Social Security Disability for Non-Citizens

When you think of disability programs such as Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you might assume that they are only available for US citizens. However, it is actually possible for non-citizens to be eligible for one or both of these programs. In addition to the normal requirements needed for any disability benefits, though, there are several other necessary items needed in order for non-citizens to meet the Social Security disability requirements.

Social Security Disability for Non-Citizens


In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, a non-citizen individual needs to be able to prove the following:

  • First, just like any disability case, there needs to be proof of an actual disability. The requirements to prove a disability, whether it’s physical or mental, are the same for citizens and non-citizens alike.
  • Second, there also needs to be proof that the person in question is in the US legally and able to work. This can be done by providing a work history as well as showing a B-1, D-1 or D-2 visa or a Social Security number issued after January 1, 2004.
  • Third, the individual needs to be able to show that he or she was actually in the US for the month(s) when a payment is expected. This is so a person isn’t collecting benefits while living overseas in his or her home country.
  • Finally, the person must have paid into the system enough to be eligible for SSDI payments, just like any other worker.


Just like SSDI benefits, non-citizens can also qualify for SSI payments, as well. To be eligible, the following criteria must be met:

  • First, the individual must be able to show that they are in the US legally as a “qualified alien.” In this case, there are eight different categories of “qualified alien” that are acceptable. They include things such as being in the US as a refugee or here on asylum.
  • Second, the individual must meet one of the predetermined qualifications for SSI payments. This means not only be being able to prove that the he or she suffers from a disability, but also that they are suffering from extreme financial hardship.

So, while a non-citizen can meet the Social Security disability requirements, it can be difficult. Disability can be a hard enough case for someone to win as it is without the added burden of proving legal status. If you need more help in dealing with a case like this, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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