SSI benefits are available to all qualifying United States (U.S.) citizens; additionally, residents who are not citizens are sometimes eligible for benefits, including U.S. nationals, aliens, and other non-citizens. As a general rule, an otherwise qualified immigrant who is facing deportation or removal is not eligible for disability.
Regardless of immigration status, the applicant must prove still that he or she is disabled and meets the income and asset tests required for SSI. For more information, see our series of articles on SSI. (If someone "sponsored" your entrance into the U.S., Social Security will usually count your sponsor's income and assets when determining your SSI eligibility. Your local field office can explain how your sponsor's income and assets affect your eligibility.)
A person who meets the U.S. definition of a "qualified alien" is eligible for SSI. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines a "qualified alien" as the following:
Sometimes a person can become a "deemed qualified alien" if the person, the person's child, or the person's parent suffered from domestic violence or extreme cruelty by a relative while the person was in the U.S.
If you are an eligible immigrant and otherwise meet the disability requirements, you must also show that you meet one of the following conditions in order to receive benefits:
*If you are applying for SSI, you may be able to use work done by your parents or spouse to meet the 40 quarters of work requirement. If you came to the U.S. on or after August 22, 1996 and have LAPR status, you may not be eligible for SSI for your first five years as an LAPR.
There may be limitations to your benefits based on your immigration status. If you were granted one of the following immigration statuses within seven years of filing for SSI, you may only be eligible for SSI for a period of seven years:
However, you may be able to receive SSI for more than seven years even if you are in one of these immigration categories if:
A non-citizen Native American is eligible for SSI if:
SSI benefits may also be available to non-citizens who are victims of human trafficking or who are Iraqi or Afghani and present in the United States under special immigrant status.
If you were a victim of human trafficking, visit the Office of Refugee Resettlement website to see what services may be available to you.
You must give proof to Social Security of your immigration status when you apply for SSI. Here are some documents you may need to provide:
Your local Social Security field office can advise you as to the exact documents you need.
U.S. nationals are eligible for SSI benefits if they otherwise meet the SSI requirements. All U.S. citizens are nationals and, although rare, a person may receive U.S. national status without being a U.S. citizen. A person is eligible for a U.S. national certificate if:
For more information on how to obtain a certificate for non-citizen U.S. nationality, visit the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
As a aside, if you don't speak or understand English well, see our article on When the Inability to Speak English Helps You Get Disability Benefits.
Filing for disability can be a complicated process, and when immigration status is an additional issue, it is a good idea to contact an experienced disability attorney. Disability attorneys are paid a percentage of the SSI back payments, which Social Security will pay you when you are approved for benefits, but only if you win disability benefits.