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Can Non-Citizens Receive Disability Benefits in the U.S.A.?

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Even if you’re not a citizen of the United States, you may still be able to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you are disabled. These programs are designed to provide financial assistance for people who have worked a certain amount of time, or those who have an eligible disability and are in need of monetary aid. Non-citizens fall into a variety of categories, and it’s important to know which categories apply to you and your family so you can be aware of your rights when it comes to Social Security.

Social Security Disability Payments for Non-Citizens

The majority of people who receive SSDI are citizens of the United States. However, workers from other countries can be eligible as well. The SSDI works similar to an insurance company. Workers are required to pay taxes for Social Security out of their income whether they are in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, lawful permanent residents, or U.S. citizens. You could receive SSDI benefits if you are in the U.S. legally and have earned at least 40 work credits. Your parents’ or spouse’s work credits may also count toward this amount.

Photo by Jung Ho Park on Unsplash

You earn work credits by paying Social Security taxes while working in the U.S. You’ll receive one work credit for every $1,140 you earn in 2020 (this amount changes annually), and you are permitted to earn four credits each year. If you are a minor, you could qualify for SSDI with less than 40 credits. It’s best to consult with an attorney to determine if you are eligible.

Social Security Disability Requirements for Non-Citizens

Even if you have not worked in the U.S., you may still qualify for SSI if you are:

  • a refugee
  • an asylee
  • a lawful permanent U.S. resident
  • granted conditional entry into the United States
  • admitted into the U.S. as an Amerasian immigrant
  • admitted into the U.S. as an Afghan or Iraqi Special Immigrant
  • a native of Cuba or Haiti entering the U.S.
  • an alien with withheld removal

Additionally, your status must also fall into one of these categories:

  • You were legally residing in the U.S. on August 22, 1996, and were receiving SSI at that time
  • You are disabled or blind and were legally residing in the U.S. on August 22, 1996
  • You are a human trafficking victim
  • You are a veteran or an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Your parent, legal guardian, or spouse is a veteran or an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • You are an American Indian who was born in Canada or part of a federally acknowledged tribe

Keep in mind that you will still have to meet the requirements for disability. This means your physical condition must be so severe that you cannot work. The disability should be expected to last for at least a year or result in the loss of life.

Additional Information

When it comes to SSDI, some non-citizens will only be able to receive this benefit for seven years. This will depend on your non-citizen status. You’ll receive a letter you know when your seven-year period is over, as well as a letter explaining your rights for appealing the decision before your payments stop.

If you currently receive SSI or were a former SSI recipient, are subject to the seven-year limit, and have applied for U.S. citizenship during this time period, you should contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to find out how you can speed up the naturalization process, adjust your citizenship status application, or waive the fees for filing these documents.

If you or a loved one is a non-citizen and you need to know if you are eligible for disability benefits while living in the U.S., George Sink P.A. personal injury lawyers are here to help. We’ll review the details of your case and let you know which benefits you are eligible for

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