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Citizenship and legal right to work

As a condition of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits, federal regulations require that each claimant declare under penalty of perjury whether he or she is a citizen or national of the U.S. An individual who is not a citizen or national of the U.S. must present alien registration documentation to verify he or she is authorized to work in the U.S.

Employment Security Department (ESD) verifies an individual’s immigration status through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) interface. The SAVE program is administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


If I’m not a U.S. Citizen can I apply for unemployment benefits?

Yes, non-citizens or nationals of the United States can apply for unemployment benefits. You must provide your alien registration documentation for the department to verify your immigration status. This documentation is usually provided at the time of application. If you are not able to provide this information during the application process you will be asked to provide the documentation afterward.

What will I be asked during the application process?

If you certified that you are not a U.S citizen or American National, you will be asked:

  • Were you legally entitled to work in United States in the last 24 months? And,
  • What is the most recent immigration document you have?
    • I-327 Reentry Permit
    • I-551 Permanent Resident Card
    • I-571 Refugee Travel Document
    • I-766 Employment Authorization Card
    • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
    • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record in Unexpired Foreign Passport
    • Immigrant Visa
    • Temporary I-551 Stamp (on passport or I-94)
I have an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record in an Unexpired Foreign Passport. What am I required to enter? 

If you have an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record in an Unexpired Foreign Passport you will be required to enter the following:

  • Your passport number,
  • Your I-94 number, and
  • The expiration date.
I have an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record in an unexpired foreign passport but do not have an expiration date. What do I enter ? 

If you have an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record in an Unexpired Foreign Passport immigration document, but do not have an expiration because your period of admission was stamped by the Department of Homeland Security as duration of stay (D/S), you can provide the I-94 creation date or date of entry, rather than expiration date.

If you still have a valid passport, you can enter the expiration date on your passport.

This guidance was provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

What do I do if I do not have my I-94?

If you do not have a copy of your I-94 you can visit the Department of Homeland Security to obtain an electronic copy here.

If you cannot access an electronic copy of your I-94, you can request a copy here.

I am an undocumented worker. Do I qualify for benefits?

You must have authorization to work in the U.S. to be eligible for unemployment benefits and expanded unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act. However, we don’t take immigration status into account when considering eligibility for the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. So, if you are seriously ill or caring for someone who is seriously ill, this program may be able to help. Learn more at paidleave.wa.gov or tometiempo.org.

Will receiving unemployment or Paid Family/Medical Leave benefits threaten my ability to apply for a green card or citizenship under the new public charge rules?

No. Unemployment Insurance and Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits are not included in the public charge determination.