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Can I get SSI benefits if I am not a U.S. citizen?

People who reside in Tennessee, are not citizens of the United States and have either a low income and few resources, are 65 or older, are blind or are disabled might want to seek benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. In general, those who fall into certain categories designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can apply for and receive SSI. They are the following: those who been a legal resident in the U.S. on August 22, 1996 and blind or disabled; those who already had been getting SSI on the above date and were lawful U.S. residents; and those who were legally admitted to be permanent residents under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and have accrued 40 credits of work in the U.S. For the last category, a parent or spouse having worked might count.

Other noncitizens who might meet the eligibility requirements for SSI include: those on active duty in the U.S. armed forces; noncitizens who are part of an Indian tribe that has federal recognition; noncitizens who received admission to the U.S. as Amerasian immigrants; those from Haiti or Cuba who received entrance to the U.S. under the Refugee Education Assistance Act; those who were victims of a severe level of human trafficking; and special immigrants from Iraq or Afghanistan who were admitted as legal residents.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) must have proof of the applicant's status. If the person served in the U.S. military, proof of this might also be necessary. Certain forms known as the I-94, which is a record of arrival and departure, or the I-551, a lawful permanent resident card, must be provided. The applicant can also show a record of military service. It must be shown to the SSA that the discharge was honorable and not due to the status as a noncitizen.

For those who entered the U.S. with a sponsor providing support, the person's income and resources can be counted as that of the applicant from the time the noncitizen entered the U.S. It is possible that SSI can stop because the person is not an eligible noncitizen. If this happens, reapplying is possible. Those who are not citizens of the U.S. might not be aware that they meet the necessary criteria to get SSI benefits. Discussing the matter with a legal professional can help in applying for SSI benefits.

Source:, "Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Noncitizens," accessed on Jan. 28. 2017

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