Those applying for social security in Georgia may fall under different categories of citizenship.
It’s important to know your rights and eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, whether you are a citizen or non-citizen. Each benefits type has provisions to explain these eligibility requirements.
First, it’s important to note the difference between these programs. Why? Because SSI and SSDI are separate types of programs with different regulations and stipulations for non-citizens.
SSI is a means-based program for those who are disabled, blind, or aged with low or no income. It provides cash assistance to meet basic needs like food, housing, clothing, and medicine.
SSDI provides disability benefits to those who are “insured” for disability. This means you’ve paid into Social Security via payroll taxes enough over a certain amount of time, and you’ve earned enough what are referred to as “work credits.”
For each of these types of benefits, different categories of citizen and non-citizen qualify differently.
If you are a citizen, you will be allowed to continue in the normal application process.
However, if you are a non-citizen, there are certain rules one must follow based on their resident status. Let’s take a closer look at this process together.
Proof of Non-Citizenship Status
The SSA will need proof of your non-citizenship status regardless of the type of benefits you are seeking.
According to the SSA, these may include:
- a current Form I-94 (arrival/departure record)
- I-551 (lawful permanent resident card) from DHS
- an order from an immigration judge withholding deportation or granting asylum
- U.S. military discharge papers (DD Form 214) showing honorable discharge not based on your non-citizen status.
Note: For comprehensive information about your specific case, your local Social Security office or a qualified attorney can help you navigate other types of evidence you may be able to provide both to prove your status and determine your disability.
What Do Work Credits Have to Do with Your Social Security Benefits?
Those familiar with SSDI know that you pay into the program and acquire work credits over time— the SSA also calls these work credits “Quarters of Coverage.” These credits determine your eligibility.
You can earn 4 quarters of coverage every year that you work, based on how much money you earn. For the year 2020, one quarter of converge is earned for every $1,410 you earn. You do not have to physically work in each quarter of the year to get covered, all that matters is your total dollar amount at the end of each calendar year.
For instance, in most cases you must have earned 40 credits to qualify for SSDI benefits to begin with -- 20 of the credits being in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. This may vary depending on the age you became disabled.
NOTE: This is known as the 20/40 rule, or the 5/10 rule.
- 20/40 represents the amount of quarters you must have to apply (20 out of the last 40).
- 5/10 represents the amount of years you must have worked (5 out of the last 10).
For some non-citizens, you must earn work credits to qualify for both SSI and SSDI programs. Non-citizens can also earn credits based on a parent or spouse’s work.
The SSA states, “The extra work credits from a spouse or parent help toward eligibility but aren’t posted to a non-citizen’s work record and aren’t counted to determine the amount of benefits.”
Talk to an attorney familiar with immigration and disability law to better understand these restrictions and how they apply to your case.
Do Non-Citizens Qualify for SSI?
SSI benefits are available to citizens who meet SSA’s asset and resources requirements, and are disabled, blind, or elderly. However, benefits are also available for non-citizens in certain alien classifications, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. You must 1.) fit one of these categories and 2.) meet the SSA’s disability guidelines to get SSI as a non-citizen.
Some of these qualified alien categories include:
- Lawfully admitted for permanent residence
- Granted conditional entry
- Paroled into the United States
- Admitted as a refugee
- Granted asylum
- An alien whose removal is being withheld
- A Cuban or Haitian Entrant
- Admitted as an Amerasian Immigrant
- Admitted as an Afghan or Iraqi Special Immigrant
SSI Eligibility and Benefits Time Limits for Non-Citizens
For those who fall under the category of “lawfully admitted for permanent residence,” if you are a non-citizen who lawfully entered the United States after August 22, 1996, the SSA states that you may not be eligible for SSI for the first five years of permanent residency—regardless of credits of earnings.This does not apply to the other categories above, such as asylum or refugee status.
Once you are eligible for benefits, some non-citizens can receive SSI benefits for seven years. If your particular type of non-citizenship status is limited to seven years of benefits, the SSA will send you information about when your benefits will end and your rights when it comes to appealing the seven-year limit when your benefits end.
If you are a current or former recipient of SSI subject to this seven-year limit, and you’ve applied for citizenship, you can potentially expedite your pending naturalization or adjustment of status, as well as waive the fees for filing these applications. Applying for citizenship may allow you to keep your benefits after the seven years expires.
To request an expedited case, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at 1-800-375-5283 or 1-800-767-1833 (TTY).
Do Non-Citizens Qualify for SSDI?
Typically, anyone applying for SSDI must have worked and paid into Social Security over time, as well as earned enough work credits.
They must also qualify for having a severe disability that prevents them from working under the SSA’s guidelines, and they must go through the application, review, and appeals process to earn their benefits.
Some categories of non-citizens who commonly qualify for SSDI are those who are:
- Permanent residents of the U.S.
- Cuban, Haitian, or Amerasian immigrants
- Refugees/those granted asylum in the U.S.
- Your deportation or removal is being withheld.
- You have been paroled in the U.S.
- You, your child, or your parent have suffered battery or extreme cruelty.
In addition, you may qualify for SSDI under the condition that you hold a green card, you or your spouse are U.S. military service members or veterans, or you were receiving benefits beginning on or before August 22, 1996.
When to Call a Lawyer for Social Security in Georgia
These are some of the ways non-citizens may qualify for Social Security benefits. However, there are many conditions and regulations that may affect your case. A qualified attorney can help you navigate this process.
In many cases, you won’t pay a lawyer’s fee unless you win your Social Security benefits.
If your Supplemental Security Income claim or your Social Security Disability Insurance claim have been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-7165.