National Immigration Law Center
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Our mission is to defend & advance the rights & opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members.

Access to Public Benefits


THE RESOURCES LINKED TO BELOW below provide information about eligibility and other rules governing immigrants’ access to federal and state public benefits programs. About half the states have spent their own money to cover at least some of the immigrants who are ineligible for federally funded services. Several states or counties provide health coverage to children and/or pregnant women, regardless of their immigration status. Many state-funded programs, however, have been reduced or eliminated in state budget battles. In determining an immigrants' eligibility for benefits, it is necessary to understand the federal rules as well as the rules of the state in which an immigrant resides.

TABLE: A Quick Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Key Federal Means-tested Programs (PDF)

MONOGRAPH: Overview of Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs

TABLE: Overview of Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs

ARTICLE: Immigrant Eligibility for Public Benefits (Copyright © 2005 American Immigration Lawyers Association. Reprinted, with permission, from Immigration & Nationality Law Handbook 759 (2005–06 ed.), PDF.) (NOTE: Though this article is not up-to-date, it does provide one of the most complete available histories of U.S. law with respect to provisions and policies that affect immigrants' eligibility for public benefits.)

Updates to the Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs (4th edition, 2002). Includes information about typical documents, state-funded programs (TANF, SSI, health care), and other public benefits eligibility-related issues. 

State Immigration-related Legislation: Last Year’s Key Battles Set the Stage for 2012
This wrap-up summarizes 2011’s battles in four key areas that, in 2012, will continue to play a prominent role in states’ debates.