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CAN NON-RESIDENTS QUALIFY FOR SSI OR SSDI?

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Some people ask whether immigrants  can be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  First, authorized non-citizens may be eligible for SSI if they fit into one of these categories granted by the Department of Homeland Security:

  • On August 22, 1996, they were lawful residents of the US and were disabled or blind.
  • They were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996, and lawfully residing in the US.
  • They were lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and have a total of 40 credits of work in the US. Work credits are earned based on the amount of money earned. (Your spouse’s or parent’s work credits may also count.)
  • They are currently an active duty member of the U.S. armed forces.

For a full list of non-citizens who may qualify for SSI payments, click here. Regardless of the reason why one qualifies for SSI, proof of one’s non-citizen status is required. Appropriate documentation includes current I-94 forms or proof of one’s military service.

Second, most SSDI recipients are American citizens, living in the US, US territories, or abroad. There are, however, parameters that make some non-citizens eligible for SSDI disability benefits, listed below.

  • They must either fit into one of these categories:
    • have a Social Security Number assigned on or after January 1, 2004, authorizing them to work in the US; or
    • have a non-immigrant visa that is a B-1, D-1, or D-2; and
  • They must also:
    • Prove that they are in the US legally for any month that they will receive benefits from SSDI.
    • Fit the normal category for SSDI, including having a disability and earning a low-income

Some non-residents who do not currently qualify for Social Security benefits may become eligible in the future.  If their children were born in the US, the children can sponsor their parents for work authorization.  A common misconception is that unauthorized immigrants are draining away disability benefits from US citizens.  There is no authority for unauthorized immigrants to draw disability benefits.   However, there is authority for non-US citizens to receive benefits.  Still, those rights are very narrow.

SSI and SSDI are important programs to analyze to learn about their critical impact on many people. If you have any questions about eligibility for these programs, please contact this law firm.