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Are Immigrant Workers Eligible for Unemployment?

Document SigningThe outbreak of the Coronavirus in recent months has caused many unprecedented decisions to be made across the country, including the stay-at-home mandates and closings of non-essential businesses in a variety of states. This has left people out of a job and looking to file for unemployment until they can get a new job. It is because of this that unemployment insurance is in place to provide period payments for eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and looking for work. The amount that is paid can vary depending on the wages the individual earned during a “base period” and the state they worked in.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment?

Many immigrant workers during these uncertain times are left wondering about their eligibility for unemployment. Eligibility is dependent upon a person’s immigration status during two periods of time: the benefits period and the base period. The benefits period is when the individual is applying for and receiving the benefits. The base period is the time they performed the work.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, individuals are able and available for work if they have work authorization and a Social Security number during the base period, when they apply for benefits, and while they are receiving the benefits. This means immigrant workers must have a certain status during the base period. Federal law allows states to credit wages 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”

It is important to understand that, under current state and federal law, undocumented workers are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. States are able to have their own standards as long as they do not allow more than the federal standard.

Contact Our Firm

Katona & Associates, PLLC is an experienced, highly dedicated New York City immigration law firm located in lower Manhattan. Our firm works with clients in all matters of immigration law, including employment immigration, family immigration, deportation defense, green cards, and citizenship. Contact us to discuss your case and get the help you need.

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