Can Non-Citizens Receive Benefits? (Here’s How)

The U.S. government has the fiduciary duty to provide social welfare benefits for all the people living within its borders. The reform to get welfare goes back to 1996 when the was a considerable debate on whether legal non-citizens should receive benefits. The argument back then was that as a legal non-resident, you have the power to contribute to the American way of life. The concepts include contributing to political, economic, and social matters. Therefore, you have the right to enjoy similar rights as other Americans.

Moreover, most of the children of said non-citizen are legally American by birth. So, the government must cover them in its social welfare programs. Plus, you pay taxes like other Americans, so you have the privilege and right to enjoy the fundamental rights that they do. Republicans have generally opposed the inclusivity of non-citizens in the welfare plan, while Democrats have pushed for the opposite.

As a non-citizen, you can enjoy some of the benefits that the U.S. government offers, like food stamps, unemployment, and social security. However, foreigners must meet certain requirements to be eligible for each benefit. Non-residents also have limits that do not apply to residents.

Congress is constantly seeking ways to contract or fund the expansion of non-citizen welfare. In which case, the legislation that they have in place becomes the law.

Food Stamps

The Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program recognizes lawfully present non-citizens as beneficiaries of the food stamp program. However, non-residents must meet other body regulations before enjoying the benefits. There is also a waiting period that people must go through before applying for this package.

Some requirements for people who must go through a waiting period are; -Any permanent resident with more than 40 quarters credits of work in their docket qualifies for food stamps. You can also be eligible if you have five years of status, a battered spouse, child, or parent. Or, if you have a conditional entry to the U.S.

Although, there is a loophole for others who can get into the program without a waiting period. Some of these requirements include being an alien under 18-year-old, victims of trafficking and refugee under section 207 of the INA, and all the elderly lawfully residing in the U.S. born before 22nd 1931 and who helped during the Vietnam war.

Medicare for Non-Citizens

Non-citizens are eligible for Medicare benefits as long as they are green-card holders. However, they must meet some requirements before they can apply, like being 65 years of age or older. Medicare is one of the ways that the government can provide health insurance to its citizens.

There are various types of Medicare that you can qualify for in the U.S. The government divides these services into four parts.

These sections include Part A that covers your hospital insurance, and Part B that will protect your medical insurance. On the other hand, Part C will give Medicare Advantage, while Part D will help you cover the drugs you need.

In most cases, you may only apply for Part A, but you must pay for Part B and premiums. However, if you cannot meet part A, you can still apply for only Part B by following the rules.

Social Security

The U.S government will only offer social security to non-citizens with more than ten years of work and paying taxes or 40 work credits. Also, you must be in the country legally to qualify for these benefits. If you are not able to fulfill this requirement, you can combine your foreign work credits with local ones. However, it would help if you were from specific countries like Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Brazil, to note a few.

Non-citizens should apply for social security number while you are applying for a visa in their home country. However, you are still legible to apply for it in the U.S at the Social Security office.

There are many Social Security benefits that you can attain as a non-citizen. Some of these benefits include supplement security income (SSI), social security disability insurance (SSDI), and survivor benefits. Most of these require that you have a minimum of 10 years of covered work.


Any non-citizen that is legal within the border of the U.S with a valid work permit can apply for unemployment benefits. This is one of the requirements that the Immigration and Control Act of 1986 stipulates. During the application for these benefits, you must provide the Alien Registration Number you have and your work permit.

If the authorities cannot verify any of this information, you will not be eligible for the benefits. They will have to delay the service till you can prove that you have the relevant papers.

Can Spouses of Non-Citizens Get Benefits?

As the spouse of a non-citizen, you are legible to get the spousal and survivor benefits. However, what happens if you were in holy matrimony with a non-citizen and live abroad? Well, you will only be legible to receive the deceased benefits if your country has a treaty with the U.S. On the other hand, you can be a resident in the U.S. for at least five years.

The U.S government must honor your benefits, and it will not matter from which country you hail from. Remember that the deceased must meet the requirement before you can claim these benefits. You will only receive the benefits if your spouse was eligible for the 40 work credits. Plus, they should have been at least 65 years of age at the time of death.

Final Thoughts

The United States of America has some stringent rules regarding the ability of non-citizens to enjoy social welfare benefits. However, the rules seem to be relaxing, and they are trying to accommodate everyone. I believe over time, with the help of Congress, the non-citizens will start enjoying the full benefits like other American citizens. Besides, they contribute to the American social, economic, and political contributions like other Americans.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there, I'm Gui! I was born in Brazil, and I got to travel the world playing tennis. In 2014 I moved to the US to study, and ended up staying here. I've been a student, got married, got a green card, bought a home, and started a business - all without being a citizen. I know how difficult it can be to find answers when you are living in a foreign place, and this is why I started Foreigner Living - to help you with any questions you may have!

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