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Are only U.S. Citizens eligible for SSI in New Jersey?

As readers of this blog may be aware, the Social Security Administration (SSA) administers a couple different programs that are meant to help disabled individuals. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) covers eligible individuals who are disabled and have paid into the disability trust fund through deductions from prior wages. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is generally for those who may not have made such prior payments into the trust fund and are indigent, disabled, or blind. New Jersey, along with many other U.S. states, tends to have many residents who may not have been born here, but came through various legal immigration routes. Do these individuals qualify for SSI if they have not become U.S. Citizens?

According to a publication by the SSA, non-citizens may sometimes be eligible to receive SSI benefits. While the best way to determine if an immigrant is eligible for such benefits is to contact the SSA, or perhaps an experienced disability attorney, there are some very general eligibility categories that can be utilized.

First, immigrants who were legally in the U.S. on August 22, 1996, and are disabled or blind, or ones who were receiving SSI on that date and are currently in the U.S. lawfully, are eligible to apply for benefits. Second, immigrants who have been admitted as Lawful Permanent Residents and have 40 work credits in the U.S. may be eligible. While those are the general categories of eligible immigrants, some other specific categories may also be able to apply, including members of the armed forces, some victims of serious human trafficking, and people who came to the U.S. under special immigration laws targeted at certain countries, such as Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, or who are members of federally recognized Native American tribes.

It is important to note that some categories of immigrants may be time-limited in their benefits, even if they are originally eligible for them. There is, for example, a seven-year limit on benefits for certain categories of non-citizens. However, these individuals may be able to expedite any application for citizenship in order to remove this restriction. The above is only a very general description of the immigrants who may be able to obtain SSI benefits in New Jersey. To get more information about such eligibility, people who need SSI may wish to consider consulting an experienced New Jersey disability attorney.

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