Public Benefits

Up-to-date federal and D.C.-specific public benefits programs. Before enrolling in any local or federal public benefits programs, individuals who are uncertain about the impact enrollment will have on their ability to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPR/Green Card holders) or Naturalized Citizens should consult with an immigration attorney before proceeding.

Links to Sections

Government Programs

Two types of government-funded public benefits programs: D.C.-specific programs and federal programs. Few immigrants qualify for federal public benefits, though there are exceptions which are outlined below. All immigrants are eligible for emergency Medicaid.

DC-Specific Programs for Immigrants:

Immigrant Children's Program

D.C. funded Medicaid managed care provider (MCO) for children who are only ineligible for Medicaid as a result of their immigration status.

Healthcare Alliance

MCO with no citizenship eligibility requirement. Adult immigrant residents of D.C. who do not qualify for Medicaid receive health coverage through the Alliance. Alliance does not include mental health supports, substance abuse counseling, and has limited medical providers. (Requires in-person interview)

Federal Programs 

  • Supplemental Social Security income (SSI)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Emergency Medicaid (ALL ARE ELIGIBLE, includes labor and delivery, testing and treatment for symptoms of communicable diseases, immunizations, short-term (non-cash) emergency disaster relief
  • Full-Scope Medicaid
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • HUD Public Housing and Section 8 ProgramsTitle XX
  • Block Grants
  • Social Security
  • Other Federal Public Benefits Subject to Welfare Law’s Restrictions

National Immigration Law Center

This PDF explains which immigrants are eligible for which federal programs. It divides immigrants in to three categories: “qualified” immigrants who entered the US before 8/22/1996, “qualified” immigrants who entered the US on or after 8/22/1996, and “not-qualified” immigrants.

“Qualified” Immigrants

  • Lawful permanent residents (LPR/”green card” holders)
  • Asylees
  • Refugees
  • Persons granted withholding of deportation/removal
  • Persons paroled in to U.S. for at least 1 year
  • Conditional entrants
  • Cuban or Hatian entrants
  • Certain abused immigrants, their children, and/or their parents (U-visas)
  • Certain victims of trafficking (T-visas)

    “Not-Qualified” Immigrants

    • Undocumented
    • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
    • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
    • All other immigrants/all those who do not fall in to one of the “qualified” immigrant groups

    Questions to Determine Immigration Status 

    Entry into the U.S.

    • Did you come to the U.S. by illegally crossing the border at some place other than a U.S. checkpoint?


    • Did you come to the U.S. on some type of visa?
    • What kind of visa (e. student, tourist, employment)?
    • Is your visa still current or is it expired?
    • Are you getting a U-visa because you were a crime victim? Is someone assisting you?

    Legal Permanent Resident/Greencard

    • Are you a legal permanent resident? Do you have a greencard ? (same thing)
    • If not, have you or any of your relatives ever filed family visa petitions for you to get a greencard?
    • If so, when were they filed?
    • Who filed these petitions? (e. parent? spouse?)
    • Are the papers still in process with the immigration authorities?

    Work Permit

    (A work permit will say “Employment Authorization” on it.) There are many different types of status that let you apply for a work permit. If you can make a legible copy of the card, the “(c)-code” information on it can pinpoint the type of status or application it is linked to. WDAIP can help with that. 

    • Were you given a work permit?
    • Do you know why it was granted?


    Marriage per se does not confer any lawful immigration status on a noncitizen spouse. Where the noncitizen marries a US citizen or LPR, this entitles the noncitizen to begin the process of applying for lawful status based upon a valid marriage. 

    • Are you married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident?

    Refugee or Asylee

    • Did you come to the U.S. after having been given refugee status/visa? (Refugee visas are granted outside the US and people then enter legally; a refugee visa is often stamped or noted on an “I-94” entry document.)
    • Have you ever applied for asylum since you arrived in the U.S.? (Political asylum is granted to people who are inside the US when they apply.)
    • Was your application granted?
    • If so, when?
    • If so, are you still in asylee or refugee status or did you apply for your greencard? (Refugees must, and asylees can apply for a greencard, after one year.)
    • If not granted, is your application still pending?
    • If your application was denied, have you had a hearing with an immigration judge?

      DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

      DACA is a type of non-statutory, temporary administrative status created in 2012, after the Dream Act and immigration reform law failed. It gives temporary status and work authorization to some undocumented people who entered the US before age 16, before 6-15-2007, and who were born on or after 6-15-1981. DACA does not lead to LPR status or give any other immigration status. Felony and some misdemeanor convictions are a bar. 

      • Did you apply for the program for Dreamers/people who came before they were 16?
      • Did you apply for work authorization?
      • How old were you when you came to the US? When did you come?

      Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

      TPS is a type of temporary status well short of asylum. Eligibility is established by designation by the Secretary of Homeland Security and must be renewed, usually every 18 months. TPS allows work authorization but does not lead to LPR or any other immigration status. The group is designated by country and date of arrival. Countries with groups currently designated for TPS are listed here 

      Currently (August, 2014) there are TPS designated groups from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria. Any felony or two misdemeanors are bars to TPS. 

      • Do you have TPS? (Most people know if they have it.)
      • When did you arrive in the US?

      ICE Order of Supervision (Final Order of Removal/Deportation)

      People with final orders of removal (deportation) sometimes cannot be deported because the country of origin will not cooperate or because a travel document cannot be obtained. In such cases ICE will release the person with an Order of Supervision. They usually have to report to ICE, and can apply for work authorization. Some people stay in this status for years or permanently. 

      • Did you ever see the immigration judge? Were you ordered deported?
      • Were you told you can’t be deported because your country won’t take you back?
      • Do you have to report to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)?

      Assistance Forms

      To apply or recertify for one or more of the assistance programs, must fill out combined application and either mail or submit application to service center. Interviews required for all programs except Medicaid.


      Combined Application
      Blank Form


      Combined Application
      Blank Form


      Combined Application
      Blank Form

      Documentation Recommended for Interview

      Documentation Examples


      Recent paystubs; statement showing retirement income, disability income, or Workers Compensation; pension statement; etc.


      Recent bank and checking account statements, etc.

      DC Residency

      DC driver’s license, lease, rent receipt, written statement from your landlord, utility or telephone bill, etc.

      Social Security Number

      Social Security card; tax or payroll documents with your SSN on it; DC driver’s license with your SSN on it; etc. (Not required for Food Stamp-only applicants.)

      Medical Exam Report / Disability

      Recent medical report (or Form 856) and any supporting materials from your doctor.

      Immigration Information

      Employment Authorization card, I-94, visa, passport, or other documents from the INS.

      Rent / Mortgage (SNAP Only)

      Lease, rent receipt, cancelled check, mortgage statement, etc.

      Utility Bills (SNAP Only)

      Recent bills for electric, gas, fuel, phone, water, telephone, etc. (if you pay these separately from your rent).

      Relationship (TANF Only)

      Birth certificate (full copy) for your child(ren) or official records from a school, court, hospital, etc.

      “Living With” (TANF Only)

      Statements from two non-relatives or school records.

      Note: Also bring your Medicare card or other health insurance card, if you have one.


      ESA Service Centers

      Taylor Street

      1207 Taylor Street NW
      Phone: 202-576-8000
      Fax: 202-576-8740
      Hours: 7:30 am – 4:45 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 7:30 am – 8:00 pm on Wednesday

      H Street

      609 H Street NE
      Phone: 202-698-4350
      Fax: 202-724-8964
      Hours: 7:30 am – 4:45 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 7:30 am – 8:00 pm on Wednesday

      Fort Davis

      3851 Alabama Avenue SE
      Phone: 202-645-4500
      Fax: 202-645-6205
      Hours: 7:30 am – 4:45 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 7:30 am – 8:00 pm on Wednesday


      2100 Martin Luther King Jr Avenue SE
      Phone: 202-645-4614
      Fax: 202-727-3527
      Hours: 7:30 am – 4:45 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 7:30 am – 8:00 pm on Wednesday

      Congress Heights

      4001 South Capitol Street SW
      Phone: 202-645-4546
      Fax: 202-654-4524
      Hours: 7:30 am – 4:45 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 7:30 am – 8:00 pm on Wednesday

      Legal Referrals

      Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

      First come, first serve at the intake locations during hours listed. Call 202-628-1161 with any questions. Fax: 202-727-2132 

      • NW Site/Main Office: 1331 H St. NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20005
        Site Hours: Monday 12:30pm-6pm, Thursday 12:30pm-4pm 
      • SE Site: 2041 MLK Jr. Ave. SE, Suite 201, Washington, DC 20020
        Site Hours: Monday & Thursday 10:00am-1:30pm 

        Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) of the District of Columbia

        Go in person to any intake location below or call during intake hours at 202-832-6577 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 

        • NW Site: 680 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20002
        • NE Site: 4609 Polk St. NE, Washington, DC 20019
        • SE Site: 2811 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20020

          Bread for the City 

          Please Note: Bread for the City is currently not accepting SSI cases for representation; however, Bread for the City can provide general advice for people who want to know more about the process from 1:00 to 3:00 on Monday at one of the locations below: 

          • SE Site: 1640 Good Hope Rd. SE
            Washington, DC 20020 
            Phone: 202-561-8587 
            Fax: 202-574-1536 
          • NW Site: 1525 7th St. NW
            Washington, DC 20001 
            Phone: 202-265-2400 
            Fax: 202-745-1081 

            Catholic Charities 

            924 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20004 
            Phone: 202-350-4305 or 202-772-4325 (Spanish) 

            Intake hours: 
            Monday, Tuesday, and Friday: 9:30am-12pm, 2pm-4:30pm 
            Wednesday and Thursday: 9:30am-12pm, 2pm-7:30pm 

              Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless 

              1200 U Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 
              Phone: 202-328-5500 

              Call to find out about frequently changing intake schedule. 

                DC Bar Pro Bono Advice and Referral Clinic

                This is a free legal advice clinic on the second Saturday of every month from 10am-12pm. There are lawyers who can give you advice on your case, but they probably will not be able to represent you. To register, call: 202-737-4700, ext. 3292. More information. The clinic is held at two locations: 

                • Bread for the City – Northwest Center: 1525 7th Street NW
                  To arrive by Metro take the Green Line to Shaw-Howard University Metro Station.
                • Bread for the City – Southeast Center: 1640 Good Hope Road SE
                  To arrive by Metro take the Green Line to the Anacostia Metro Station.

                Legal Counsel for the Elderly

                (**Clients must be age 60 or over**) 

                601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049 

                Call their legal hotline at 202-434-2170, Monday through Friday, between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The regular office number is 202-434-2120. Staff speak Spanish. 


                DC Medicaid provides health care coverage to adults, children and families who have a low income or a disability. To be eligible, you must be a resident of D.C. and meet certain eligibility requirements. Apply online at or call 1-855-532-5465. 

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