Can Non-Citizens Get SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate program from Social Security Disability (SSDI). Unlike SSI, people don’t have to have worked long enough or recently to be approved for benefits. SSI is a federal income supplement program that is not funded by Social Security taxes like SSDI. Instead, it’s funded by general tax revenues.

SSI was established to help the elderly, the blind, and those who are disabled and don’t have a lot of income. It provides cash benefits to such individuals to help them meet their basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. If you are older, disabled, or blind and you have a low income but you’re not a US citizen, you may be wondering if you can still qualify for SSI benefits – a reasonable question indeed.

Can You Get Supplemental Security Income?

It is possible for certain categories of non-US citizens to qualify for SSI benefits. If you can answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may be entitled to SSI benefits even though you are not a citizen of the United States:

  • Were you legally living in the United States on August 22, 1996, and you were blind or disabled?
  • Were you receiving SSI benefits on August 22, 1996, and were you living in the US legally on that date?
  • Were you lawfully given permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and do you have 40 work credits from working in the United States? If a spouse or parent worked in the US, that may be counted too.

If you came to the United States after August 22, 1996, you may not be entitled to SSI benefits for the first five years that you are a lawfully admitted permanent resident (Green Card holder), even if you accumulated 40 credits from working in the US.

There are other types of non-citizens who may be eligible for SSI payments, such as active-duty members of the US military, noncitizens who are from federally recognized Indian tribes, certain non-citizens who were admitted to the US as Amerasian immigrants, Cuban and Haitian entrants who were admitted under the Refugee Education Assistance Act, and certain victims of human trafficking, etc.

Next: SSDI Application: Document Checklist

To learn more about SSI benefits for non-US citizens, we invite you to contact The Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.

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