A commonplace misconception is that you have to be a U.S. citizen in order to bring a claim for Social Security Disability or SSI. This assertion is wholly false. Under the proper conditions non-citizen legal residents and refugees can be eligible for SSI or SSDI.
SSDI is straightforward. Anyone who meets Socially Security's legal definition of disabled AND has amassed 40 or more work credits in the Social Security system may be eligible for disability regardless of their citizenship status. Generally, 20 or more of those credits need to be within the preceding 10 calendar years in order to have current coverage under the SSDI program. Current coverage means you meet the relevant work requirements through the present calendar day. When an individual is no longer working and paying into Social Security through Social Security taxes there is a literal calendar day their coverage under the program lapses. This is referred to as the Date Last Insured. As long as you can prove you met Social Security's definition of disability on or before your Date Last Insured you can be entitled to SSDI benefits regardless of your citizenship status. There is a sliding scale for requiring less quarters for younger workers who have not had the opportunity to amass the proper quarters due to their youth (https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/credits.html).
Certain classifications of lawfully admitted non-citizens can be eligible for SSI regardless of their work records since entering the United States. Some of these classifications include but are not limited to:
1) Lawful permanent residences
2) Individuals paroled into the United States
3) Individuals admitted as a refugees
4) Individuals grant Asylum in the United States
5) An alien whose removal is being withheld
6) An Individual who is a Cuban or Haitian Entrant
7) An Amerasian Immigrant
8) An Afghan or Iraqi Special Immigrant
Some members of these special classes have additional SSI eligibility requirements for non-citizens. For example, non-citizens may receive SSI only for the first seven (7) years of their lawful residence in the United States. The seven (7) year period runs from the date the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued your lawful immigration status.
For complete information concerning non-citizen SSI eligibility please reach out to David Newcomb for a consultation or to your local Social Security Office directly.