Government Benefits for Immigrants

Government Benefits for Immigrants
Ver en Espanol

Last updated: September 2012

General Information

What kinds of government benefits are available in Illinois?

There are many different kinds of federal and state government benefits. Some of these are:

  • Programs that help people buy food - food stamps (known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)), and the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
  • Programs that give cash assistance to disabled persons - Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Illinois Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled (AABD)
  • Programs that offer general cash assistance - Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) and Illinois General Assistance (GA)
  • A program that provides retirement benefits to the elderly - Social Security Retirement Benefits
  • Programs that provide medical assistance - Medicaid and All Kids

What benefits am I eligible for in Illinois?

Generally, you may be eligible for all of the benefits listed above if you have been a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), or other type of Qualified Immigrant, for at least 5 years.

What is a Qualified Immigrant?

According to federal law, Qualified Immigrants include:

  • Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs)
  • Refugees or asylees
  • Persons granted withholding of deportation or removal
  • Persons granted conditional entry
  • Haitian/Cuban entrants
  • Amerasians
  • Certain Native Americans
  • Hmong/Highland Laotians
  • Trafficking victims
  • Certain battered spouses and children with pending or approved applications for legal status

If I have not been an LPR or other Qualified Immigrant for at least 5 years, what benefits am I eligible for in Illinois?

Some programs in Illinois are available without checking on immigration status, including:

  • The Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
  • Medical care for children under the All Kids program
  • Kindergarten through 12th grade public education, and school lunch and breakfast programs
  • Head Start

You may be eligible for other programs even if you have not been an LPR or other type of Qualified Immigrant for at least 5 years. Please see the information on each program below for further details about immigrant eligibility for particular benefits.

Food Stamps (SNAP)

What is SNAP?

SNAP is the federal food stamp program which provides low-income families with the money to purchase groceries. In Illinois, food stamps are issued on a monthly basis through the LINK card.

Am I eligible for food stamps if I am not a US citizen?

You may be eligible for the SNAP program if you are a member of one of the following groups:

  • Individuals who have held LPR or other Qualified Immigrant status for at least 5 years
  • Veterans and active duty members of the US military and their dependents
  • LPRs under the age of 18
  • LPRs who have been found to be blind or disabled
  • LPRs who have 40 qualifying quarters of work. To see what is a qualifying quarter of work, please see Quarter of Coverage.
  • LPRs who were legally residing in the US on August 22, 1996 and were 65 on or before August 22,1996
  • Certain Iraqi and Afghan immigrants

For additional information about immigrant eligibility for SNAP, please see SNAP Policy on Non-Citizen Eligibility.

If I am not eligible for food stamps due to my immigration status, may I apply for members of my household who do qualify?

Yes. Even if you do not qualify for food stamps because of your immigration status, you can apply for your children or other members of the household who do qualify.

Will receiving food stamps affect my immigration status?

No. Receiving food stamps through SNAP will not affect your immigration status.

How do I get food stamps?

To participate in the SNAP program and receive food stamps, you must still earn less than the income limits and meet the other requirements of the program.

For more information, please see Getting Food Stamps (SNAP) in Illinois.

Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)

What is WIC?

WIC is a federal food assistance program for women, infants, and children. It helps pregnant women, new mothers and young children eat well and stay healthy by providing supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education.

For more information about WIC, including how to apply, please see Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Am I eligible for WIC if I am not a US citizen?

Yes. Illinois does not check the immigration status of WIC applicants.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

What is SSI?

SSI provides monthly income for people who are 65 or older, blind, or disabled and who have very limited income and assets. SSI benefits are only paid to the eligible disabled person, not to dependents, unless they also qualify for SSI.

For more information about SSI, including how to apply, please see Disabilities Guidebook: Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Am I eligible for SSI if I am not a US citizen?

You may be eligible for SSI benefits if you are a member of one of the following groups:

  • LPRs who have had that status for at least 5 years, as well as 40 credits of work in the US. For information on how to earn credits of work, please see How You Earn Credits.
  • Certain other Qualified Immigrants
  • Veterans and active duty members of the US military and their dependents
  • Qualified immigrants legally living in the US on August 22, 1996 who later became blind or disabled
  • Immigrants who were receiving SSI or who had an application pending on August 22, 1996

For more information about immigrant eligibility for SSI, please see Supplemental Security Income (SSI) For Noncitizens.

Illinois Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD)

What is AABD?

AABD is an Illinois program that provides a cash grant to certain low income people with disabilities or who are blind, and to people age 65 and over. Its purpose is to provide for the basic income needs of people with disabilities and senior citizens.

For more information about AABD, including how to apply, please see Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD).

Am I eligible for AABD if I am not a US citizen?

You may be eligible for AABD benefits if you are a member of one of the following groups:

  • Individuals who have held LPR or other Qualified Immigrant status for at least 5 years
  • Veterans and active duty members of the US military and their dependents
  • Immigrants 65 and older who were lawfully present in the US on August 22,1996 and have been determined “not disabled” by Social Security 

Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF)

What is TANF?

TANF is one of the largest public benefit programs. It offers temporary financial help for families. TANF can help you pay for food, housing, electricity and other utility expenses, and other non-medical expenses. TANF can also help you get the skills needed to get steady jobs. TANF offers classes and programs to help improve your education and work-related skills.

For more information about TANF, including how to apply, please see Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Am I eligible for benefits through TANF if I am not a US citizen?

You may be eligible for TANF benefits if you are a member of one of the following groups:

  • Individuals who have held LPR or other Qualified Immigrant status for at least 5 years
  • Veterans and active duty members of the US military and their dependents 

Illinois General Assistance (GA)

What is GA?

GA provides money and medical assistance to those in need. The program is run by a local governmental unit called a township. In some cases, it is run by a county.

Some townships get state money to run the program. In those townships and counties, the programs are called Children and Family Assistance and Transitional Assistance.

For more information about GA, including how to apply, please see General Assistance.

Am I eligible for GA if I am not a US citizen?

The rules regarding eligibility may change from township to township.

Contact your local DHS Family Community Resource Center. To find the Family Community Resource Center near you, please see the Office Locator.

Social Security Retirement Benefits

What is Social Security?

Social Security provides income to retired workers 62 years old or older.

For more information about Social Security, including how to apply for benefits, please see Senior Citizens Handbook - Financial Assistance: Social Security.

Am I eligible for retirement benefits through Social Security if I am not a US citizen?

Members of the following groups may be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits:

  • Individuals who have held LPR or other Qualified Immigrant status for at least 5 years
  • Veterans and active duty members of the US military and their dependents

Non-qualified immigrants may be eligible if they:

  • Are legally present
  • Claim benefits based on an application filed before November 30, 1996 and are not under a final removal order
  • Are eligible based on certain international agreements 

Medicaid

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a state and federal program that pays for medical expenses for low-income people.

For more information about Medicaid, including how to apply, please see Disabilities Guidebook: Medicaid (for Adults).

Am I eligible for Medicaid if I am not a US citizen?

You may be eligible for Medicaid benefits if you are a member of one of the following groups:

  • Individuals who have held LPR or other Qualified immigrant status for at least 5 years
  • Veterans and active duty members of the US military and their dependents

All immigrants are eligible for the following services, regardless of immigration status:

  • Emergency services, including end-stage kidney disease services;
  • Pregnant women immigrants are eligible for care during and after pregnancy.

All Kids

What is All Kids?

All Kids is a state program to provide affordable health insurance for children.

For more information about All Kids, including how to apply, please see What Is All Kids Healthcare?

Is my child eligible for All Kids if she is not a US citizen?

Yes. As of July 1, 2006, all children under 18 years old are eligible for health insurance coverage, if they:

  • Have proof of Illinois residency
  • Have been uninsured for 12  months in a row 

Head Start

What is Head Start?

Head Start is a child development program that provides services to low-income preschool children and their families, with a focus on education, social and emotional development, physical and mental health, and nutrition.

For more information about Head Start, including how to enroll your child, please see Head Start Child Development Program.

Does my child qualify for Head Start if she is not a US citizen?

Yes. All children may be eligible for Head Start, no matter what is their immigration status.

Helpful Organizations
The following organizations may be able to help you with

For a list of organizations in your area that may be able to help you, enter your zip code.

       

Feedback

We welcome your comments and suggestions

User Survey - Please take a moment to fill out our User Survey to help us to provide better service.

Please do not email legal questions or information about your problem. We will not answer legal questions or provide legal assistance. You can find referrals to legal organizations that may be able to help you by clicking here.
   
Apply For Legal Help Now