Don’t lose hope, at least initially, if Social Security tells you that they are denying you benefits because of your immigration status. I have seen at least a few occasions when they are wrong so it is worth investigating further. There are far too many types of immigration status for anyone to keep up with and so it is difficult for Social Security personnel to adjudicate this issue successfully 100% of the time, especially with refugees who may or may not be entitled to SSI depending on when they apply.
If you believe you may be entitled to benefits and wish to research it, I would like to offer two places where you can look online:
- My colleague, Tomasz Stasiuk, recently wrote a thorough post on whether non citizens may obtain Social Security SSI benefits. His post is a great place to start as you can quickly check whether having a certain type of status enables you to obtain benefits.
- The National Immigration Law Center publishes a comprehensive chart which they keep updated. It shows all of the categories and provides short explanations to go with them. I constantly refer to it whenever I have a question. They also have a specific chart for California benefit programs that is worth viewing.
Finally, though, you may be one of those people who just doesn’t fall into a neat category. I currently have a case like this now. My client entered the United States prior to August 22, 1996, before there was a change in our laws. She was granted political asylum many years later. In my opinion, she is a “qualified immigrant” entitled to SSI, but the Social Security Administration disagrees. We may have to go to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge to look at the law but I believe there is no issue as to her qualifying based on immigration status. If you have a situation that does not neatly fall into a box such as this, it would be worthwhile to consult with a California Immigration Lawyer.