Human Services


Federal TANF welfare benefits are limited to a select group of legal immigrants. These “qualified” immigrants consist of: lawful permanent residents, asylees, refugees, aliens paroled into the United States for at least one year, aliens whose deportations are being withheld, aliens granted conditional entry, Cuban/Haitian entrants and aliens who (or whose children or parents) have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the U.S. by a member of their household. Victims of severe forms of trafficking and certain family members also are eligible to the same extent as refugees.

Most legal immigrants entering the country on or after August 22, 1996, are barred for their first five years as a “qualified” alien from receiving any Federal TANF means-tested welfare benefit with the following exceptions: refugees, asylees, an alien whose deportation is being withheld, Cuban/Haitian entrants, Amerasians, veterans, members of the military on active duty and their spouses and unmarried dependent children.

Legal immigrants who are eligible to receive Federal TANF assistance under these statutory provisions comprise a very small portion of the TANF population. The most recent data, for FY 2004, show that eligible “qualified” immigrants make up about 2.1 percent (100,800) of the total recipient population of approximately 4.8 million individuals.

Applicable legislation: Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) and subsequent amendments

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services