Can Green Card Holders Collect Unemployment?

Unemployment benefits are payments made to individuals who have been terminated from their jobs. The payments are designed to help these workers pay for basic essentials while they look for a new job. While receiving benefits, the worker must be available to work and must be looking for a new job. These benefits are available not just to U.S. citizens, but to holders of the so-called "green card" -- also known as permanent residents.


Unemployment Benefits

To receive unemployment benefits, an individual must first apply to his state government. Before awarding benefits, the agency tasked with administering benefits will first attempt to determine if the individual is eligible. The requirements for eligibility are the same for U.S. citizens as they are for permanent residents. If a permanent resident is awarded benefits, he will receive payments for the same time period and in the same amount as a comparable U.S. citizen.

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Permanent Residents

Permanent residents are defined as individuals who are legally allowed to remain in the United States for an indefinite period of time. Permanent residents can be granted this status in a number of different means. While many are allowed to reside for work, others can be brought over by family or be allowed to emigrate as refugees or for political reasons. The reason that a person was issued a green card has no bearing on his eligibility for benefits.


Work Authorization

In order to receive benefits, a person must be "able and available" to work. This means that the permanent resident must be eligible to take a job if offered to him. This can be problematic for a resident who was authorized to work for only a single employer. If the employer fires him, he will not be eligible to work for someone else. This means he will not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.


According to the National Employment Law Project, some immigrants have successfully argued in courts of law that if a permanent resident is physically able to take a job and willing to work, he should be eligible for unemployment benefits, even if he is not currently authorized to take another job. However, the Department of Labor, as well as most courts of law, disagrees with this reading of the law, meaning that an applicant applying with this argument will likely be denied benefits.