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Whether a Non-Immigrant visa holder is eligible for unemployment benefit? Due to COVID-19/ Economy shutdown, delays my job hunt approach. I wonder, whether i am eligible for unemployment benefit in the state of NJ?

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  • Did you work in the US previously? What nonimmigrant status are you on right now?
    – user102008
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 21:43
  • Well.. this is the first time in our life time.. we are in the middle of global pandemic .. i was able to have a job even during the financial crisis...
    – goofyui
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 2:10

2 Answers 2

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Unemployment benefits exist for those whose previous employer purchased unemployment insurance (typically because of a state mandate). No previous employment = no benefits.

That's backed up here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance

...you usually qualify if you:

  • Are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
  • Meet work and wage requirements. You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a "base period." (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.)
  • Meet any additional state requirements...

I've highlighted the two phrases which require you to have already been employed.

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Ben Voigt covered the fact that to get unemployment benefits, you need to have worked recently (in the US or Canada) and have left work for reasons other than voluntary quit or misconduct. This is true for everyone, not just people in nonimmigrant status.

In addition, since you mentioned that you are in nonimmigrant status, there is also the issue that you must be authorized to work in the US at the time you want to get unemployment benefits to qualify. This is because you must continue to be "able and available" to work at the time you receive unemployment benefits, and part of that involves being authorized to work in the US.

For example, in California's benefit determination guide, in the Present Status Determinations for aliens subsection, scroll down to the "1. Availability (A&A) Determinations", it says:

Title 22, Section 1253(c)-l(b) incorporates portions of IRCA, and provides:

"General Rule. A claimant is available for work during the week for which he or she claims benefits if the claimant is ready, willing, and able to accept suitable employment or has good cause for any restriction on his or her readiness, willingness, or ability to accept such employment and, notwithstanding such a restriction, a substantial field of employment remains open to the claimant in his or her labor market. A claimant is not available for work if he or she is unable to establish his or her employment eligibility upon hire in accordance with the requirements of Section 274A(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC 1324a(b)."

Other states have similar rules.

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