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Disability benefits for non-citizens

Many people come to the United States from other countries for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, they take up long-term or permanent residence in this country and begin to work jobs and support their families.

Just like anyone else, though, a California worker who is not an American citizen may experience an illness or injury that takes him out of the workforce permanently. Again like anyone else, he would then need to find another means of supporting himself and his family.

With respect to Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, provided they meet the eligibility requirements, benefits are available to non-citizens who have paid in to the Social Security system. In other words, SSDI benefits are in a sense an early withdrawal from one's Social Security pension to which she has been contributing via payroll taxes. It therefore makes sense that anyone who has paid in to the system should be able to benefit from it.

In some cases, a non-citizen may also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Of course, to get SSI, the non-citizen must prove she has a qualifying disability and also prove that she meets the applicable income and resource requirements. Unlike SSDI, SSI is provided to people based on their financial need.

Not every non-citizen qualifies for SSI, as the law sets out definite categories of what it calls qualified aliens who can receive benefits. Likewise, unlike American citizens, a non-citizen must have some documented work history in the United States in order to qualify.

The bottom line is that documented immigrants who are otherwise eligible may qualify for benefits through the Social Security Administration. They should consider speaking with an experienced Social Security disability attorney should they have questions.

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