Disability Benefits for Non-Citizens

While many of those who receive Social Security Disability benefits are American citizens, disabled non-citizens who meet certain qualifications may be eligible for the exact same benefits. If you are a permanent resident and have paid taxes into the Social Security system for the specified number of years or a non-citizen veteran of the U.S. military then you too might be eligible for disability benefits.

Fotolia_37173234_XS.jpgBesides being a veteran or active duty member of the armed services, the Social Security Administration (SSA) says that those lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) with a total of 40 credits of work in the United States are eligible to receive benefits. It is important to note that a spouse’s work hours may also count towards this number.

When you apply for disability, you must prove your non-citizen status. Non-citizens who have served in the U.S. armed forces also may need to give us proof of military service. The SSA says that the following documents will be required when applying for disability benefits:

• For non-citizens – a current Form I-94 or I-551 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or an order from an immigration judge withholding deportation or granting asylum; or
• For those in the military – U.S. military discharge papers (DD Form 214) showing honorable discharge not based on your noncitizen status.

As with all things involving the federal government, there are exceptions to exceptions. Even if you meet all the other requirements to receive disability benefits, if you are part of the unfortunate few from some select countries you will not be able to receive SSD benefits. These countries are Cuba and North Korea.

It is important to note that being a citizen means more than just being born in one of the 50 states. You can apply for Social Security disability benefits as a citizen and have a few less hurdles to jump through if you have a valid birth certificate from any of the following places:

• The United States;
• Puerto Rico;
• Guam;
• U.S. Virgin Islands;
• American Samoa;
• Swain’s Island; or
• Northern Mariana Islands.


If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, give me a call toll free at 800-296-2290 or contact me at tsmith@tedsmithlaw.com.

Indiana Trial Lawyers Association