Immigration and Unemployment Compensation: Frequently Asked Questions

Applying for unemployment compensation can be confusing and with COVID-19 causing an economic crisis, this support is more vital than ever. For folks who have questions about how their immigration status may affect their Unemployment Compensation eligibility and application the process can be more difficult, so Philadelphia Legal Assistance prepared this list of Frequently Asked Questions to provide some answers. 

I am not a U.S Citizen, can I qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment?

  • Workers who are legally authorized to work in the United States can qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation.  

Does collecting unemployment count against me as a “public charge”?

  • No.  Unemployment benefits are not included in the public charge analysis.  They are not considered a form of cash assistance. 

Will unemployment ask for proof of work authorization?

  • When you apply, you will be asked for your A-number.  Later, you may receive a letter requesting copies or scans of your work authorization documentation.  Lawful permanent residents can provide copies of a permanent resident card (front and back) and a social security card (front and back). Unemployment accepts other forms of proof as well, so you can send a copy of whatever work authorization document(s) you have.

My employer has not given me a return date, how does that affect my unemployment?

  • Typically, this would mean you need to register for PA’s work search website, CareerLink, and perform weekly job searches.  However, during the coronavirus public health crisis those rules do not apply.

I received a letter that lists the wages I received from my employer(s) (Notice of Financial Determination), but it’s not correct.  What do I do?

  • If you receive a Notice of Financial Determination and you see that wages are missing, it means your employer did not report them.  You should file an appeal and ask unemployment to investigate.  If you have proof of wages received, you should send those to unemployment.

I don’t feel comfortable speaking or reading English.  Can someone help me?

  • You can request an interpreter  by calling the state-wide unemployment telephone number, 1-888-313-7284.  The initial application for unemployment is available in Spanish online, and the PA Unemployment Compensation website ( also allows you to view all of its pages in Spanish.