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SAVE Governing Laws

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)

IRCA, Public Law 99-603, required the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (currently U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), effective March 1, 2003) to establish a system for verifying the immigration status of non-citizen applicants for, and recipients of, certain types of federally funded benefits, and to make the system available to federal, state and local benefit-issuing agencies and institutions that administer such benefits. USCIS is the DHS agency responsible for administering the SAVE Program to meet this IRCA requirement. IRCA, as amended, mandates the following programs and agencies to participate in the verification of an applicant’s immigration status:

  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program, the Medicaid Program, (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services); 
  • Unemployment Compensation Program (U.S. Department of Labor); 
  • Title IV Educational Assistance Programs (U.S. Department of Education); and 
  • Certain housing assistance programs (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA)

PRWORA, Public Law 104-193, restructured the welfare system in the United States and restricted immigrant eligibility for public benefits, thus expanding the need to verify immigration status by benefit-granting agencies. PRWORA, as codified at
8 U.S.C.  1611 and 1621, defined “federal public benefits” and “state and local public benefits”. PRWORA also required the Attorney General to establish regulations and interim guidance for the verification of immigration status of persons applying for “federal public benefits.” The Department of Justice issued interim guidance in 1997. See “Interim Guidance on Verification of Citizenship, Qualified Alien Status and Eligibility Under Title IV of [PRWORA],” 62 Federal Register 61,344-416 (Nov. 17, 1997). This guidance is for any entity administering a non-exempt federal public benefit, other than non-profit charitable organizations, and is not limited to the agencies and programs specified in IRCA or those using SAVE. 

Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA)

IIRIRA, Public Law No. 104-208, passed by Congress in 1996, required that DHS-USCIS respond to inquiries from federal, state, and local agencies seeking to verify or determine the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purposes authorized by law. Under this authority, agencies can use the SAVE Program for lawful purposes.

REAL ID Act of 2005

The REAL ID Act, Public Law No.109-13, passed by Congress in 2005, established certain minimum standards for state-issued drivers' licenses and state-issued identification cards in order for those documents to be acceptable for official federal purposes as specified by the Act. DHS issued the REAL ID Rule, “Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards Acceptable by Federal Agencies for Official Purposes,” Final Rule, 6 C.F.R. Part 37, to implement the requirements of the REAL ID Act. To issue Real ID compliant documents, states must use the SAVE Program to verify the immigration status of applicants for driver’s licenses and identification cards. 

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law No. 111-148, passed by Congress in 2010, provides for a variety of healthcare reforms including health insurance benefits for qualified “aliens lawfully present in the United States.” The legislation creates state-based health insurance benefit exchanges through which individuals can purchase coverage, with premium and cost-sharing credits available to low-income individuals and families. The legislation requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration and the Department of Treasury to establish a program for determining an individual’s eligibility for enrollment. As part of this eligibility determination, health and human services agencies will use the SAVE Program to verify the immigration status of non-citizen applicants.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 03/20/2014