Are Immigrant Workers Eligible for Unemployment?

Due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus in recent weeks, as people across the country are being asked to stay at home, many have found themselves out of a job and looking to file for unemployment. Unemployment insurance exists to provide period payments to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and are looking to work. The amount they receive can vary depending on the wages they warned during a “base period” and the state they worked in. 

Who is Eligible for Unemployment?

During these uncertain times, many immigrant workers are unsure if they are eligible for unemployment. Eligibility for unemployment insurance depends on a person’s immigration status during two periods of time: the “benefits period” and the “base period.” The benefits period is the period of time they are applying for and receiving the benefits while the base period is the time the individual performed work. 

Under current state and federal law, undocumented workers are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Workers are required to have valid work authorization during the base period, when they apply for benefits, and while they are receiving benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in order to be able and available for work, they must have work authorization and a Social Security number when they apply for benefits. Immigrant workers must also have been in certain statuses in the base period. Federal law allows states to credit wages that were earned by:

  • Immigrants admitted for lawful permanent residence at the time of the work they performed
  • Immigrants who were ”lawfully present for purposes of performing services”
  • Immigrants who were “permanently residing in the United States under color of law”

States can have their own standards as long as they do not allow more than the federal standard. 

Contact our Firm

The Law Offices of Cheryl R. David practices immigration law throughout NYC. Immigration is a sensitive issue, which is why you should consider a compassionate, experienced, and aggressive immigration attorney who will guide you every step of the way. If you have questions about your particular matters regarding immigration please do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your circumstances and options.