It is a fact that many immigrants are not eligible to collect Social Security benefits. However, this isn’t set in stone and conditions can potentially change. Indeed, there exist avenues that allow any foreign national to aim for the monthly payments that the Social Security Administration (SSA) disburses to retirees across the United States.
As a starting point, it’s crucial for individuals working in the U.S. to recognize that a Social Security Number (SSN) is a requirement for receiving monthly Social Security retirement payouts. This crucial piece of identification is provided to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or those who have successfully obtained a work permit (also known as a work visa) in the country.
Social Security Eligibility for Immigrants
Regardless of your specific circumstances, possessing a Social Security number isn’t the sole prerequisite for accessing your benefit. You must also satisfy additional criteria laid out by the SSA, such as accruing the requisite credits, demonstrating qualifying income levels, and reaching the appropriate retirement age.
Interestingly, it’s possible for immigrants to receive Social Security benefits even when living overseas, provided they meet the above-mentioned requirements. Many foreign workers who are not U.S. citizens and have retired receive their SSA retirement checks in their current country of residence. This extends to many U.S. citizens who have chosen to spend their retirement years in a foreign country.
For non-U.S. citizens residing in the United States, eligibility for Social Security benefits requires the following:
- Being legal permanent residents.
- Possessing a visa that permits them to work within the United States.
- Having gained entry into the country under the provisions of Family Unity or Immediate Relative as per United States immigration law.
When immigrant workers amass a sufficient number of Social Security credits, which currently stands at 40 for retirement benefits, they are then entitled to claim these benefits, even if residing abroad. The question often arises: Can immigrants access Supplementary Income Security (SSI)? Since August 22, 1996, non-citizens also have the potential to be eligible for Supplementary Income Security (SSI), subject to satisfying two crucial requirements:
Satisfying a condition that permits qualified aliens to receive SSI
If the non-citizen worker meets the qualification standards, similar to a U.S. citizen, they could potentially augment their Social Security benefits with those from the SSI program.
As of 2023, the typical Social Security payout for retirees amounts to $1,825. Based on data from the SSA, it’s projected that the average monthly Social Security payment during this year’s summer period would be approximately $1,889.44. In contrast, the maximum SSI benefit in 2023 is set at $914 for an individual and $1,371 for a couple sharing income and expenses. Should an immigrant meet the criteria for both these programs, they could receive more than $2,000 in Social Security payments.