Being an Immigrant, am I eligible for Unemployment Insurance?

The above question is one of the most important questions being asked now. The state controls the unemployment insurance. One should check the relevant state law and qualification to determine if someone is eligible for unemployment insurance.

Normally states have the requirement of “able and available” to qualify for unemployment insurance. Therefore, if you are “able to work” and “available for employment,” then you are qualified. This means that you should be available to accept work without any conditions or restrictions.

What does this mean to H-1B or L-1: (here is an excerpt from AILA practice pointer)

“Many nonimmigrants, such as foreign workers holding H-1B or L-1 status, are generally only authorized to work in the United States for a single employer. Thus, if they lose their job with that employer, they generally would not qualify under the case law in some states because they’re not considered “able and available to work” when they are unemployed. Even though H-1B and some other nonimmigrant workers have the flexibility to change employers, federal law requires the new employer to file a new visa petition before the employee may work (and for some visa categories, the petition must be approved first). Thus, the analysis goes, if a nonimmigrant worker has lost a job and does not have a new visa petition filed by a new employer, the worker is not “able and available” to work and does not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.”

Therefore, if you are on H-1B or L-1, you are generally not qualified if your state has the able and available rule.

Can a person on EAD qualify?

As per the “able and available” rule, a person on EAD is “available to work” for another employer without requiring a sponsorship immediately. So, they are generally considered qualified. State rules need to be checked again. Some state rules specify that the person should be able and available for a particular duration. In this case, the L-2 and H-4, the EAD is tied to the status of the spouse. Since there is a time restriction on the EAD, please take a look into state rules to see if you are qualified.

Permanent residents are qualified as they are available for work for another employer.

Please check your state rules here:

Public Charge: As per USCIS Unemployment benefit will not be considered as a “Public charge” as it is a earned benefit. As with Department of State they are yet to clarify on this.