Am I Eligible to Collect Social Security in Los Angeles If I Am Not A U.S. Citizen?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

For individuals with disabilities, accessing resources like Social Security benefits can be pivotal in maintaining a semblance of stability amidst life’s challenges. However, for Non-U.S. citizens residing in Los Angeles, the question of eligibility for Social Security benefits can be complex and often shrouded in uncertainty. Let’s take a look at whether non-U.S. citizens can be eligible to collect Social Security.

Social Security Criteria

It is essential for non-U.S. citizens in Los Angeles to be aware of the potential implications of their immigration status on Social Security eligibility. Furthermore, navigating the intricacies of Social Security eligibility for non-U.S. citizens requires a nuanced understanding of the regulations and criteria set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Contrary to popular belief, eligibility for Social Security benefits is not solely contingent upon citizenship status. Instead, The SSA evaluates eligibility based on a variety of factors, including immigration status, work history, and contributions to the Social Security system.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) versus Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

One crucial distinction to be aware of is the differentiation between two primary types of Social Security benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is typically available to individuals who have worked and paid Social Security taxes, while SSI is a needs-based program designed to provide assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources.

For non-U.S. citizens seeking SSDI benefits in Los Angeles, eligibility hinges on their work history and contributions to the Social Security system. Generally, non-citizens must have valid work authorization and have paid into Social Security through payroll taxes to qualify for SSDI benefits. This means that immigrants with work visas, green cards, or certain other types of legal immigration status may be eligible for SSDI if they meet the requisite work and tax criteria.

On the other hand, eligibility for SSI benefits is primarily based on financial need rather than work history. Non-citizens who are lawful permanent residents (green card holders) or who fall under specific humanitarian categories may be eligible for SSI if they meet the program’s strict income and resource limitations. However, undocumented immigrants and certain other non-citizens are generally ineligible for SSI benefits due to their immigration status.

Individuals who are not eligible for Social Security benefits based on their immigration status alone should know that there may be other avenues of support. Local community resources, nonprofit organizations, and legal aid services in Los Angeles may offer assistance and advocacy for individuals facing disabilities and immigration-related challenges.

Contact Our Disability Benefits Team Today to Discuss Your Options

As you can see, the intersection between Social Security benefits and immigration status can be complicated. This can be especially frustrating for those pursuing benefits they desperately need access to. Consult with our knowledgeable disability benefits team and find out more about your options. We are here to help provide you with trusted guidance and assistance in navigating this complex landscape.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.