Can a Non-Resident File for Unemployment Benefits?

by Michaele Curtis; Updated September 26, 2017

When unemployment compensation was conceived, it was aimed at providing workers who were unemployed through no fault of their own some temporary relief. Whether or not they are resident of the country or state is of no consequence. The United States allows non-residents to work in the country if they meet immigration requirements. States don’t require you to be a resident to work within their borders either. However, the process for filing unemployment for country or state non-residents can be different than for residents.

U.S. Resident Regulations

Unemployment benefits are for displaced workers. Although the majority of the workers who collect unemployment benefits are U.S. citizens, non-citizens can also have the right to work in the United States under certain circumstances. For example, a Canadian engineer may be in the United States working on a temporary visa and lose his job. He is not a permanent resident of the United States, but since he is eligible to work here he can collect unemployment benefits.

Non-Resident Complications

Social security numbers are required to file unemployment claims. The only exceptions are non-residests because social security numbers are only for U.S. citizens. Instead, you must have your alien resident number, your visa information and your passport information when you file for unemployment. Remember that if your immigration status in the United States is dependent on your work status, collecting unemployment has nothing to do with that. You still must fulfill your immigration requirements.

State Resident Regulations

You might also be a non-resident in your state. If you’re living temporarily in a state, you don’t have to become a resident there. However, when you file for unemployment benefits, you should do it with the labor office of the state you current live in, whether it is where you worked for the previous two years or not. In most cases, you’ll just file an interstate unemployment claim and the state you are in will request unemployment funds from the state you worked in.

Filing an Interstate Claim

When you file an interstate unemployment claim, you need your social security card, your identification card and your work history information for the previous two years. You apply to the state you are physically in, which is the agent state. Usually you have to either go in person to the labor office or speak to a live claims agent on the claims line. The agent state contacts the state you worked in, which is the liable state. The liable state reviews your eligibility and determines your compensation amounts based on their state laws. Then they send that money to the agent state for distribution. The agent state distributes the money based on its laws and receives your weekly claims and work search records.

About the Author

Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.