If I’m Not a U.S. Citizen, Can I Still Be Eligible for Medicaid?

Updated on October 12th, 2021

Reviewed by Garrett Ball

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If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible for Medicaid, depending on the rules in your state. But you have to meet certain requirements before receiving any benefits. First, you must be a qualified immigrant. Second, you will have to wait five years before you can apply. Exceptions exist as well.

Eligibility requirements for Medicaid were established by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. It divided immigrants into two groups: qualified and non qualified. Generally, only qualified immigrants are eligible to receive Medicaid.

You may be eligible as a qualified non-citizen if you are a:

  • Lawful permanent resident (or green card holder),
  • Immigrant paroled into the U.S. for at least one year,
  • Immigrant granted conditional entry into the U.S. before 1980,
  • Asylee,
  • Refugee,
  • Cuban/Haitian entrant,
  • Victim of trafficking, including spouses, children, siblings, or parents,
  • Battered non-citizen, including spouses, children, or parents, or
  • Veteran and active member of the military, including spouses and children

The Five-Year Waiting Period

If you fit the federal definition of qualified, you will have to wait five years in order to apply for and receive coverage from Medicaid. However, some groups are exempt from this waiting period.

Among those who wait are lawful permanent residents, immigrants paroled into the U.S. for at least a year and immigrants granted conditional entry before 1980.

Among those who do not have to wait are asylees, refugees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, victims of tracking, battered noncitizens, and veterans and active members of the military.

Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to enroll in Medicaid.

Meeting Medicaid Requirements

If you are a qualified immigrant, you must also meet your state’s eligibility requirements on income and household size for Medicaid. Depending on the state you live in, you can follow the income guideline, which includes the number of individuals in your family/household.

Taking the Next Steps

It’s important to double check your immigration status as well as your qualifications to see if you are eligible for Medicaid. Researching the basics on Medicaid can help you in the process of finding coverage as a non-citizen. Plans under Medicaid can vary depending on state guidelines, but most should cover certain essential services.You can apply for Medicaid at any point of the year. If you meet the income and residency requirements for your state, you may be able to receive coverage. Medicaid is extraordinarily helpful if you are eligible to enroll. Medicaid covered 16 percent of U.S. health care costs in 2019, and Medicaid enrollment is projected to reach 79.2 million people by 2022.

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