To redeem a cell phone through the Lifeline program, select a participating service provider, ensure eligibility, and submit an application. It may be necessary to submit documents that prove eligibility. Some providers offer online submissions, although it may still be necessary to print and mail the application and documents.
There are two ways to for an applicant to determine eligibility, the Program-based method and the Income-based method. If an applicant is a participant in certain government programs, eligibility requirements for the Lifeline program have already been met. Government program participation that ensures eligibility includes Medicaid, food stamps and free or reduced-priced school lunch. If an applicant is not a participant in a government program, income requirements based on household size must be met.
Service providers and the exact application process vary from state to state, as well as the service packages offered. Participating service providers often provide a tool to assist a potential applicant in viewing the available packages. The number of free talk minutes and amount of free text messages an applicant receives also varies per state and participating service provider. Annual recertification is required to determine if eligibility requirements are still being met. The Lifeline program only offers one free cell phone per eligible household.