered the primary custodian of a minor child is the parent who:

  1. Physically lives with the child at least 51 percent of the time;
  2. Is named as the custodial parent in a court-ordered custody decree and the parents are following the orders in the decree; or
  3. Applies for Medicaid for the child when there is shared custody.

For Medicaid, when there is shared custody (child lives with both parents 50 percent of the time), the parent who applies first is considered the primary custodian of the minor child when both parents apply.

Temporarily Out of State

A person may be temporarily out of state. There isn't a specified period before someone loses Washington State residency. However, the person must demonstrate intent to continue to reside in Washington.

If we suspect a client/household has moved out of state, attempts should be made to contact the household (call or write).  There is no need to contact the other state or country.


A client who is receiving TANF must stay with her ill grandmother in another state. She may be gone for several months but she is maintaining her apartment in Washington. Therefore she is considered a resident of Washington.


A client leaves Washington to take a temporary job in another state. She is planning to return when the job ends which may be in about 3 to 6 months. She will be renting an apartment in the other state and will not be keeping her residence or belongings here. She is no longer considered a resident of Washington State.

Residency Requirements for Medical Eligibility

Residency of a Minor Child

Per 45 CFR 233.40 a child is a resident of the State in which he or she is living other than on temporary basis and the parent or caretaker is a resident.


A family consisting of dad and mom who are in the US on student visa's, attending UW and one child that was born in the US apply for medical. When asked, they declare they intend to return to their home country when finished with school. Since the parents do not intend to remain a WA resident indefinitely they are ineligible for medical and the child although a citizen, is not considered a resident of WA as the parents do not meet residency requirements.

Residency is questionable when the:

  1. Individual just moved to WA without a job commitment or to search for work;
  2. Individual is attending a WA college/university as a non-resident; or
  3. Individual is a temporary visa holder.

For medical eligibility, a person is not considered a resident when that person enters the state only for medical care. The only exception is for a person moving directly to a nursing facility in Washington State and who was not placed in the nursing facility by the other state.


For medical eligibility, when residency is questionable, one way in which tourist/visitor visa holders may show they intend to reside in Washington is to apply for adjustment with USCIS.

If Residency is Questionable

  • Ask whether their intent is to remain in WA State. If the intent is to remain in Washington then ask the following:
    1. For temporary visa holders, what has changed in their circumstances to change their intent filed with their current visa? No verification is needed; document the intent and determine if the intent is reasonable.
    2. For all individuals with questionable residency, is the individual keeping a home, property or residence in the state/country that person left?
      1. If no, the individual meets residency requirements with the declared intent.
      2. If yes, does the person have the residence/property listed for sale, if not why?
      3. If individual is still maintaining home/property or residence and can not document why, that person is not a WA resident and the request for medical assistance should be denied.

    Do not apply the “home in another state” test if the individual is a migrant farm worker as defined in WAC 388-406-0021. By definition, migrant farmworkers have a residence elsewhere that they intend to return to but they still meet the terms of residency in WAC 388-468-0005 (1) (b) or (c). See example below.


    If WA residency has been confirmed remember to consider home/property resources when determining eligibility for medical programs with an asset test. However, this would not apply to migrant farmworkers who have come to WA State for employment purposes - see WAC 388-470-0045 (3) (b) (i).


    A family consisting of dad, mom, and two children have just moved to WA State from California in search of seasonal agricultural work. They maintain a home in California to which they intend to return after the harvest season is over. They apply for cash, food, and medical as they search for work. Because they entered WA State in search of work, they meet residency requirements for all programs.

  • An individual, who states the intent to return home after completing school or the visa expires, does not meet residency requirements.
  • An individual, who enters the state with a job commitment or to search for work, meets residency requirements. This includes business visa holders.
  • Lawfully present aliens in the U.S. with current un-expired student, business, religious workers or tourist/visitor visas are admitted for a temporary stay depending on the type of visa. These visa holders may have changes in their circumstances that will allow them to change their status with USCIS while in the U.S. The exception is tourist/visitor holders, who are rarely eligible for adjustment of their status while still in the U.S.
  • For Medicaid eligibility, at each application or renewal, temporary visa holders must show that their visa is still in effect. All temporary visa holders excluding business visa holders, must be asked their intent to remain a Washington resident when their current visa expires or if they have a current application pending with USCIS for adjustment.

Medicaid Residency Examples


A family came to Washington State from Montana for cancer treatment at Fred Hutchinson's and plans to return as soon as their child completes cancer treatment. The family will be here for a minimum of six months and could possibly be longer depending on the progress the child makes from the treatment. For Medicaid, the family entered the state for medical care and is not considered a resident.


A family consisting of dad, mom, and two children have just moved to WA state from Oregon due to dad's new job. They apply for medical due to one child's sudden illness. They have their home in Oregon rented and will be listing the home for sale when the market improves. Because they entered WA state with a job commitment, they meet residency requirements. If they meet all other eligibility criteria the children are eligible for children's medical.


A non-immigrant family with 2 children applies for children's medical. They submit current visa's for the entire family with R1 and R2 codes (religious workers and dependents). When asked, they declare they intend to remain Washington State residents and apply for status change with USCIS, and they have no home or property in their home country. Because they entered the U.S. with a job commitment they are considered residents. If they meet all other eligibility criteria the children are eligible for children's medical.


A non-immigrant family consisting of mom, dad, and one child applies for medical. They submit current F1 and F2 visa's (foreign student and dependents) for the family and proof of pregnancy for mom. They state they intend to remain in Washington State and apply for status change with USCIS. When asked what has changed since the intend on their visa, they say the pregnancy and the hope that an employer will petition for their adjustment once school is completed. They declare they have no home or property in their home country. Since they stated the intent to remain a Washington resident and are not maintaining a residence in their home country they meet residency requirements. If they meet other eligibility criteria, mom and the children are eligible for pregnancy and children's medical.


A 21 year old student attending UW applies for pregnancy medical. She supplies her school grant and loan information which states she is attending the university as a non-resident. When asked her intentions when she finishes school she states she intends to return to Montana where her family lives when she completes her degree in 2 years. Since she does not intend to remain a WA resident indefinitely she is ineligible for Medicaid.


A husband and wife, admitted to the U.S. with F1 student visas apply for medical benefits for the husband due to a recent hospitalization. The applicant's state they intend to remain in Washington State indefinitely, however, they have a home that is not listed for sale in their home country. When asked what they plan to do with the home, the family has no response. Since they are maintaining a residence in their home country, alien emergency medical (AEM) coverage is denied for failure to meet residency requirements.

Special Circumstances for Nursing Facilities

Persons who come to Washington solely for medical care in a nursing facility may be considered residents of Washington. They can even maintain a residence in another state if they hope to return. However if a person is placed in a nursing facility by another state, the person is considered a resident of the state that placed them.

The department will not deny or terminate Medicaid eligibility for a Washington resident who is absent temporarily and will return. For example, a client who goes to a border facility for rehabilitation for 4 to 6 weeks and will return to Washington is not considered a resident of the border state and Washington will provide Medicaid benefits.

Receipt of Medicaid Benefits in Another State

When an eligible Medicaid recipient moves to Washington and is receiving Medicaid in another state the appropriate Medicaid program can be authorized for the same month only if the other state refuses to cover medical services received in Washington.


When an SSI recipient moves to Washington and continues to receive their state supplemental payment (SSP) benefit from the other state, the state paying the benefit is considered to be the person's state of residence. However, if the other state refuses to provide medical services in Washington, then we will authorize the appropriate medical program in our state.

Residency Requirements for Basic Food Eligibility

Households living in Washington for any purpose other than vacation, meet residency requirements for Basic Food regardless of the length of time they have been here or plan to stay. In most cases it is acceptable to verify residency or verify intent to reside through a client's statement unless circumstances are questionable (see above: If Residency is Questionable).  The worker should verify that no one in the household (AU) is receiving benefits from another state.

Processing Basic Food Applications for Individuals Moving from Another State

When clients apply for Basic Food and they are ineligible for benefits during the month of application because they received benefits from another state:

  • Deny the application for the initial month (and second month if necessary) if they have already received or will receive SNAP benefits from the other state for that month(s).
  • If Basic Food benefits can be approved for the ongoing months and the benefit start date is not more than sixty days from the initial application date, the client does not need to submit a new application.

The client has moved to Washington from Nevada and applies for benefits on 3/15. We interview the client on 4/2 and determine they are financially eligible at the time, except that they received 3/2012 and 4/2012 benefits from the other state. We have verified that they will not receive benefits in 5/2012. Worker correctly denies Basic Food for March and April for duplicate participation and approves benefits for May 2012 and ongoing. Initial application can still be used and considered up until May 14.

Primary Custodian of a Child for Basic Food Eligibility

"Vacation" custodial arrangements should not be considered for the purposes of establishing food eligibility. The parent with whom a minor child physically lives at least 51percent of the time is considered the primary custodian of the child. This may alternate between parents (or other guardians) during the course of a calendar year.


A child lives with her father from September to June each year in Oregon. In July and August she resides with her mother in Washington State, and the mother applies for Basic Food benefits in July. As the child resides with the mother over 51 percent of the time during July and August, the child can receive benefits with the mother in July and August provided she is not receiving them in Oregon during those same months.

Residency Requirements for Cash Eligibility

An individual must satisfactorily demonstrate the intent to continue to live in Washington permanently or for an indefinite period of time.


A student is enrolled in college in Washington for her senior year and came here from Oregon. The student has a young child. Graduation is in June, but the student has applied for graduate school in the State. If approved for graduate school, they will stay at least another two years, and after, depending on the job market. This household is in the state for an indefinite period and meets residency requirements.


A child is here for the balance of the school year and will return home to the custodial parent in another state in June. For cash the child is not considered a resident since the child is not here permanently and remains a member of her custodial parent's household.

Cash and Food Residency Requirements for Lawfully Present Nonimmigrants

For cash and food benefits nonimmigrants lawfully present in the U.S., must first meet citizenship and alien status requirements as they are stated in:

  • WAC 388-424-0010 - Citizenship and alien status - Eligibility for TANF, Medicaid, and CHIP.
  • WAC 388-424-0015- Immigrant Eligibility restrictions for State Family Assistance, ABD cash, and ADATSA programs, and
  • WAC 388-424-0020 - How does my alien status impact my eligibility for Washington Basic Food Program benefits?

After the citizenship and alien status requirements are met, individual's residency requirements must be treated according to each programs' rules.


Worker Responsibilities - WAC 388-468-0005

The DMS E001 tickler uses EBT transaction data to identify EBT cash or food clients who may no longer be living in Washington because they are consistently using their benefits out of state.  Out of state EBT transactions are defined as any EBT purchase, ATM withdrawal or manual voucher transaction at a non-Washington site that requires the use of an EBT card as part of the transaction.  W hen this occurs, the residency may be questionable.   

Follow the E001 tickler handling process described in the CSD Procedures Handbook.

ACES Procedures


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