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February 11, 2008: Is This Immigrant Eligible For Social Security Benefits?

Is This Immigrant Eligible For Social Security Benefits?

I have been a permanent resident of the United States for 10 months now. I have a full time job, and I am a resident of Shreveport, Louisiana. I currently pay federal taxes, state taxes, and Social Security, which to my understanding as a resident I am not eligible for receiving Social Security. Am I correct?
— Evelyn

According to the Social Security Administration, as a permanent resident (or non-citizen), you are eligible to receive social security benefits if you meet all of the same eligibility requirements as United States citizens. However, depending on when you received your social security number, you may need to meet additional requirements that those required of United States citizens.

“A non-citizen or alien worker who was assigned a social security number on or after January 1, 2004, must meet additional eligibility requirements” before either the non-citizen or alien worker (and dependents, if applicable) can qualify for benefits based on his or her earnings. If this is the case, you must prove that “you were assigned a social security number based on your authorization to work in the United States at any time on or after January 1, 2004, or you were admitted to the United States at any time as a nonimmigrant visitor for business (B-1) or as an alien crewman (D-1 or D-2).” Furthermore, “once an alien worker has met the eligibility criteria, [the Administration] must have evidence of the “lawful presence” of the beneficiary. That means that before [the Administration] can pay out benefits for any given month, it must have evidence that during that month the beneficiary was either: a U.S. citizen; a U.S. national; or an alien lawfully present in the United States.” For more information about social security, you should visit its website http://www.ssa.gov/.

In addition to social security benefits, you may also be eligible for Medicaid, which is a joint federal/state program that assists low-income individuals with medical services. You may also be eligible for other federal benefits programs such as The Food Stamp Program, Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Assistance for Disabled Immigrants, and One-Stop Career Centers.

Evan Shane and Michael Shane, Immigration Attorneys

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