There are two parts to this question:

  • How long can I legally leave California for, and still be eligible to keep receiving food stamps?
  • I know I can use my food stamps out-of-state, but I've also heard that using them out-of-state for too long can cause them to be discontinued. How long would that be?
  • 2
    There's some examples in this pdf file from CDSS.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


The California Department of Social Services clarified this in a 2015 memo to the county welfare directors (PDF) about residency requirements for the CalFresh program.

In the "Out-Of-State" section, it discusses the procedure to be used when a county discovers that one of its clients has been accessing their benefits in another state:

Example 1:

County A receives an EBT usage report indicating that a client has been accessing their benefits in another state for an extended period of time. The county must attempt to contact the client by sending an RFI to the last known address to determine if the client has moved to the other state or intends to return to County A. The household responds stating that they are temporarily in another state caring for a sick relative, or fleeing domestic abuse, or any other reason, but intends to return to County A. As long as the household continues to meet its reporting requirements, County A shall maintain the case. However, if the household has not returned to County A within one year, the household will be considered to have changed its state of residency and must be discontinued. No notice of action is required. If the client does not respond to the RFI, the county should take appropriate action as described in MPP 63-300.5 (a)(2).

Basically, the county will send you a Request for Information (RFI) that you will need to respond to, asking you if you have moved away or if you intend to return. If you respond that you are only away temporarily and give a valid reason why you are away, your benefits are supposed to continue, as long as you return to your home within one year. If you fail to respond to the RFI, or if you fail to return to your home, the county will terminate your benefits.

Hat tip to @mkennedy for posting about this memo in the comments.

  • Super useful! Thank you for sifting through that PDF (and thank you @mkennedy for posting it! Any idea it would take for them to send me the RFI (what are they calling "an extended period of time"?)--or how long I would have to respond to it?
    – Jerome
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 0:38

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