TN 9 (12-00)

SI 00502.001 1996-1998 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Alien Changes — General

A. Background

1. Eligibility for SSI

a. 1996 Changes

On 8/22/96, Public Law (P.L.) 104-193, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, was enacted. P.L. 104-193 changed policy with respect to aliens who could receive SSI.

Under the legislation, fewer aliens were eligible for SSI than were eligible under prior law. To be eligible for SSI under P.L. 104-193, an alien had to be a "qualified alien" and had to be in an eligible alien category (in addition to meeting all other relevant factors of eligibility). These rules applied to aliens who had been receiving benefits on 8/22/96, as well as aliens who filed for SSI on or after that date.

On 9/30/96, P.L. 104-208, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, was enacted. P.L. 104-208 made additional changes to the alien eligibility rules.

For historical reference purposes only, the POMS instructions that were issued as a result of the 1996 changes in SSI alien law are contained in SI 00502.155. Those instructions are now obsolete.

b. 1997 Changes

On 8/5/97, P.L. 105-33, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, made further changes to the SSI alien eligibility rules. Under P.L. 105-33, more categories of aliens could be eligible for SSI than under the 1996 laws. For some categories of aliens--for example, certain refugees and asylees -- P.L. 105-33 permitted a longer SSI eligibility period (7 years). The 1997 law also provided that most qualified aliens who were receiving SSI benefits on 8/22/96 would have their alien eligibility (and, as a result, their SSI benefits) continued, provided all other eligibility requirements were met. The alien eligibility of these individuals was "grandfathered."

c. 1998 Changes

On 10/28/98, P.L. 105-306, the Noncitizen Benefit Clarification and Other Technical Amendments Act of 1998, further changed the SSI alien eligibility rules by "grandfathering" nonqualified aliens who were receiving SSI benefits on 8/22/96. These were aliens who had been receiving SSI on 8/22/96 based on a determination that they were permanently residing in the U.S. under color of law (PRUCOL).

2. Sponsor-to-Alien Deeming

Generally, aliens who seek admission to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents must establish that they will not become "public charges." Many aliens establish that they will not become public charges by having sponsors pledge to support them by signing affidavits of support. Prior to the 1996 changes in SSI alien law, courts had ruled that the affidavit of support then in use by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not constitute a legally enforceable contract.

P.L. 104-193, as amended by P.L. 104-208, required the U.S. Attorney General to formulate a new, legally enforceable affidavit of support. Under this legislation, the period for which sponsor-to-alien deeming applies and the amount of income and resources deemed from the sponsor and his/her spouse to the alien are governed by the type of affidavit signed by the sponsor.

For aliens whose sponsors sign the new, legally enforceable affidavit of support, the law requires that if those aliens receive Federal means-tested public benefits, which include SSI benefits, their sponsors must reimburse the Federal Government in the amount of those benefits. Sponsors must also advise the Federal Government of any changes in their addresses.

Information on sponsor-to-alien deeming is contained in SI 00502.200. Additional instructions on the new deeming rules will be issued at a future date.

B. References

  • Basic SSI Alien Eligibility Requirements, SI 00502.100

  • Exemption from Alien Provisions for Certain Noncitizen Indians, SI 00502.105

  • Time Limited Eligibility for Certain Aliens, SI 00502.106

  • General Alien Development, SI 00502.110

  • Verification of Alien Eligibility with DHS, SI 00502.115

  • Qualified Alien Status Based on Battery or Extreme Cruelty By a Family Member, SI 00502.116

  • Eligibility on the Basis of Receiving SSI Benefits on an Application Filed Before January 1, 1979, SI 00502.120