Understanding Immigrant Access to Public Benefits: Eligibility and Obstacles

While public benefits have been instrumental in aiding millions, the complexity of understanding eligibility requirements and the intricacies of the application process can be overwhelming. To address this issue, the Migration Policy Institute has published a guide titled Immigrants’ Eligibility for U.S. Public Benefits: A Primer, which offers a comprehensive overview of immigrants’ eligibility for 13 key programs and services.

The report provides an in-depth eligibility framework for the following:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)


Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs)

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Subsidies

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Work Authorization

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Social Security

Federal Student Aid

Subsidized Housing Assistance

Driver’s Licenses

Additionally, the primer sheds light on certain state-provided benefits available in California, Illinois, and Houston, Texas, which are particularly relevant for immigrants who may not meet the criteria for federal assistance.

For related publications, visit HSDL’s Focus topics of Immigration and Food Insecurity or browse articles related to specific public benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

Note: you may need to login to the HSDL to view some resources mentioned in the blog.

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