Can Undocumented Immigrants Get Disability?

by Margot Lester   ·  2 weeks ago  
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Living with a disability can pose many challenges, particularly when financial support is needed. For undocumented immigrants, these challenges can be even greater, because limited access to welfare and government resources can bar you from accessing governmental disability benefits. Learn about which disability benefits are available to undocumented immigrants and under what conditions: By understanding these guidelines, you can better navigate the complexities of disability benefits available to you as an undocumented immigrant.

GOOD TO KNOW: There are two types of federal disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security for Undocumented Immigrants: Key Takeaways and Criteria

Which Non-Citizens Are Eligible for Disability Benefits?

If you live with a disabling medical condition, you probably need additional support to make ends meet. You may qualify for Social Security disability (SSD) depending on your immigration status. In general:

  1. H-1B visa holders have employer-sponsored nonimmigrant status and qualify if their employers withhold FICA taxes. 
  2. People with asylum and refugee status are authorized to work in the U.S. and can get unrestricted Social Security numbers. 
  3. Green card holders have immigrant status. These lawful permanent residents are usually eligible for Social Security benefits after earning 40 U.S. work credits — about 10 years of working and paying Social Security taxes.

Can Undocumented Immigrants Get Disability Benefits?

Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants cannot get disability, and your SSD claim will be denied if you apply. But you may be able to get help through PRUCOL or Emergency Medicaid.

What is PRUCOL?

PRUCOL stands for Persons Residing Under Color of Law. Though it sounds like an immigration status, it’s not. It’s a pub­lic ben­e­fits eli­gi­bil­ity cat­e­gory that makes it possible for you to access many kinds of government support, including Medicaid. To be considered PRUCOL, you need to show that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Immigration and Customs Enforcement knows that you’re in the U.S. and are not going to be deported. You also earn PRUCOL if you have applied for and not received an immigration status confirmation

GOOD TO KNOW: A disability lawyer can determine if you meet the PRUCOL requirements and apply for disability benefits.

Emergency Medicaid for Undocumented Immigrants

Most legal permanent residents entering the United States since August 22, 1996, must wait at least five years to become Medicaid-eligible. However, these rules are different for undocumented immigrants.

If you’re an undocumented non-U.S. citizen, you may be able to get Emergency Medicaid as long as you meet income and all other eligibility criteria for the program. If you don’t meet the requirements, you might be eligible for emergency coverage that pays for medical costs for:

  • Labor and delivery
  • Emergency care including a heart attack, stroke or serious accident

GOOD TO KNOW: Your state may lift the ban for pregnant immigrants and children. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 42 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories extend Medicaid and CHIP to people who meet certain criteria regardless of their immigration status. 

States with Programs for Undocumented Immigrants with Disabilities

Right now, only five states offer disability benefits for immigrants, and noncitizen eligibility differs widely:

  1. California
  2. Hawai’i
  3. New Jersey
  4. New York
  5. Rhode Island

Other states offer emergency assistance to immigrants and refugees, including Washington State and North Carolina. Search online to learn about resources where you live to see what protections you’re offered in a medical emergency. You might want to consult a disability lawyer who knows the laws in your state to better understand your situation.

Protections for Disabled Undocumented Immigrants in America

A 2022 rule instituted by the Biden-Harris Administration established that noncitizens are entitled to receive health and other benefits without negative immigration consequences. Some states also offer state-level protections.

Most resources for undocumented immigrants come from nonprofits dedicated to supporting immigrants. These nonprofit organizations play a critical role in addressing the unique challenges faced by disabled undocumented immigrants, who often struggle with limited access to healthcare and legal services.

Among the most impactful are charities like United We Dream and Movimiento Cosecha, which provide vital support ranging from legal advocacy to mental health resources. Define American works to shift public opinion and policy through media and storytelling, emphasizing the human rights of all immigrants, regardless of their legal status. These efforts are crucial in ensuring that disabled undocumented immigrants can lead more secure and dignified lives in America.

What Can You Do If You’re Undocumented and Have a Disability?

If you don’t qualify for federal or state disability insurance, get help from: 

  • Community health centers give medical care regardless of your immigration status. Find an affordable clinic near you via the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics locator.
  • Local, state and national faith-based organizations also offer financial and other forms of assistance to undocumented noncitizens. Contact your local house of worship for community-based support, or contact a national organization, such as Catholic Charities USA and Global Refuge (formerly Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services). 

Need Legal Assistance?

If you are an undocumented immigrant dealing with disability issues, it’s crucial to get accurate legal advice tailored to your specific situation. A qualified disability lawyer can help you navigate the complex landscape of disability benefits, understand your rights, and possibly identify forms of assistance you may be eligible for.

Contact a trusted disability lawyer today to explore your options and take informed steps towards securing the support you need.

Margot Lester

Margot Lester is the CEO ofThe Word Factory,a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coachand organizational communications trainer,helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter:@word_factoryLinkedIn:linkedin.com/in/margotlester.