Recent Changes in Eligibility for Immigrants Applying for Medicaid

Until 2010, some lawful immigrants in North Carolina have either been ineligible to apply for health insurance coverage under Medicaid (e.g. Temporary Protected Status or U visa holders), or subject to a “five-year bar” which prevented those lawful immigrants from applying for Medicaid during the first five years of their lawful residence (e.g. Legal Permanent Residents, VAWA/ battered immigrants). Recent changes in federal and state law will now allow lawfully-residing pregnant women and minor children (under age 19) to apply for coverage under Medicaid, regardless of how long they have had legal status.

What categories of immigrants may now apply for Medicaid?

Lawfully-residing immigrants who used to be eligible for Medicaid coverage are still eligible. This includes:

  • all legal permanent residents (LPRs) who have had LPR status for five years or more ;[*]
  • “VAWA” applicants with a prima facie determination of eligibility or approved petitions – persons who have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a U.S. citizen or LPR spouse; or whose children have been battered by their U.S. citizen or LPR spouse (who have had such status for five years or more)
  • refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, Cuban/Haitian entrants, and persons granted withholding of deportation (who have had their status for any length of time)
  • veterans and active duty military personnel and their wives, surviving spouses and children (who have had their status for any length of time)
  • several other less common categories such as immigrant foster children, parolees, etc.

New categories made eligible in 2010 include:

  • Pregnant women and minor children (under age 19), who have had lawful status for any length of time, in the following categories:
    • Legal permanent residents
    • VAWA prima facie determination or approved petitions
    • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
    • Family Unity beneficiaries[†]
    • Temporary resident status under 210 or 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act
    • Deferred Enforced Departure
    • Spouses or children of U.S. citizens whose visa petitions are approved and who have pending applications for adjustment of status
  • Pregnant women and minor children (under age 19) who have had lawful status for any length of time with the following types of visas:
    • “Battered aliens” with “U” visas[‡]
    • Fiancees of citizens (K visa)
    • Religious workers (R visa)
    • Individuals assisting in criminal prosecutions (S visa)
    • Individuals with a pending petition for 3 years or more (V visa)
    • Parents or children of individuals with special immigrant status (N visa)

The above lists are not exclusive. There may be additional categories of lawfully-residing immigrants who may also be eligible for Medicaid based on the new changes in the law.  Please encourage pregnant immigrant women and children (under age 19) to apply for Medicaid if they are lawfully residing and meet income and residency requirements.



The material contained in this flyer is for information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For further information regarding your specific situation, please contact the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, North Carolina Justice Center, at 919-861-2064.

[*] Eligibility can depend on date of entry into U.S.: for general questions about immigrant eligibility for benefits, contact the NC Justice Center.

[†] Pursuant to Sec. 301 of Public Law 101-649

[‡] (it is not yet clear under the applicable law whether the expanded coverage also includes U visa holders who were victims of crimes other than battery/domestic violence).