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CalFresh CalFresh for Immigrants: Frequently Asked Questions

Many immigrants are eligible for CalFresh food benefits. If you need food assistance, learn about eligibility for you or your family members from our FAQs. 

Call us at (415) 558-4700 for more information.

1. Which immigrants can get CalFresh?

A household can get CalFresh if at least one person has:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • A green card
  • Refugee status, asylum, or parolee status
  • A U-Visa or T-Visa or is applying for one
  • Applied for relief under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
  • Proof of being a Cuban or Haitian entrant

An individual does not qualify for CalFresh if they are in the U.S.:

  • On a student, work, or tourist visa
  • Under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) unless they meet the other qualifying factors
  • As an undocumented person

Note: People who are not eligible because of their immigration status can always apply on behalf of other household members, like U.S.-born children.

For more information about your immigration status, you can call the Bay Area Legal Aid Free Advice Line at (800) 551-5554, Mondays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can also visit immigrants.sfgov.org.

2. What if some people in my household qualify and others don’t?

It is common for a household to have some people who qualify and some who don’t. Make sure to include everyone on your application—CalFresh will only grant benefits to household members who qualify. Household member information is only used to determine eligibility for CalFresh. The CalFresh office is not allowed to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

3. What happens after I submit my application?

After you submit your application, our office may reach out to you to schedule an interview. This interview is required to review the information you provided on your application. If you are missing any documents, our staff will let you know what to provide.

Know your rights! If a non-citizen in your home is not requesting benefits, we are not allowed to ask for proof of their immigration status. For example, a green card holder who is not applying for benefits for themselves should not be asked to provide their green card information.


4. What documents will I need to provide to get CalFresh?

These documents are usually required to get CalFresh:

  • A copy of your ID
  • Proof of any income from the last 30 days
  • Proof of financial aid (for college students)

Immigrants may also be asked to provide:

  • A copy of your green card (both sides)
  • A copy of your most recent paperwork for a U Visa, T Visa, asylum, refugee or parolee status, or a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) petition
  • Naturalized U.S. citizens may be asked to provide a copy of their U.S. passport or naturalization papers

Important: If you are applying only for other people in your household, you don’t have to provide proof of your immigration status.

Your benefit amount may be increased if you pay for any of the following:

  • Housing expenses
  • Child support paid
  • Child/dependent care paid
  • Medical expenses if you are 60+ or disabled

If you don't have the required documents: Your caseworker can help you obtain the necessary paperwork.

5. If someone in my family is undocumented, can I still apply for CalFresh?

Yes, and here are a few helpful points to consider:

  • It is common for an undocumented parent to apply for children who have citizenship or eligible immigrant status.
  • CalFresh does not share information with immigration enforcement officials.
  • If you tell your caseworker that a non-citizen in your family does not want to be considered for benefits, they are not allowed to ask for proof of their immigration status.
  • Benefits used by children or other household members don’t negatively impact undocumented family members.
  • Be honest about your immigration situation (and everything else) when applying for CalFresh. Remember, you do not have to provide proof of immigration status for anyone who is not applying for benefits for themselves.

6. What if I want to opt out of receiving CalFresh benefits for myself, and just apply for others in my household?

Any non-citizen can opt out of receiving CalFresh benefits if they choose. If you would like to opt out and apply only for others in your household, leave the Social Security number question blank on the application. Be sure to tell the caseworker that you are a non-citizen and that you don’t want benefits for yourself. You can do the same for any other non-citizens in the household who do not want to receive benefits.

Anyone who opts out of receiving benefits should still be listed on the application and should still provide income and expense information so that the county can determine whether or not your household meets other CalFresh requirements.

Some immigrants, like U Visa applicants and survivors of human trafficking, may be eligible for CalFresh before they get Social Security numbers. Be sure to tell our staff that they want to be included.

7. Does getting CalFresh hurt my immigration status or make me a public charge?

Many immigrants are exempt from public charge, including immigrants who qualify for CalFresh. The public charge rule does not apply to anyone who already has a green card, unless they leave the U.S. for more than six months.

The public charge rule also does not apply to anyone who has, or is applying for, one of the following:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Green card holder applying for a renewal
  • Refugee status
  • Asylum
  • U or T Visa
  • Immigration relief through VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) 
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status

Important: Getting CalFresh while you have or are applying for one the above will NOT count against you later if you apply for a green card.

Learn more about Changes to Public Charge

8. Does getting CalFresh affect my ability to get citizenship or a green card?

Getting CalFresh does NOT affect your ability to get citizenship. This is because the public charge test is not a part of the citizenship application process. It also does not affect most people applying for a green card, because almost all immigrants who are eligible for CalFresh are exempt from the public charge test.  

If you still have questions, you can call the Bay Area Legal Aid Free Advice Line at (800) 551-5554, Mondays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You get free advice from the City at immigrants.sfgov.org.

Learn more about Changes to Public Charge

9. How will my personal information be used?

Your personal information is protected and only used to determine your eligibility for benefits. Federal and state laws protect the privacy of people who apply for and receive CalFresh. If you are applying for benefits only for another person in your family or household, you do not have to share your immigration status with CalFresh. Our office may share information with other government agencies only to determine your eligibility for benefits, with limited exceptions.

10. How can I get more information?

We strive to offer you the most up-to-date information, but policies can change. If you need help making the most informed decision for you and your family, call the Bay Area Legal Aid Free Advice Line at (800) 551-5554, Mondays and Thursdays,9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can also visit immigrants.sfgov.org.

More about CalFresh: Visit our CalFresh web pages or call us at (415) 558-4700, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.


11. Where can I get food assistance if I don't qualify for CalFresh?

The organizations below offer free groceries and meals to those in need, regardless of immigration status. 

Ready to get CalFresh?