There are four factors that PHAs must consider when determining eligibility for the HCV program. These include:

  • Family Eligibility
  • Income Limits
  • Student Status
  • Citizenship Status

In addition to the eligibility factors, there are screenings that the PHA must conduct that may result in denial of assistance including:

  • Disclosure of Social Security Numbers and compliance with verification requirements
  • Background screening
  • Enterprise Income Verification (EIV) system searches

Family Eligibility

Each applicant for assistance under the HCV program must meet HUD’s definition of a family. A family includes, but is not limited to, regardless of marital status, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity, the following:

  • A single person
  • A family with or without children
  • An elderly family
  • A disabled family
  • A displaced family

Income Limits

HUD establishes income limits by family size for the area in which each PHA is located. These income limits are used to determine the family’s eligibility for the program and are published annually in a HUD Notice.

To be eligible for the program, a family must be either very low income or low-income. Extremely low-income (ELI) refers to families whose incomes meet the very low-income threshold (50% of area median income) and do not exceed the higher of the federal poverty line or 30% of area median income. PHAs do not need to determine the ELI limit for their local area. HUD publishes the ELI limits annually and can be found on

A family’s income must be within the income limits for the PHA’s jurisdiction at the time the family receives a voucher to search for housing. Income limits apply only at the time of admission and are not a factor in ongoing program eligibility.

While income limits are not a factor in ongoing eligibility, the amount of subsidy a participant qualifies for is partially based on income. This means the more income a family brings in, the less subsidy will be paid on their behalf. If a participating family reaches an income level where the calculations determine that they are responsible for 100% of the rent-to-owner, the family will remain on the program for an additional 6 months. At the end of the 6-month period, the family will be transitioned out of the program and receive an “End of Participation” notice.

Student Status

Students at institutions of higher education who will not reside with their parents must meet additional eligibility criteria. These rules apply regardless of whether the student is considered a full-time or a part-time student.

Assistance shall only be provided to students who are otherwise eligible for the program and meet at least one of the following criteria.

The student:

  • Is 24 years of age or older
  • Is a veteran
  • Is married
  • Has a dependent child
  • Is a person with disabilities who was receiving HCV assistance as of November 30, 2005
  • Is a graduate or professional student
  • Is individually income eligible and the student’s parents are individually or jointly income eligible

Is an independent student defined as:

  • The individual is 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
  • The individual is, or was, an orphan, in foster care, or a ward of the court at any time when the individual was 13 years of age or older
  • The individual is or was an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship as determined by a court in the individual’s state of legal residence.

Is classified as a Vulnerable Youth defined by HUD as the individual has been verified as either homeless or at risk of homelessness and self-supporting during the school year in which the application is submitted. Verification must be conducted by:

  • A local educational agency homeless liaison
  • The director of a program funded under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act or designee of the director. You can find more information on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act here:
  • The director of a program funded under subtitle B of title IV of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act or a designee of the director. You can find more information about the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act here:
  • A financial aid administrator.
  • A student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of other unusual circumstances.

Noncitizen students, even those with eligible immigration status for purposes of HUD’s financial assistance, are not eligible to receive housing assistance. A noncitizen student is a student who:

  • Is pursuing a course of study in this country
  • Has a residence in another country outside of the United States that the person has no intention of abandoning
  • Is admitted to this country temporarily, solely for the purpose of studying.

When a noncitizen student is accompanied by a noncitizen spouse and/or noncitizen minor children, those family members are also ineligible for assistance. If the noncitizen student and noncitizen spouse have citizen children, the whole family is still ineligible for assistance. However, if a non-citizen student has a citizen spouse, the citizen spouse and children if any, would be eligible for assistance. In that case, assistance would be prorated to ensure that assistance goes only to those family members with eligible immigration status.

Citizenship Status

Eligibility for Federal housing assistance is limited to U.S. citizens and noncitizens who have eligible immigration status. Families in which at least one member is a U.S. citizen or has eligible immigration status may also be eligible for pro-rated assistance.

A family in which some family members have eligible immigration status, and some do not, is called a mixed family. Mixed families receive prorated assistance based on the percentage of family members who qualify for assistance.

An individual who is not a U.S. citizen or national who is a resident of the U.S. and has any of the following immigration statuses is eligible for assistance:

  • A non-citizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence as an immigrant
  • A non-citizen who entered the United States before 1/1/72 and:
    • Has continuously maintained residence in the U.S. since then
    • Is not ineligible for citizenship, but who is deemed to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence as a result of an exercise of discretion by the Attorney General.
  • A non-citizen who is lawfully present in the United States as a result of:
    • Refugee status, including:
      • Those granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS) under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000
      • The granting of asylum
      • The granting of conditional entry prior to 4/1/80 because of persecution of fear on account of race, religion, or political opinion, or because of being uprooted by catastrophic national calamity.
  • A non-citizen who is lawfully present in the United States as a result of an exercise of discretion by the Attorney General for emergent reasons or reasons deemed strictly in the public interest
  • A non-citizen who is lawfully present in the United States as a result of the Attorney General’s’ withholding deportation
  • A non-citizen lawfully admitted for temporary or permanent residence
    An alien who is lawfully residing in the United States under section 141 of the Compacts of Free Association between the Government of the United States and the Governments of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau while the applicable section is in effect.

Each eligible household member must sign a declaration of their status and also provide supporting documentation. Family members who do not sign a declaration of their status or provide the required supporting documentation will be considered ineligible noncitizens.
You can find an example of a HUD Declaration of Citizenship Status form here:

Documentation must be submitted by the time of the eligibility determination. Once documents have been submitted and verified for an individual, citizenship documentation for that individual will not need to be collected again. Household members who do not provide the required proof of citizenship or eligible immigration status will be considered ineligible noncitizens.

The PHA must provide an extension of up to 30 days to submit documentation of eligible status as long as the family submits the declaration of eligible immigration status and certifies that they need more time because the required documentation is temporarily unavailable. To obtain an extension, the family must also certify that prompt and diligent efforts will be undertaken to obtain the documentation.

Upon determining if the extension request meets the requirements, the PHA must inform the family, in writing, whether its request for a time extension has been granted or denied. If granted, the notice must state the specific period of the extension. If the extension request is denied, the notice must explain the reasons for the denial.

Background Screening

PHAs are required to conduct criminal background screenings to determine if any household member is subject to a lifetime sex offender registration requirement for all states in which the household members are known to have lived. PHAs are also required to obtain a criminal background check at the request of the unit owner and to utilize the Debts Owed to PHAs & Terminations Report to identify any previous evictions that are listed on HUD or the PHA’s required reasons for denial of admission.

PHAs must ask all household members to provide a list of the states in which they have lived and whether their name appears on any lifetime sex offender registry. Law enforcement agencies may charge a reasonable fee for providing the records to the PHA. Such charges must not be passed along to the applicant family.

PHAs must require that each adult member of the household provide a signed, written authorization for the PHA to obtain criminal conviction records from the National Crime Information Center, police departments, and other law enforcement agencies.

Criminal records must be maintained confidentially, and the contents therein may only be disclosed to persons on a job-related need to know basis. Criminal background results, including sex offender results must not be shared directly with the unit owner, and they must be destroyed promptly once their purpose has been served. However, the PHA must retain a record of the type of screening and the date screening was performed.

PHAs may deny admission based on criminal convictions or if the evidence indicates that a family member has engaged in such activity. PHAs are prohibited from denying admission solely based on arrest records.

If the PHA decides to deny admission based on a criminal conviction record, the PHA must notify the family of the pending denial action and must give the family an opportunity to dispute the accuracy and/or relevance of the record. A copy of the criminal conviction record must be provided to the head of household and to the subject of the record at this time.

PHAs are required to deny admission for the following specific types of criminal activity or alcohol abuse:

  • A household member has been evicted from federally assisted housing within the last three years for drug-related criminal activity.
    • The PHA may admit the family if it determines that the household member who engaged in the activity has been successfully rehabilitated, or the circumstances no longer exist (because, for example, the household member is dead or in prison).
  • The PHA determines that a household member is currently illegally using a controlled substance or that the abuse (or pattern of abuse) of alcohol, is determined to interfere with the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents. The PHA may consider whether such household member has taken steps to rehabilitate or has been rehabilitated and is no longer engaging in the illegal use of a controlled substance or abuse of alcohol.
  • Any household member has been convicted of the manufacture of methamphetamine on the premises of federally assisted housing.
  • Any household member is subject to a lifetime sex offender registration requirement.
    • The PHA must check for sex offender registration in its own state and in any other state where the family has resided. Use of a nationwide database is recommended.

PHAs may establish policies that are stricter than the regulatory requirements listed above, so long as those policies do not discriminate in violation of civil rights laws. PHA policies may not be more lenient than those specified above.

Additional PHA Discretionary Admission Criteria

PHAs must establish local policies concerning denial of assistance to applicants for the following reasons:

  • The family has violated program obligations.
  • Any family member evicted from federally assisted housing within the past 5 years.
  • Any PHA has ever terminated assistance for any family member under the voucher program.
  • Any member of the family has committed fraud, bribery, or any other corrupt or criminal act related to any federal housing program.
  • The family currently owes rent or other amounts to the PHA or another PHA for amounts in connection with the HCV, moderate rehabilitation, or public housing programs.
  • The family has not reimbursed any PHA for amounts paid to an owner under a HAP contract for rent, damages to the unit, or other amounts owed by the family under the lease.
  • The family has breached an agreement with the PHA to pay amounts owed to a PHA or amounts paid to an owner by a PHA.
  • The family has engaged in or threatened abusive or violent behavior toward PHA personnel.