The Social Security Administration runs the federal programs for retirement pensions and disability insurance. Applicants for retirement must be at least 62 and have enough credits, earned by working and paying into the system with payroll taxes. For disability the minimum age is 18, and the applicant must be able to prove a disabling medical condition. Citizenship is not required for Social Security benefits, but applicants must prove they are legal residents.
Paying Into Social Security
By federal law, employers must withhold a portion of the payroll taxes that support Social Security. Anyone who draws wages must pay in, regardless of their citizenship status, while those who run their own businesses contribute through self-employment taxes. Over their working life, individuals accumulate credits for Social Security benefits, as well as a record of earnings that will determine the amount of their monthly retirement or disability benefits.
As of publication, a single Social Security credits is granted for earning $1,220 and contributing payroll taxes on those earnings. Workers can earn a maximum of four credits a year, and a minimum 40 credits are required to draw retirement benefits from the system. For disability, the number of credits needed varies with the age of the disability applicant; the older you are, the more credits you need. These rules are the same for citizens and legal permanent residents with a green card who, by the law, can legally accept any kind of employment.
Valid Social Security Numbers
Social Security allows legal permanent residents to apply for retirement or disability benefits, as long as they have earned the required credits. The application process is the same for citizens and permanent residents, but the latter must provide their Social Security number as well as the number of their permanent resident card. In addition, if an SSN was issued in 2004 or later, the number must be valid for work, since not all Social Security numbers allow employment. It is also possible for a temporary resident without an SSN, but legally working as a businessperson or crewman, to earn Social Security credits.
Supplemental Security Benefits
Social Security also administers the Supplemental Security Income program, which pays a monthly benefit for individuals who can prove a disability but don't have sufficient credits for Social Security disability. The law on SSI requires that permanent residents must have been in the country legally for a minimum of five years to apply, and must have at least 40 credits to qualify. In this particular situation, children may apply their parents' work credits, and married applicants may apply credits earned by their spouse.