Do You Have to Be a Citizen to Collect Social Security Disability?

Do You Have to Be a Citizen to Collect Social Security Disability?Although most people who want to obtain Social Security disability are American citizens, residents who are not citizens may be eligible to file for these benefits as well. However, you need to know that there are certain rules and criteria that you must meet to qualify for Social Security disability. If you suffer injuries that are preventing you from working, it may be a good idea to find out whether Social Security disability is an option for you.

The rules for non-citizens to qualify for Social Security disability

There are two different Social Security disability programs, which are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These two programs have different rules for non-citizens to qualify, which we will go over with you below.

To qualify for SSI, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must first be considered a qualified “alien.” This means you must fall into one of the categories created by the Department of Homeland Security, which are Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence, granted conditional entry, paroled into the country, refugee admitted into the country, granted asylum, deportation is being withheld, or a Cuban or Haitian entrant.

If you are considered a qualified “alien”, you will need to also meet one of the following:

  • You have been legally admitted for permanent residence and have 40 qualifying work credits. Your spouse or parents’ work history may be able to count toward your work credits as long as they did not receive any governmental benefits.
  • Or you were receiving SSI and legally living in America on August 22, 1996.
  • Or you are currently serving in the U.S. military or have been honorably discharged, or you are the dependent child, spouse, or surviving spouse of a person who served in the military. You will need to show proof of this, such as discharge papers.
  • Or you were legally living in America on August 22, 1996 and are blind or have another type of disability.
  • Or you are an American Indian that was born in Canada.
  • Or you are part of an Indian tribe that is federally recognized.
  • Or you have suffered severe human trafficking.

To qualify for SSDI, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have received a Social Security number on or after January 1, 2004, which was for work purposes.
  • Or you must have been given a B-1, D-1, or D-2 non-immigrant visa.
  • You must also be able to provide proof showing that you are legally in the U.S. for the months that you would receive SSDI benefits.
  • You must also show that you are unable to work (either mentally or physically) due to your disability.

How can I prove my disability?

You can prove that you have a disability by providing medical records and doctor reports. For example, your doctor can write a detailed report discussing what type of disability you have, the symptoms you commonly experience, your medical history, and how long you are expected to have the disability or illness and whether it will improve. It may also be beneficial if your doctor explains how your disability prevents you from being able to work or perform certain work-related tasks, such as standing, sitting, lifting, carrying, reaching, pushing, pulling, walking, and more. You may also want to gather any lab results, imaging tests, and documentation from your doctor’s appointments, emergency room visits, surgeries, or procedures to support your application.

How long can non-citizens collect Social Security disability?

Non-citizens can collect SSI for up to seven years. Once your period to receive SSI is almost over, you will receive a letter from the Social Security Administration informing you of when your payments will stop. You can appeal against this decision to stop payments. Our attorneys can help with this.

Non-citizens who qualify for SSDI may continue to receive these benefits as long as they have a disability and are unable to work. However, the Social Security Administration will frequently review your case and eligibility to find out whether you still have a qualifying disability or have recovered.

Do I need a lawyer to help me obtain Social Security disability as an immigrant?

Applying for Social Security disability is very complex. However, when you are a non-citizen, the process can be extremely challenging and overwhelming. If this is the case for you, it is highly recommended that you hire a lawyer as soon as possible to guide you through the process, answer any of your questions and concerns, and ensure that you get the benefits you need and deserve. A New Orleans attorney with experience in immigration law can help you fill out the application, collect necessary evidence and documentation, make sure that you do not miss any deadlines, and prepare to appeal if you are not approved.

The New Orleans Social Security disability attorneys at the Law Office of James A. Graham are ready and available to help you with your Social Security disability claim. We know and understand how frustrating the application process can be to try to obtain these benefits, which is why we will work to our utmost to help you show that you meet the criteria and deserve these benefits just like everyone else. Please call our office or complete our contact form to schedule a case evaluation.