“Qualified” Immigrants May Receive SSI

As the President and Congress consider our immigration policies it is timely to review the current availability of Social Security and SSI benefits for non-citizens.

In general, beginning August 22, 1996, most aliens must be in one of the following “qualified alien” categories that allow eligibility and meet a condition that allows them to get SSI benefits:

1. Lawfully admitted for Permanent Residence (LAPR) – Green Card holders.

2. Refugees – persons with a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group;

3. Asylees – same as refugees but apply for this status after coming to the US;

4. Amerasians – children, and their families, fathered by US citizens during the conflict in southeast Asia;

5. Persons granted withholding of deportation or withholding of removal – similar to asylum but granted following a deportation or removal hearing;

6. Victims of Trafficking – persons brought to the US against their will to engage in labor without pay;

7. Cuban and Haitian entrants – created in 1980, includes those who have been granted parole, applied for asylum;

8. Persons granted conditional entry – pre-1980 refugee status;

9. Battered spouses or children approved or with an application pending under a family visa or under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA)

10. Persons paroled into the U.S. for at least one year – includes public interest parolees;

Any alien receiving SSI prior to a 1996 legislative change is the single exception to these rules – eligibility simply continues.

SSI benefits may be paid for a maximum of 7 years from the date the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted a status in the above categories, and the status was granted within 7 years of filing for SSI benefits.

More detailed information is available at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/notices/supplemental-security-income/spotlights/spot-non-citizens.htm.