While U.S. citizens can check public benefits programs to see if they qualify, most initiatives don’t mention immigrants’ eligibility at all, while some are under the umbrella of “some non-citizens.”

“This often leads to immigrants not having any way to understand which benefits they might be able to get,” said Maripat Pileggi, supervising attorney at Community Legal Services. In reality, immigrants are eligible for cash, food, and medical assistance.

Public benefits can be confusing on their own, and having to navigate which are available to folks with different immigration statuses can throw people for a curve. The result is “a kind of confusion that creates its own access barrier,” Pileggi added.

To help documented and undocumented immigrants connect with public benefit resources, we broke down six programs in Pennsylvania by immigration status:

Can immigrants access public benefits?

Yes, but it depends on the benefit you are trying to apply for and the category your immigration status falls under. This is because each public benefit program has its own rules on who qualifies.

A common ground, however, is the public charge rule. This policy determines whether or not an immigrant can prove that they are not going to use public benefits or become dependent on the state, before being granted a green card, visa, or admission to the country.

Not all immigrants need to pass the public charge rule. Asylees, refugees, survivors of trafficking, Violence Against Women Act petitioners, special immigrant juveniles, and people paroled into the U.S. are exempt from it. Plus, your family’s use of benefits does not affect your green card application. In fact, most public benefits don’t have any effect when it comes to you passing the public charge rule. And, if you are already a green card holder, this policy will not affect your path to citizenship.

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