Who can get SSI?

Generally, if you are a noncitizen, you may be eligible if:

  1. You are in a qualified category under the law, and
  2. You meet a condition that allows a person in a qualified category to get SSI.

Who is in a qualified category under the law?

You are in a qualified category if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says you are one of the following:

  1. Lawfully admitted permanent resident ("LAPR"), including "Amerasian immigrants;”

  2. “Conditional Entrant” under the immigration law in effect before April 1, 1980;

  3. Parolee into the U.S. for a period of at least 1 year;

  4. Refugee;

  5. Asylee;

  6. Person whose deportation or removal is being withheld;

  7. "Cuban/Haitian entrant" under the Refugee Education Assistance Act; or

  8. Under certain circumstances, you, your child or your parent has been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty while in the United States.

Under what conditions may a noncitizen in a qualified category be eligible for SSI?

If you are in one of the 8 qualified categories listed above, you may be eligible for SSI if you also meet one of the following conditions:

  1. You were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996 and you are lawfully living in the U.S.

  2. You are an LAPR and have a total of 40 quarters of work in the U.S. Your spouse’s or parent’s work also may count.

    • Quarters of work earned after December 31, 1996 cannot be counted if you, your spouse or parent who worked received certain benefits from the United States government based on limited income and resources during that period.

    • IMPORTANT: If you entered the United States on or after August 22, 1996, then you may not be eligible for SSI for the first 5 years as an LAPR even if you have 40 qualifying quarters of earnings.

  3. You are currently on active duty in the U.S. armed forces or you are an honorably discharged veteran and your discharge is not because you are a noncitizen. This condition may also apply if you are the spouse, widow(er), or dependent child of certain U.S. military personnel.

  4. You were lawfully living in the U.S. on August 22, 1996 and you are blind or disabled.

7-Year limit for certain noncitizens

You may receive SSI for a maximum of 7 years from the date DHS granted you a status in one of the following categories, provided the status was granted within 7 years of filing for SSI:

  • Refugee;
  • Asylee;
  • Person whose deportation or removal is being withheld;
  • "Cuban and Haitian entrant" under the Refugee Education Assistance Act; or
  • "Amerasian immigrant."

IMPORTANT: You may be eligible for SSI beyond the 7-year period if you are in one of these categories and you also meet one of the other conditions listed above.

Temporary benefit extension for certain humanitarian immigrants

Congress recently enacted new legislation that may affect eligibility for some non-citizens who are in one of the time-limited categories and whose benefits may have been terminated solely due to the expiration of their seven year limited period of eligibility.

Public Law 110-328, “The SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act,” was enacted on October 1, 2008. It temporarily extends the seven-year SSI eligibility period for refugees, asylees, and certain other humanitarian immigrants, including victims of human trafficking, from seven to nine years during the period October 1, 2008, through September 30, 2011. 

To qualify for the extension, you meet the following conditions:

  • were a Lawful Permanent Resident as a refugee, asylee, or Amerasian Immigrant for less than six years and have maintained such status in good standing; or
  • applied to be a Lawful Permanent Resident as a refugee, asylee or Amerasian Immigrant within four years from the date you began receiving SSI;  or
  • are a Cuban or Haitian entrant as defined in the Refugee Education and Assistance Act of 1980; or
  • are certified by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as a victim of severe forms of human trafficking and are in possession of a valid “T” non-immigrant visa; or
  • your deportation has been withheld under Sections 241 (b)(3) or 243 (h) of the
    Immigration and Nationality Act; or   
  • you are under age 18; or
  • you are age 70 or older;  or,
  • you have an application for naturalization pending with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or are awaiting to take the oath of citizenship.

In addition, if you are not awaiting naturalization proceedings or are under age 18, you must sign a declaration indicating that you have made a good faith effort to pursue U.S. citizenship.  You also must meet all other applicable SSI eligibility requirements, including income and resource limitations. 

Exemption from August 22, 1996 law for certain noncitizen Indians

Certain categories of noncitizens in the U.S. may be eligible for SSI and are not subject to the rules above. These categories include:

  • American Indians who were born in Canada and are at least 50 percent American Indian blood; or
  • Noncitizen members of a Federally recognized Indian tribe.

Additional eligible noncitizen category

You may be eligible for SSI under certain circumstances if the Department of Health and Human Services determines that you meet the requirements of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

We need proof of your status

If you apply for SSI, you must prove your noncitizen status. Noncitizens who have served in the U.S. armed forces may also need to show us proof of military service. These are examples of things you may need to show us:

  • As proof of your non-citizenship status—a current Form I-94, or I-551 from DHS or an order from an immigration judge withholding deportation or granting asylum.; and/or

  • As proof of your military service—U.S. military discharge papers (DD Form 214) showing an honorable discharge not on account of your status as a noncitizen.

Your local Social Security office can tell you what other types of evidence you can submit to prove your noncitizen status.

Information about Medicaid

If you are getting Medicaid based on your SSI, your Medicaid should continue as long as you are eligible for SSI.

You can file a new claim

If your SSI benefits stop because you are not an eligible noncitizen, you can apply again. Contact us right away if you become a U.S. citizen, your immigration status changes and you think you qualify, or have 40 quarters of work. You will need to bring us your naturalization certificate or other documents that show your immigration status.

If you have a sponsor

When you entered the U.S., you may have had someone sign an agreement to provide support for you. This agreement is called an affidavit of support, and the person who signed it is called your sponsor. In general, we count your sponsor's and his or her spouse's income and resources as your income and resources from the time you came to the U.S. Your local Social Security office can give you more information about these rules and what they mean to you.

Social Security Numbers

If you are a lawfully admitted noncitizen with permission to work in the U.S., you may need a Social Security number. Ask for our publication, Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens (Publication No. 05-10096).

Becoming a U.S. Citizen

You can get more information about becoming a citizen by writing or visiting a local DHS office or calling 1-800-870-3676 to get an application for naturalization (N-400 Form).

Contacting Social Security

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