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Can I Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits If I'm Not a U.S. Citizen?

Yes, but only if a lot of complicated conditions are met

En español | Q. I'm not a U.S. citizen. Can I still get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

A. The short answer is "maybe." It depends on whether you meet a slew of complicated conditions contained in federal rules and regulations governing SSI, which is designed to help aged, blind and disabled people who have little or no income.

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To receive the benefit as a foreign citizen, you must be in one of seven categories of "qualified aliens." Generally speaking, these categories include people who enter the country legally as immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. A full list of the seven categories can be found at this Social Security Web page.

The full list of the conditions can be found at this Web page.

Finally, you must meet the same conditions that apply to citizens seeking SSI.

In view of how complicated this issue is, you might do well to start by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to get advice about your own situation. Consider also consulting an attorney who specializes in SSI.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question? Check out the AARP Social Security Question and Answer Tool.

You may also like: 10 ways to tune-up Social Security.