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How does DTA count the income of an ineligible immigrant?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 2023

Some ineligible immigrants live with other people who are eligible for SNAP, such as an immigrant parent living with U.S. citizen children. There are two different calculations depending on the immigration status:

Households with legally-present but ineligible immigrants

If you are lawfully residing in the U.S. but are ineligible for benefits – or you choose not to be part of the SNAP household – the SNAP benefits for the family members you live with are calculated using a special calculation. 106 C.M.R §365.520(B)(2)

The SNAP regulations define a broad group of immigrants who are considered “lawfully residing.” See 106 C.M.R §362.240(A). This list includes immigrants with work authorization such as applicants for asylum, TPS or pending VAWA petitions, as well as LPRs subject to the 5-year bar.

DTA’s calculation for households with lawfully present but ineligible immigrants involves three steps whether the ineligible but lawfully present immigrant is excluded and included in the calculation to arrive at the correct benefit under 106 C.M.R §364.600(C).


Juana is an applicant for political asylum and was granted Employment Authorization. However, Juana is not eligible for SNAP until she is approved for asylum. Juana has two children who are both U.S. citizens. She currently earns $1,250/month gross income and pays $700 rent, plus heat and cooling costs. Her children have no income. Here’s how DTA calculates her benefits:

Step 1: DTA calculates SNAP for all household members, including the ineligible immigrant and their income.

DTA calculates the benefits for three people, including Juana and her two children. DTA counts all of Juana’s income and allows the income deductions. The SNAP would be $740/month

Step 2: DTA calculates SNAP for the eligible household members excluding the ineligible immigrant and their income. If the eligible children have countable income, their income is counted to determine their SNAP benefits.

In Juana’s case, the children have no countable income. The benefit for 2 persons with no countable income is $516 a month.

Step 3: The household is eligible for the SNAP amount that is lower between Step 1 and Step 2. The rational is so that households with ineligible immigrant members do not get more SNAP than if all members were U.S. citizens.

In Juana’s case, the benefit for the children is $516, the amount in Step 2, which is less than the $740 from Step 1.

Households with “undetermined status” members

If you are an undocumented or in an "undetermined" immigrant status, the SNAP benefit calculation is harsh. DTA will count all of the ineligible immigrant’s income toward the eligible members without considering your needs. 106 C.M.R. § 365.520(A) This calculation is identical to the calculation for households with a member who is sanctioned due to an Intentional Program Violation. See How does DTA count the income of someone not in my SNAP household?


In the case of Juana, above, suppose she does not have any proof of legal status. Because Juana has “undetermined status,” DTA will count 100% of her income against a SNAP benefit level for the 2 children only. The children will receive only $461 in SNAP benefits. 

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