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Can Undocumented Immigrants Get Social Security Benefits?

Can Undocumented Immigrants Get Social Security Benefits?

Like with many complicated questions, the answer is – it depends. Most people probably assume that undocumented immigrants definitely cannot get social security benefits, but that’s not actually true. It is just not as simple as it is for people with a legal status and employment authorization.

Undocumented Immigrants and Paying Taxes

If you’re undocumented, you likely know this already, but many others do not: undocumented immigrants work, make an income, and pay taxes. Federal law requires that any noncitizens who earn income while in the United States file tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service provides an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) specifically so people can file taxes when they do not have a social security number. These numbers look very similar to social security numbers but do not authorize the holder to work.

Additionally, before 2004, it was not even a requirement to have work authorization to claim Social Security. Anyone who was issued a Social Security Number before January 1, 2004, even if they do not maintain work authorization, is not impacted by the 2004 law and can collect Social Security benefits.

Anyone who has one of these social security numbers or who has an ITIN will be paying taxes connected to their respective number and will therefore be accumulating benefits over the years.

How Much of Your Earned Benefits Can be Claimed?

For people who have a pre-2004 social security number or who have a post-2004 social security number and have active work authorization, the answer is easy. Any social security benefits earned while working under that social security number will be claimable, even if they were working without legal authorization for a significant portion or even all of their employment history.

For people with an ITIN or who have post-2004 social security numbers, it does require a bit more work. First, they have to change their status to have work authorization, which usually happens when people are able to adjust status to become legal permanent residents and later become citizens. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration uses all earnings to determine entitlement to benefits, even if some of the jobs were worked without legal work authorization. At that point, if they have W2s or other evidence of earnings and of what they paid into Social Security, the Social Security Administration will credit those benefits toward the newly gained Social Security Number and they will be claimable later on.

If you need further guidance or have specific questions about how you might be able to collect Social Security benefits, you canschedule an initial consultation with us today, don't hesitate to contact us at (949) 478-4963.

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