Federal Disability Insurance Eligibility for Non-Citizens

Subject to certain restrictions, individuals who are disabled and are not citizens of the United States may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration. Note, however, that SSDI and SSI have different eligibility criteria and SSI for non-citizens is harder to qualify for than SSDI.

The Requirements for SSDI

To qualify for SSDI a non-citizen must have either (1) a Social Security Number that authorizes them to work in the US, or (2) a B-1, D-1, or D-2 non-immigrant visa. A non-citizen must also be able to demonstrate to the Social Security Administration that they are in the US lawfully while receiving benefits. Lastly, a non-citizen must be able to demonstrate the same basic medical and technical eligibility criteria required of all SSDI beneficiaries. These can be found bellow in the blog titled “Eligibility Requirements for the Two Types of Federal Disability Benefits.”

The Requirements for SSI

To receive SSI benefits a non-citizen must (1) be “qualified alien” and (2) must meet a condition that allows qualified aliens to receive SSI.

The categories of qualified aliens are as follows:

  • Lawfully Admitted Permanent Residents (LAPR)

  • Conditional Entrants granted entry under Section 203(a)(7) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

  • Parolees in the US for a period of one year or more

  • Refugees

  • Asylees

  • Haitian or Cuban entrants granted admittance under the Refugee Education and Assistance Act of 1980

  • American Indians the hold membership in a federally recognized tribe that were born in Canada

  • Special Immigrants from Afghanistan or Iraq who provided the US military assistance while overseas

Qualified aliens must also demonstrate that they meet one of the following conditions in order to qualify for SSI benefits:

  • The non-citizen was receiving SSI and lawfully residing in the US on August 22, 1996.

  • The non-citizen is an LAPR with 40 qualifying quarters of work

  • The non-citizen is active duty in the US Armed force, an honorably discharged veteran, or the immediate family member of US military personnel

  • The non-citizen was residing in the US on August 22, 1996 AND is blind or disabled

Note that Refugees, Asylees, and Cuban, Haitian, Iraqi, and Afghani entrants may only receive SSI benefits for a maximum of 7 years from the date Department of Homeland Security grants immigration status.