It is currently our law that asylees and refugees may receive SSI disability for a period of seven years. If they do not become citizens in seven years, they will be cut off of SSI. There have been many instances of people losing SSI, through no fault of their own, because they were not yet citizens. One of the most common reasons was due to the extended period of time it was taking for the Department of Homeland Security to adjudicate citizenship applications.
It appears that some new legislation may help to remedy this situation. On September 17, 2008, the House passed H.R. 2608, “SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act.” This bill will provide from 2008-2010, extensions of SSI for refugees, asylees and certain other humanitarian immigrants. The extension will basically allow people to collect benefits for nine years instead of being cut off at seven.
According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”), this bill, previously passed by the Senate, now will go to President Bush for his signature. He is expected to sign it into law. It is a little to late for many people who could have benefited from the bill, but it will be nice for those in the future who need the extra time.