Can I Receive Supplemental Security Income if I'm Not a US Citizen?

Nonresidents may qualify for benefits. Find out how.

Nina Raemont Writer
A recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Nina started at CNET writing breaking news stories before shifting to covering Security Security and other government benefit programs. In her spare time, she's in her kitchen, trying a new baking recipe.
Nina Raemont
3 min read
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Supplemental Security Income is a monthly federal program that provides payments to low-income Americans who are disabled.

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If you are a nonresident seeking financial assistance in the US, consider applying for Supplemental Security Income. You may be eligible, depending on how long you have lived in the country, your immigration status, salary and other factors. 

Find out who qualifies for SSI and how to apply below. 

For more on Social Security, learn how the annual cost-of-living adjustment will affect your paycheck and further understand your benefits with CNET's Social Security cheat sheet for 2023.

What is Supplemental Security Income? 

Supplemental Security Income is a monthly federal program that provides payments to low-income Americans who are disabled.

Can noncitizens receive SSI?

Green card holders and other lawfully present noncitizens who meet all the eligibility requirements qualify for benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

Authorized noncitizens who work in the US and received a Social Security number after December 2003 can also qualify for benefits. 

To be able to apply and receive SSI benefits, applicants must be a qualified noncitizen and also have conditions that meet the eligibility requirement. Continuing reading to see who is qualified noncitizen and under which conditions are they eligible.

Who is a qualified noncitizen?

The Social Security Administration recognizes several groups of nonresidents as qualified noncitizens, also referred to as "qualified aliens." 

  • Those who are Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence in the US.
  • Those granted conditional entry under the Immigration Nationality Act before April 1, 1980.
  • Those paroled in the US for at least a year under the INA under Section 212(d)(5).
  • Those who are refugees admitted to the US under Section 207 of INA.
  • Those granted asylum under section 208. 
  • Those whose deportation is being withheld under Section 243(h) of the INA in effect before April 1, 1997.
  • Those who are Cuban or Haitian entrants. 

A qualified alien subject to extreme cruelty or battery by a family member while living in the US may also be eligible for SSI. 

Read On: How to Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance

Which qualified noncitizens are eligible for SSI benefits? 

  • You were lawfully residing in the US by Aug. 22, 1996.
  • You are a LAPR with 40 qualifying quarters of work, or your parent or spouse has contributed to 40 quarters of work. 
  • You are currently on active duty with US Armed Forces or are an "honorably discharged veteran." Or you are the spouse, widow or child of this person. 
  • You were lawfully residing in the US on Aug. 22, 1996 and you are blind or have a disability.
  • You are a refugee, an asylee (someone who meets the definition of a refugee and is already in the US or is seeking entry into the US, according to the Department of Homeland Security) a noncitizen whose deportation was withheld or whose removal was or is withheld, a Cuban or Haitian entrant or an Amerasian immigrant.
  • Other eligible noncitizen categories include victims of human trafficking, Iraqi or Afghan nationals or Ukrainian humanitarian parolees. 

Can I still receive SSI benefits if I'm out of the country?

The SSA stops payments to noncitizens who don't meet the requirements above after they are out of the country for six months in a row. The SSA will restart payments one month after your return. 

How can I apply for SSI? 

Visit the Social Security website to apply for SSI. You will need proof of your immigration status or proof of military status, along with your name, your date of birth, your Social Security number, mailing address, email address and phone number.
You will need to then make an appointment to apply for benefits and receive confirmation from a Social Security employee to schedule your appointment.

This waiting period could take between one to two weeks.