Supplemental security income offers a safety net to those in need – people who are blind, disabled or of limited financial means. But how far does the protection of this Supplemental Security Income extend? Does a New Jersey resident also have to be a United States citizen to qualify? Or can non-citizens living in New Jersey likewise benefit from the program? To learn the answer, keep reading.

The short answer is yes. A New Jersey resident does not have to be a United States citizen to receive SSI benefits. But, just like any citizen, a non-citizen must meet the same eligibility requirements.

That said, however, there are important limitations for non-citizens that complicate their eligibility. One caveat is that the non-citizen must have a legal right to be in the United States.

Another common limitation is the amount of time the non-citizen has held permanent residency. For non-citizens who received permanent residency after August 22, 1996, they must also have been a permanent resident for at least five years.

In addition to extra hurdles, non-citizens also face another limitation: a time limit. Generally, eligible non-citizens can only receive SSI benefits for up to seven years. This time limit may be escaped if the non-citizen eventually becomes a citizen.

These are just a few of the considerations and issues that can pop up for non-citizens. Unfortunately, the system hardly gets easier for citizens. As a result, citizens and non-citizens alike may benefit from discussing their situation with an experienced disability attorney. Doing so could be the first step toward receiving the benefits they need and deserve to address their disability.