California CalFresh (SNAP) Application Information

What is CalFresh?

CalFresh is the new name for Food Stamps in California, and is nationally recognized as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). CalFresh will allow you to access healthy and nutritious food improving the health and well-being of your household. Once you sign-up for Calfresh you will get benefits issued every month to a card that can be used just like a bank card. This Golden State Advantage EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) Card can be used to buy most foods at farmer's markets, food stores and even some restaurants. Those who receive CalFresh will no longer have to go to issuance outlets. You can simply slide this card at the cash register or use the card at an ATM. Use of the card is secure, convenient and offers users privacy when making purchases.

You can use the Federal SNAP locator to find a retailer that accepts EBT for CalFresh: Click Here to Find EBT Retailed for CalFresh.

The amount of the available monthly benefit will be determined after you apply and will depend on the size of your household, your bills, and your income.

How do you apply for CalFresh

You can quickly get started by entering your zip code in the box at the top of this page; we will then provide you with information on how to apply. You can also apply by going to the local county office during business hours. For an alphabetical list of the office's in California, click here.

Not everyone will be approved to receive CalFresh benefits. There are various requirements that must be satisfied in order to qualify for CalFresh assistance. These include the recipients' immigration status, household income limits, additional Reporting Requirements, Household Resource Limits, possible Work Requirements and Fingerprint and Imaging Requirements. If you begin your application here you will be given detailed information and tips that cover all these requirements. After completing the application an interview is required to certify your household. During your interview you can ask for further explanation of the program rules and you will be assisted in the parts of your application that have not yet been completed.

Eligibility Requirements

Citizenship/Immigration Requirements

When applying, your immigration status will only be used to check for eligibility. The status of your immigration will NOT be used to deport you unless there is a criminal violation.

Qualified immigrants are eligible for CalFresh. Qualified immigrants includes any of the following: a refugee, a valid asylum, a permanent legal resident (green card), those granted with-holding of deportation, a Haitian entrant, a Cuban entrant, a parolee to the U.S. for more than one year by immigration, a victim of domestic violence, a victim of human trafficking, a holder of a temporary green card and applicants for interim relief.

CalFresh is available to immigrants who:

  • Have lived in the U.S. for five (5) years, or
  • Are children under 18 years of age.
  • Are on disability-related assistance
  • Non-citizens that were admitted for humanitarian reasons or for permanent residence are eligible for CalFresh. Even if some household members are not eligible to receive CalFresh, other eligible members of that household can apply and receive benefits.

If you are in the U.S. temporarily you are not eligible (such as students) if you don't meet the CalFresh requirements you can see if you qualify for California's other food assistance program, the California Food Assistance Program.

Common immigration questions concerning CalFresh

Q: If I don't have immigration documentation can my children get CalFresh?

A: Yes. Even if you are not eligible your kids may be able to receive CalFresh. If your kids were born in the United States, qualify for special status, or are permanent residents you may apply for CalFresh for them.

Q: If my children get CalFresh will it affect my ability to get a green card or become a citizen?

A: No. CalFresh does not make anyone a public charge. Outside of fraudulently receiving benefits, the use of CalFresh does not affect whether someone can become a citizen, get a green card or denied entry into the country.

Income Requirements

Unless your household contains an elderly, disabled or all members receive assistance it will be subject to income limitations in order to determine eligibility to receive CalFresh. The income restriction is first based on gross income then the net income test is calculated.

Gross Income Test

Maximum gross income is capped at 130% of the Federal poverty level. The cap is raised to 165% if the household has and elderly or disabled person.

Net Income Test

To calculate the net income test is computed by subtracting the following list of deductions from the gross income. The remaining amount cannot exceed the Federal Poverty Level.

  • The Standard Deduction Allowance: The standard deduction is per month. This deduction is $147 for 1-3 persons, $155 for 4 persons, $181 for 5 persons and $208 for 6 or more.
  • The 20% deduction to earned income (wages, salaries, etc )
  • Shelter Deduction Allowance: If your shelter cost more than 50% of the household's income after the above deductions (Maximum is $459 a month).
  • Standard Utility Allowance (SUA): For a household that has utility costs. This cost must be separate from the monthly shelter cost (Allowance is $329 a month).
  • Homeless Shelter: Those who are homeless and who are not receiving completely free (allowance is $143 a month).
  • Limited Utility Allowance (LUA): For a household that has at least two separate utility costs other than heating and cooling. (Allowance is $99 a month).
  • Telephone Utility Allowance (TUA): To get this allowance the household cannot be eligible for the SUA or LUA. This household must incur some form of communication expense (Allowance is $20 a month)
  • Medical Deduction Allowance: Medical expenses for the elderly or disabled that exceeds the allowable amount of $35 per month.
  • Dependent Care Allowance: Allowance of up to $200 a month for the cost of dependent care for a child that is under two years old, and you are allowed up to an additional $175 a month for each additional dependant child.

Some income is considered exempt. Please see the following list of exempt income.

  • Vendor Income: Money paid for a household expense by an entity outside of the households members.
  • In-Kind Benefits: Any gain or benefit that is not in the form of money (i.e., meals, clothing, housing provided by the employer, etc.)
  • Educational loans that are deferred
  • Donations of cash from a charitable group that does not exceed $300 in any quarter.
  • Money from Scholarships and/or Grants
  • Any income that is received irregularly so that it is not able to be anticipated and that does not exceed $30 in any quarter.

Reporting Requirements

Because changes can affect eligibility, recipients of CalFresh must notify their County's Welfare Department about changes to their circumstances (such as a change to your income). There are two different types of reporting: Quarterly Reporting and Change Reporting.

Quarterly Reporting

Every 3 months these households will be required to complete a QR 7 each quarter (each 3 months). A QR 7 form addresses the following.

  • The QR 7 form will ask for the household income, any dependent child care and medical expenses incurred and changes that may affect the household in the next 3 months.
  • You MAY report any change that will increase your benefits during the quarter. This may include things like a job loss or an increase in certain expenses.
  • Report changes of address.
  • Your benefits will not be decreased mid-quarter unless there is a financial penalty. Additional mid-quarter decreases can occur if the information reported by the household is found to be incorrect or an approved member of one household is approved for benefits at a different household.

Change Reporting

Households where the members are elderly, disabled, homeless, or migrant/seasonal workers fall can under Change Reporting. Change reporting requires that these households report in writing, verbally or in person the changes listed below. These changes need to be reported within 10 days from the date of a change.

  • Gross income of more than $25 (include source)
  • Loss or addition of a member to the household
  • Changes to the address or shelter costs
  • If money in an account, cash on hand, and/or accumulated stocks and bonds reach a total value of $2,000 ($3,000 elderly or disabled households)
  • Non-household member changes in child support payments.

Household Resource Limit Requirements

A household can only have a certain level of resources to be eligible for CalFresh. Something is considered a resource when it can be drawn upon (or sold) to provide financial assistance. The limit for resources for CalFresh is $2,000 for the household. Households that contain a member that is disabled or elderly (over 60) can have resources up to $3,000.

What are Resources

  • Liquid: This includes cash available to the household. Examples include money in bank accounts, cash, CDs, Stocks, Bonds, retirement accounts, etc.
  • Non-Liquid: This includes real estate, personal property and any other property. This is calculated from your equity value in the property.
  • Please check with your county because for certain households there is NO limit to the household resources.
  • Excluded from Resource Calculation: Those that are excluded include your home, vehicles, your personal items, household items, other resources with an equity valuation equal to $1500 or less (does not include financial accounts). You may exclude any resource that has a cash value that are inaccessible (examples include irrevocable trust, property security deposits, etc.)

Work Requirements

There are some exceptions to the work requirement. Please contact your local County Welfare Department to find out if you are eligible for a work requirement exception. Each household that receives CalFresh has work requirements. These state that all persons that are of the ages 18-49 without dependents and are able-bodied must work. Their work requirement is 20 hours per week or they must participate in an approved work activity (including a workfare) for 20 hours per week. If these work requirements are not meet they will only receive 3 months of CalFresh benefits during any 3 year period.

Fingerprint and Imaging Requirements

There are exceptions to the fingerprint and Imaging requirements. Please contact your local County Welfare Department to see if you qualify for an exception. Calfresh applicants, excluding dependent children and anyone unable to provide the images, will have to provide fingerprint images and a photo in order to receive CalFresh assistance.

  • Any household member who is eligible for CalFresh benefits and is an adult.
  • If a household applies for CalFresh, and the only household member is under the age of 18.
  • Images are required from the head of household, the parent (caretaker relative) of an eligible child if residing in the household of the child

If a household is eligible for expedited service, service must be issued--even if the Fingerprint and Imaging process is not yet completed. If this happens the imaging should be completed before the next issuance of a particular household's assistance.

CalFresh Application Instructions

You may apply by going directly to your county welfare office. When applying at a county welfare office it will usually take 30 days to approve or deny your application. If the applicant needs more immediate services it is possible to get food quicker by applying for expedited service. The rules for expedited service say that an eligible applicant can receive their CalFresh benefits within 3 days (Saturday and Sunday together count as one day). Only the county of your residence may determine if you are eligible for expedited service.

To download and print an application you can click here. If you are unable to download and print the application you can ask for an application in person, by phone, by fax, or by mail from your county office. After completing the application you can mail or deliver it to your local county office. Please click here for a list of County Welfare Departments.

You can also use California's online resource, Benefits CalWIN, to learn about and apply for assistance. Please click here to visit Benefits CalWIN.

What will happen after I apply for CalFresh on the website?

You will get an answer about your CalFresh application within 30 days of your filing date. Your filing date is the date you sign and submit your application before close of business, typically 5:00 p.m. using this website. Applications received after 5:00 pm (weekend/holiday) will have a filing date of the next business day.

Application Tips

  • Applications for CalFresh in 16 languages are available online, click here.
  • One adult household member or a household's authorized representative must sign the application.
  • For the application to be accepted your name, address and signature are necessary.
  • When your application has been turned in, your local county departments will schedule an interview. Click here to get more information about the interview.
  • Once your application is received and your household is verified for eligibility you should receive benefits within 30 days of the date on your application.
  • Remember you may qualify for expedited service which allows you access to benefits within three (3) days if your household meet the requirements.
  • If you are already receiving CalWORKs, General Assistance (GA), or General Relief (GR) your household may be categorically eligible. This means that the other program's requirements pre-qualify your application to CalFresh.
  • Remember you may qualify for expedited service which allows you access to benefits within three (3) days if your household meet the requirements.

Interview Process

In order to certify your household and interview is required. In most counties the interview can occur by telephone. All counties allow in person interviews at the county office. The interview does not have to be with the head of the household. Any of the following can complete the interview process: a spouse, an authorized representative or any household family member. Remember that the interview is an annual requirement.

During your interview you can ask for explanation of the program rules and you will be assisted in the parts of your application that have not yet been completed. Once the interview is complete, if you do not qualify, you will be sent a notice explaining why. If you do qualify the notice will explain how much the benefit will be, and for the period that you will be receiving these benefits.

If your household is entirely elderly, or disabled, the face-to-face interview may be waived.