The majority of Social Security disability benefit recipients are U.S. citizens; however, under certain circumstances, some non-citizens may qualify for disability benefits as well. Here, the disability advocates at Disability Associates detail the requirements and process for a non-citizen to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Basic Requirements for Non-Citizens to Receive Disability Benefits

Besides the basic medical and technical requirements that all disability benefit applicants must meet, non-citizens must also prove the following:

  • That they have a Social Security Number that was assigned to them on or after January 1, 2004 authorizing them to work in the U.S., or
  • That they have a non-immigrant visa that is a B-1, D-1, or D-2, and
  • That they are in the U.S. lawfully in any given month for which benefits would be paid through SSDI

A non-citizen will be required to provide documentation that proves their status. It is important to note that some citizens who would otherwise qualify will not be eligible if they do not have to pay Social Security taxes. Only citizens and non-citizens who pay Social Security taxes are eligible for Social Security and Social Security disability benefits.

Those who wish to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) must also be able to meet additional criteria. This includes status as a “qualified alien,” and also a predefined “condition” or circumstance for eligibility.

Defining Qualified Alien Status and Predefined Conditions

There are several major categories of qualified aliens that may qualify under the conditions of SSI. These include:

  • Lawfully Admitted Permanent Residents of the United States (LAPR)
  • A conditional entrant who arrives prior to April 1, 1980 under the Conditional Entrants laws
  • A refugee or asylee
  • An alien who has experienced extreme cruelty or battery from a family member in the U.S.
  • A Haitian or Cuban non-citizen admitted to the U.S. under the Refugee Education and Assistance Act of 1980
  • A parolee in the U.S. for one year or more
  • Human trafficking victims, in some circumstances
  • Canadian-born American Indians who belong to a federally-recognized tribe
  • Immigrants from Afghanistan or Iraq who provided the U.S. military or government assistance while overseas

It is important to note that individuals from some countries are not allowed to receive disability benefits, regardless of their qualifications in other areas. These countries include North Korea and Vietnam. Cubans who were not admitted to the U.S. under the Refugee Education and Assistance Act of 1980 also do not qualify for disability benefits.

The criteria listed above is only a broad overview of eligibility requirements. The SSA has provided their non-citizen eligibility requirements in more detail here. If you are uncertain whether you meet the requirements for disability benefits as a non-citizen, we encourage you to contact a qualified disability benefits attorney for more information.

Talk to a Social Security Disability Attorney for More Information About Your Rights as a Non-Citizen

Receiving disability benefits as a non-citizen is based on a complex set of criteria, and as such it is critical to retain the assistance of an experienced disability benefits attorney who will be able to walk you through the requirements and procedures for the benefits application. The attorneys at Disability Associates want to advocate for the rights of any individual who is eligible for disability benefits—contact us today to schedule a free consultation.