Does it affect immigrant workers applying for unemployment benefits?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a question from a reader who wants to apply for unemployment benefits in California. 

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

I am a permanent resident living in California. My employer of four years laid me off due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. I was tax deducted at work and do not owe any money to the government.

I want to apply for unemployment benefits but I am afraid that by doing so I will be considered a public charge and it will affect me when I want to become a citizen. Should I or should I not apply for unemployment benefits? -Magdalena D. 

Magdalena, receiving unemployment benefits should not make you a public charge or affect your future naturalization application to acquire U.S. citizenship.

The recent final rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds (Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds) of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) states that unemployment benefits do not count as public benefits because they are considered to be benefits obtained through the person's lawful employment and tax deductions.

U.S. citizens, permanent residents and certain immigrant workers authorized to work legally in the United States may apply for unemployment benefits if they meet the proper requirements. 

This includes people with work permits under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.

Undocumented persons in the United States cannot apply for unemployment benefits because they are not authorized to work in the country.

You should contact California's Employment Development Department (EDD) to inquire about the requirements to apply for unemployment benefits. If you are eligible and decide to apply, do everything correctly and never lie.

Magdalena, please consult with an immigration attorney before beginning any immigration proceedings, including your future naturalization application.

For more information and immigration tips, visit my website at Immigration Today

Send your questions to Include detailed information about your situation to better answer your questions. 

Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of La Tarjeta Verde: Cómo Obtener la Residencia Permanente en los Estados Unidos (Green Card: How to Obtain Permanent Residence in the United States). He is a former President of the Hispanic National Bar Association and the Westlake South Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. For information on how to consult with Dr. Castillo, click here. click here.

The purpose of this column is to provide general information. There can be no guarantee or prediction as to what will be the outcome of the information presented by Dr. Nelson A. Castillo. The information should not be taken as legal advice for any individual, case or situation. This column may be considered an advertisement under the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys in several states, including California and New York. Consult with an immigration attorney for personalized legal advice before beginning any immigration proceedings.