When we discuss eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits in this space, we are generally assuming that those applying for such benefits are citizens of the United States. The U.S. is, however, a nation of immigrants and it is possible, in certain limited situations, for a non-citizen, sometimes termed an alien, to be eligible for benefits through the SSI program. Since 1996, the Social Security Administration has required the applicant to meet two criteria: the applicant must be a qualified alien, and the applicant must meet one of the statutory conditions laid out in the law that allows a qualified alien to receive benefits. In this installment we will discuss the first of these criteria.
To understand how this works, Ohio residents must first be familiar with the idea of immigration ‘status.’ Very basically, when a non-citizen is allowed to enter the U.S., he or she comes in with a set of conditions on his or her stay that depend upon the circumstances of the entry, and the reasons for coming to the country. These conditions are defined by a status that is set out in the federal Immigration and Nationality Act. There are a few types of statuses that can also be applied for by people already in the U.S.
To be a qualified alien for the purposes of applying for SSI, an applicant must be in the U.S. in one of a very few of the many immigration statuses. The largest of these categories is non-citizens who have Lawful Permanent Resident status, sometimes also known as green-card holders. Another category would be those who entered the country as refugees, have been granted Asylum or have had deportation or removal withheld due to fear of persecution in their home countries. Certain Cuban and Haitian immigrants also may qualify, as well as those who have received humanitarian parole for more than one year, and those granted conditional entry under the law as it stood before April of 1980.
It should be remembered that just being a ‘qualified alien’ is not sufficient to receive SSI benefits. An applicant must also meet the normal requirements of income and disability, as well as meeting one of a few very specific conditions laid out by the law. Anyone who has questions about qualifying for SSI as a non-citizen may wish to contact an experienced Ohio disability attorney.