10. Counting legal immigrants’ quarters of work
In California, there is no need to count immigrants’ quarters of work to determine eligibility due to the existence of CFAP (California Food Assistance Program), a special California program that provides food stamp benefits for resident legal immigrants.
However, elsewhere this test would determine whether the federal or state government is paying for a lawful permanent resident’s benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.4(a)(6)(ii)(A).]
To get 40 quarters of work to qualify for federal food stamps, the legal immigrant household member can count quarters s/he has worked, quarters one’s spouse has worked, and quarters one’s parents worked before the household member turned 18. [7 C.F.R. § 273.4(a)(6)(ii)(A).] Work legally covered by Social Security counts [7 C.F.R. § 273.4 (a)(6)(ii)(A)], regardless of the person’s immigration status at the time the work was performed. [FNS Eligibility Determination Guidance, Non-Citizen Requirements in the Food Stamp Program, January 2003 ("FNS Guidance") at 19.] Some non-covered earnings, like certain agricultural earnings, also count. [SSA POMS at SI 00502.135.] However, quarters worked in another country cannot be counted.
Quarters in which a legal immigrant’s spouse has worked count even if there is a subsequent divorce, if the immigrant was determined eligible for food stamps based on the 40 quarters. (If the person has not yet been determined eligible for food stamps, the divorce will cut off the ability to count the ex-spouse’s work quarters). 7 C.F.R. § 273.4(a)(6)(ii)(A)(1).]
If the total number of quarters from the legal immigrant’s work, his or her spouse’s work and his or her parents’ work (before the legal immigrant turned 18) is 40 or more, s/he can get federal food stamps. [7 C.F.R. § 273.4(a)(6)(ii)(A).] The legal immigrant’s spouse and children can also count the quarters one has worked in order for them to get to 40 quarters of work. [7 C.F.R. § 273.4 (a)(6)(ii)(A).]
A legal immigrant household member cannot count any quarter after December 31, 1996 during which s/he received any “federal means-tested benefit” or food stamps [7 C.F.R. § 273.4 (a)(6)(ii)(A)(2).] like federal food stamps, SSI, CalWORKs or non-emergency Medicaid. Similarly, a parent’s or spouse’s quarters are not countable if those persons actually received any Federal means-tested public benefits or food stamps in that quarter. [7 C.F.R. § 273.4 (a)(6)(ii)(A)(2).] USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has determined that food stamps are “federal means-tested public benefits.” Child nutrition programs — including the School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service and Child and Adult Care Food Programs — are excluded from the definition of “federal means-tested public benefits” for purposes of this provision.
If, however, the immigrant qualifies based on the 40 quarters (their own, parent’s or spouses), prior to applying for a means-tested public benefit or food stamps, they will still be eligible. 7 C.F.R. § 273.4 (a)(6)(ii)(A)(2)
If someone is a lawful permanent resident and thinks s/he has 40 quarters of work in the United States, the food stamp office will have to verify the quarters of work. The food stamp office will ask the Social Security Administration for the legal immigrant’s records. [See Memorandum from Arthur T. Foley, Director, Program Development Division, FNS, to all Food Stamp Program Directors (July 13, 1997) (discussing guidelines for making determinations based on work history).] The legal immigrant will have to sign a release form so that Social Security can give the food stamp office the person’s records. If the legal immigrant household member wants to count the quarters of his or her spouse or parent, they too will have to sign a release.
If the legal immigrant’s Social Security records do not show 40 quarters of work but the person thinks s/he does have 40 quarters, one can ask the Social Security Office to assist in filling in the missing records.
A legal immigrant can receive food stamps for six months while working with the Social Security Office to complete his or her records. [See FNS Cumulative Questions & Answers on Certification and Work Issues in PRWORA at section 402, updated July 1999.] The six-month provision does not apply if the food stamp office determines eligibility from sources other than the Social Security system. The Social Security Office should give the person a paper saying that you s/he is trying to fill in the missing records. The legal immigrant has to show this paper to the food stamp office to get the six months of food stamps.
To fill in any missing records, the legal immigrant will have to get proof of work. One can try to prove work by collecting old pay stubs, getting statements from old employers or getting statements from other workers who worked with the person at the job.
The Social Security office may not have the most recent quarters someone worked because it takes some time for the Social Security records to be updated. In that situation, the legal immigrant will have to give the food stamp office other proof of that work. If someone does not want to wait for Social Security to fix the records, one can request a fair hearing. (See the sections about notices and fair hearings for more details about how that process works.). At the fair hearing you can present proof of your past work.