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Immigrant Workers’ Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance

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Unemployment insurance (UI) services in the United States provide temporary financial assistance to eligible workers who have recently become unemployed and are in the process of looking for work. For a worker to receive UI services, the worker must have become unemployed at no fault of their own. The amount a worker receives from UI services is dependent on the amount a worker earned during their “base period.” UI services vary from state to state however a base period generally remains constant and is typically anywhere from 18 months to the past year of work.

In terms of immigrant workers eligibility for UI services, “eligibility for unemployment insurance depends on immigration status during two periods: the time that the worker is applying for and receiving benefits and the time the worker performed the work” (Smith, 2020) (otherwise known as the “base period”). Workers must have valid work authorization during the base period, the time at which they apply to receive benefits, and throughout the period of time for which they are receiving benefits. According to the U.S. Department od Labor’s current model notice to employers, “workers must have both work authorization and a social security number to receive benefits” (Smith, 2020). Under the current state and federal systems in the United States, any person applying for UI services and benefits must have proof of documentation and


The second necessary requirement for an immigrant worker to apply and receive UI Service benefits is meeting the required qualifications of being in certain immigration statuses during the previously mentioned “base period.” The federal law allows for states to credit wages earned by immigrants in three ways. These three ways are: “(1) immigrants who were admitted for lawful permanent residence at the time of their services (or work period) were performed, (2) immigrants who were ‘lawfully present for purposes of performing services,’ or (3) immigrants who were ‘permanently residing in the United States under color of law’” (“PRUCOL”). States are free to adopt their own interpretation of “PRUCOL” standards as long as they are not more lenient nor generous than those of the federal standard.

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