Job loss often is financially devastating, which is why the United States government uses taxes to provide unemployment insurance benefits. These benefits provide supplemental income for a short period so you can stay on your feet as you look for new employment. Although regulations for unemployment eligibility vary by state, usually you need the same basic items to file a claim. Bring these items with you to the unemployment office when you file.
In order to process your claim, the State Unemployment Insurance office needs your Social Security number, so bring your card with you. Representatives from the SUI office use the Social Security number to work with the Social Security Administration, other government agencies and your former employer to verify who you are and what you earned prior to filing. If you aren't a U.S. citizen, bring your Alien Registration Card. If you have a driver's license, bring it so you can further confirm your identity.
The SUI office will want to confirm your residency in order to verify that you're eligible for unemployment. They also need your address so they can send you documentation about your benefits, and the benefit checks themselves if direct deposit isn't available in your state. Bring your driver's license to show your current address. If you don't have a driver's license, or if the address on it isn't yet current because you've recently moved, bring other documentation, like a utility bill that confirms where you live. Also have your phone number, or a number where an SUI representative can leave you a message. When you file for unemployment, the SUI representatives may need to conduct a brief phone interview to confirm the facts on your application.
Have ready the payroll addresses and names of any employer you've had for at least the past 18 months — you usually need to list this information on your application form. In some states, the SUI representatives may ask you include employers as far back as two years. Also bring your W2 forms so you have the employers' Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). You'll need documentation that verifies the start and end dates of your employment with those firms, as well.
You may have other documentation that demonstrates your eligibility for unemployment benefits. For example, you might have letters showing you complained to HR about unsafe conditions, or you may have a termination letter that clearly states you were let go due to difficulties in the company, rather than due to poor performance or behavior. Bring copies of these documents with you so the SUI representative assigned to your case can use them to determine the merit of your claim.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.