Eligibility for Food Stamps


There are certain requirements for food stamps interested applicants must meet in order to become eligible for the government-based food assistance program, which is commonly known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Food stamps requirements vary, depending on the state in which an applicant resides. To qualify for food stamps benefits in a potential beneficiary’s home state, he or she must meet income requirements for food stamps, along with citizenship and residency requirements. If an applicant does not meet the food stamp requirements enforced by the program, he or she risks rejection from SNAP, and his or her household will be denied food stamps assistance. To learn more about how to qualify for food stamps and the various factors taken into consideration when determining an applicant’s food stamps eligibility in the United States, review the below sections.

Income Requirements for SNAP Benefits

The process to meet food stamps requirements is largely dependent on an applicant’s income. Requirements for food stamps are based on financial qualifications, because the SNAP program was originally designed to assist low-income individuals and families who could not afford food expenses on their own. Determining how to qualify for SNAP assistance financially begins with examining the current Federal Poverty Level, or FPL. As it applies to qualifying for food stamps benefits, the FPL serves as a benchmark to determine if a SNAP applicant is earning too much income each month to be accepted into the food stamps program of his or her state. Download our free guide to review more specific information on the specific Federal Poverty Levels that are used to determine eligibility for SNAP.

Income requirements for SNAP vary, depending on the size of the applicant’s household. For instance, the process for how to qualify for food stamps as a household of one or two will require a lower monthly income earned than that of a family of four or eight. In addition to income, SNAP assistance requirements also depend on a household’s resources. Depending on the state in which an applicant resides, the list of countable resourcesmay differ. Generally, resources for food stamp eligibility include the sum of money an applicant has in the bank, along with additional investments. To qualify for SNAP benefits as an elderly person or as a disabled applicant, resource limits slightly increase.

Determining your financial eligibility for food stamps is important before applying for SNAP, as it is one of the main qualifications you must meet. Without meeting the income requirements for SNAP, you will have a difficult time progressing further in the application process.

Citizenship Requirements for SNAP Benefits

Food stamp requirements in the U.S. begin at a national level, since it is a federally funded program that is run by the states. The second most important food stamps eligibility factor is being able to prove citizenship or legal presence in the U.S. To qualify for food stamps benefits as a U.S. citizen, an applicant must be able to provide acceptable legal documentation, such as a certified birth certificate or a valid passport.

For those looking to qualify for SNAP benefits who are not U.S. citizens, food assistance is still available, so long as legal presence can be proven. SNAP eligibility for noncitizens is offered to many different groups, including refugees, children, asylees, tribal members, victims of human trafficking and more. However, all noncitizen applicants interested in meeting requirements for food stamps benefits must provide the required documentation to their state SNAP offices in order to progress further with their food stamps applications.

Once an applicant can provide citizenship papers to qualify for food stamps benefits, he or she must then provide proof of state residency. As mentioned, how to qualify for food stamps as a resident varies by state. For example, while one state may accept a utility bill or a mortgage statement to prove residency, another may simply require a driver’s license or a state ID card with a current address listed. To qualify for SNAP in certain states, applicants should prepare more than one proof of residency document to ensure this requirement is properly met.

Other SNAP Eligibility Requirements You Must Meet

In addition to requirements for food stamps that are related to income, citizenship and state residency, certain states require applicants to meet additional requests. For example, how to qualify for SNAP as an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD) requires the applicant to engage in work or school requirements. ABAWD education and employment programs vary by state, as do the tools offered for enrollment. The reason food stamps eligibility requires these additional engagements of applicants is to provide motivation for them to earn higher incomes, which will lead to financial self-sufficiency and remove the need to rely on food assistance benefits.

The SNAP requirements for ABAWDs, however, are not necessarily enforced for food stamp beneficiaries who are elderly or disabled. Seniors and disabled household members who qualify for food stamp benefits will have the work and education requirements waived. Reviewing the state’s policy on work training and/or schooling is important for SNAP applicants prior to filing the required paperwork, so they understand the obligations asked of them in order to maintain food stamp assistance eligibility, once accepted into a state benefit program.

Applicants Who Are Not Eligible for SNAP Benefits

If the food stamps requirements listed above are not met by an applicant, he or she will likely be denied SNAP assistance in his or her state of residence. In addition, there are certain residents who may be disqualified from a state’s food stamp program for non-negotiable reasons. To start, full-time students attending universities may not qualify for food stamps, as their schools may offer food assistance programs for those in need, already. In addition, those who are institutionalized may also not meet food stamps eligibility, because their meals are already provided. Still, convicted felons (especially those who have been involved in drug-related offenses) and incarcerated applicants may also be turned away from state food assistance programs. Furthermore, any applicant who has been accused of food stamp fraud in the past will be rejected from SNAP in his or her state. To learn more about those who do qualify for food stamp assistance, download our guide.