Eligibility of Pennsylvania Immigrants for Unemployment Benefits due to Coronavirus

By: Caitlin Faye, Esq. 

As businesses across the country and the state have been forced to close and lay off workers due to the coronavirus, many Pennsylvania immigrants question whether they are eligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance is a program that provides cash to eligible workers. Eligibility for the program varies by state but generally, individuals can receive benefits who have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced through no fault of their own, and if they meet certain wage requirements. To be eligible for federally funded unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, an individual must have valid work authorization. 

In Pennsylvania, an individual generally is eligible for unemployment if the individual is unemployed or working less and receiving less pay through no fault of their own. The individual also must have over 18 weeks in which they earned $116 or more in the base year to be eligible for benefits. Benefits are based on an individual’s earnings during the first four of the last five completed quarters. Pennsylvania has suspended the work search and work registration requirements due to the pandemic. 

Pennsylvania allows immigrants to apply for unemployment benefits if they are lawful permanent residents, have a work permit, or are naturalized U.S. citizens. Those individuals must have had authorization to work both during the base period and when they apply for benefits. Some foreign workers, such as H1-B visa holders, may be ineligible for benefits if they lose their job because they are only authorized to work for a single employer. Eligible immigrants must email or mail copies of their social security cards and work permits to the state to be eligible to receive benefits. The federal government has also clarified that the receipt of unemployment compensation during the pandemic will not be considered under the Department of Homeland Security’s new public charge rule. 

Almost 1.5 Million Pennsylvanians Have Filed for Unemployment 

As of April 23, 26.5 million people have filed for unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to one news source. Almost 1.5 million Pennsylvanians filed for unemployment in five weeks, which accounts for 23% of the state’s workforce. 817,000 in New Jersey filed for unemployment in that same period, accounting for 18% of its workforce. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among the hardest-hit states in terms of claims by the total percentages of their workforces. 

According to economists, it will take the economy years to recover from the employment gains of the past decade. One economist said that he believed that some businesses would begin reopening in May and throughout the summer and that there would be a “temporary pop to growth.” However, some industries, such as travel, tourism, and performing arts would likely be slow to reopen and to attract large crowds. 

Do You Want to Know Whether You Are Eligible?

If you are an immigrant and have lost your job due to coronavirus and want to know whether you are eligible to receive benefits, contact an experienced immigration attorney that can help you determine your eligibility based on your immigration status. The immigration attorneys at Solow, Isbell, and Palladino, LLC can help you determine whether you are eligible for Pennsylvania or New Jersey unemployment benefits based on your immigration status. To set up a consultation with an immigration attorney, call us at (215) 654-1990 or book a consultation online by clicking here

Caitlin Faye, Esq. is an associate attorney at Solow, Isbell & Palladino, LLC. She is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and speaks Spanish, French, and Wolof.

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