Immigrants make important contributions to our country. According to data from the Pew Research Center, immigrants now make up nearly 14 percent of the U.S. population. For immigrants, especially non-citizens, there can be some additional complexities involved in navigating public benefit programs. You may be wondering: Can an immigrant get SSDI benefits? The short answer is ‘yes’—but only if they earned enough work credits by paying Social Security taxes. In this article, you will find an overview of the most important things to know about immigrants and SSDI benefits. 

SSDI Eligibility is Based On Work Credits (Social Security Taxes Paid)


As a starting point, it is important to understand how the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) system works. Not everyone is covered by SSDI. In fact, many native-born U.S. citizens are ineligible to apply for SSDI benefits. SSDI eligibility is based, in part, on work history. In effect, an applicant must prove that they earned a sufficient amount of work credits—through paying Social Security taxes—to qualify as “insured” under the program. How many credits you will need to earn to be insured under the SSDI program depends on your age at the time of your disability application.

Immigrants Can Qualify for Benefits If Technical SSDI Requirements are Met

Your immigration status is not a direct factor in determining your SSDI eligibility. Instead, the SSA will start by looking at your work history and Social Security taxes paid. This means that you can absolutely qualify for SSDI benefits if you immigrated to the United States from another country. In fact, you can even qualify for SSDI benefits if you are not a U.S. citizen. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can qualify for SSDI. However, you will only qualify if you have a sufficient American work history based on your age.

Taxes Paid Under an Invalid Social Security Number (SSN) Do Not Count

For the purposes of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility, the SSA will only count taxes paid under a valid Social Security Number (SSN). As reported by Marketplace, undocumented immigrants pay billions in Social Security taxes each year. Without legal authorization to work in the United States, they may get a job under a fake SSN. You cannot earn work credits that count towards SSDI eligibility when paying taxes under an SSN that is not your own. Unfortunately, this means that undocumented immigrants are not in a position to qualify for SSDI benefits.

An Immigrant Applicant Must Prove Disability Status

Finally, it is important to emphasize that all applicants, immigrants or native born, must be prepared to present strong and comprehensive medical evidence along with their SSDI application. You can only obtain SSDI benefits when you prove that you have a qualifying disability that reasonably prevents you from working. Many SSDI claims are denied on medical grounds. If you have any questions about immigrant rights, filing for Social Security disability, or the information that you need to file a claim, an experienced Social Security disability attorney can help.

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