Are Non-Citizens Eligible for Disability Benefits?

Overview

While the vast majority of people who receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are citizens of the United States, both the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs contain provisions that allow for the eligibility of certain noncitizens for disability benefits.

To be eligible for SSDI benefits, noncitizens must meet the following fundamental requirements:

 

  • They must have been assigned a Social Security Number on or after January 1, 2004, permitting them to work in the United States, OR
  • They must possess a B-1, D-1, or D-2 non-immigrant visa, AND
  • Must be able to prove that they’re lawfully present in the United States for any given month for which SSDI payments would be awarded, AND
  • As well as meeting all other eligibility requirements (technical and medical) for SSDI compensation.

It is critical to remember that while some noncitizens may meet all of the qualifying requirements for SSDI benefits, the majority do not. Even if an individual enters the United States legally and is approved to work by the Social Security Administration, many noncitizen students and other workers are not required to pay Social Security taxes.

 

Due to their lack of contributions to the SSDI fund during their employment, these noncitizens are ineligible for disability benefits, as they do not meet the minimum technical conditions for SSDI eligibility.

 

The process of applying for SSI benefits as a noncitizen is significantly more complicated. Not only must the participant meet the program’s fundamental qualifying requirements (medical and technical), but they must also:

  • be classified as a “qualified alien,” and
  • Satisfy one of the predefined “conditions” or circumstances.

Notably, all SSI categories and requirements are based on August 22, 1996, the effective date of the SSI laws governing noncitizen benefit eligibility under the program.

 

Under the terms of SSI, there are eight basic kinds of qualifying aliens. Noncitizens must meet one of the following requirements to qualify for one of these categories:

  • He or she must be a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States or LAPR.
  • He or she must have been admitted to the United States on a conditional basis prior to April 1, 1980, under the “Conditional Entrants” laws.
  • Being a parolee in the United States for a duration of one year or longer in certain conditions.
  • He or she must be a refugee.
  • He or she must have been given refuge in the United States if removal or deportation is not possible due to specific circumstances.
  • He or she must be a noncitizen of Haiti or Cuba who was admitted to the United States under the Refugee Education and Assistance Act of 1980.
  • He or she must be an immigrant (or, in some cases, a family member of another foreigner) who has been the victim of serious cruelty or battery in their own country.

Noncitizens may also be eligible for SSI benefits in a few specific conditions. These include the following:

  • American Indians born in Canada are members of a federally recognized tribe.
  • Special immigrants from Afghanistan or Iraq who provided aid to the US government or military while on the ground.
  • Under certain situations, victims of human trafficking.

Noncitizens must also meet one of the SSA’s preset prerequisites or circumstantial criteria in addition to one of the previously listed categories. To learn more about eligibility under certain circumstances, visit the Social Security Administration’s website.