Dear Rusty: I’m 90 and have been a social security recipient for a long time – I signed up at the age of 62, which I now know was not wise, but I differ. We see from various sources that immigrants, legal and illegal, only receive social benefits upon reaching age, regardless of contribution. Is it true? Signed: Curious nonagenarian
Dear Curious: Be assured that illegal immigrants (or “illegal aliens”, “undocumented workers” or whatever you choose to call them) are not eligible to receive social benefits. However, it is possible for legal immigrants to collect social security benefits if they have individually earned the right to it, including those who are legally present dependents (spouse or child) of a person who collects social security benefits. By “legal immigrant” I mean those who have immigrated to the United States and have applied for and received either a Permanent Resident Card (“green card”) or who have subsequently acquired U.S. citizenship. It is also possible to obtain an “Employment Authorization Document”, which gives a foreign national temporary permission to work in the United States, mainly used by citizens of other countries working in the United States (typically those working for an international company, such as has a US presence). In all cases, however, only legal residents who work, earn and contribute sufficiently to social security from their earnings, or who are legally dependent on a person who collects social security, can receive social security benefits.
The criteria for eligibility for social security are very strict, and persons without legal US residency status are not eligible to receive benefits. Especially on today’s social media, we often see uninformed people who are in favor of the belief that illegal immigrants benefit from access to social security services, which is simply not true. This does not mean that there are no cases of fraud, but be sure that these cases are heavily investigated and eventually found and prosecuted by the Office of the Social Security Inspector General.
FYI, which is another category of federal benefit known as Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), which has somewhat different eligibility criteria, but which still requires either legal residence as I have defined above, or another special residence status that defines them as a “qualified” foreigner “(eg certain Indian tribes, refugees and asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, etc.) as defined by the federal government. SSI is essentially a general disability benefit for needy seniors, Minors and disabled adults with very little income and very few assets Federal SSI benefits are paid from the state treasury, not from social security funds and do not impair the social security economy.S SSI is administered by each state, which usually provides other assistance in addition to the relatively small federal monetary benefit ( $ 841 per month for 2022).
As you are no doubt aware, all U.S. states have separate laws that can provide benefits to all citizens, regardless of their federal residency status, but it is completely outside the area of social security and does not affect the financial structure of social security. In order to receive social security benefits, one must either have earned the right to do so by contributing adequately to the program or be legally dependent on a person who (or was) collecting social security and meeting all other eligibility criteria for the benefit, requested.
When it comes to your decision to claim 62 years of age, keep in mind that life expectancy is always an unknown factor and deciding when to apply always involves a great deal of uncertainty. We should all be confident in knowing with certainty that social security will be there for us until the very end.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents statements and interpretations from AMAC Foundation staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To ask a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at [email protected].
If you enjoy articles like this – Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter
and download the AMAC News app
If you enjoy articles like this – Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!