Employment and Training Administration
Washington, D. C. 20213






December 1, 1982




November 30,1983











Acting Administrator
for Regional Management




Payment of Unemployment Benefits to Illegal Aliens


  1. Purpose. To inform State employment security agency (SESA) Administrators of the appropriate procedures for preventing and detecting payment of unemployment benefits to illegal aliens.

  2. Background. Section 3304(a)(14) of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) requires SESAs to take certain actions regarding aliens filing claims for unemployment compensation. The intent of these laws is, in brief, to prohibit paying unemployment compensation to an alien whose wage credits are based on services performed while the alien was not legally entitled to employment within the United States. Lack of benefit entitlement can stem from either illegal entry or employment obtained in violation of the alien's status or residence.

    Recently, pilot studies were begun to determine the extent to which illegal aliens were filing for unemployment benefits. Several SESAs are participating in the study in cooperation with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and with technical assistance from ETA. In two sites the studies were initiated after the INS found evidence that an illegal alien apprehended for deportation was collecting benefits at the time the individual was apprehended. The preliminary findings indicate potentially widespread abuse of the unemployment insurance program by illegal aliens.

    The determination of citizenship/alien status is normally a part of the initial claimstaking process. If an individual indicates that he or she is not a citizen, the individual should be asked to furnish proof of legal alien status with authorization to work. Most often, the document furnished as proof of legal alien status with authorization to work is an Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form 1-551 or Form 1-151) or "green card.". The INS advises that this document is the most counterfeited or altered of all immigration documents. On the Alien Registration Receipt Card is an alien registration number, the "A" number which can be verified with the INS.

    Although the procedures vary somewhat among the sites, two basic approaches are being used by the SESAs participating in the pilot studies to determine whether illegal aliens are filing for unemployment benefits. The first approach involves verifying with INS the authenticity of an alien's immigration document, most often the Alien Registration Receipt Card. The second is a crossmatch with unemployment insurance records of social security numbers obtained from aliens apprehended for deportation.

    While only a small stage of individuals filing initial claims are aliens, the preliminary findings from the pilot studies show that a substantial number of these aliens (as high as 40%) are verified by INS as being illegal aliens who are not authorized to work. In many cases, the alien registration number on the claimant's document was not on file with INS, indicating the immigration document was counterfeit. In other cases, the documents may have been altered because the name, date of birth, or sex on the claimant's card did not agree with the data in INS records.

    In the case of aliens apprehended for deportation, the INS estimates that between 10 to 15 percent have a social security number in their possession. Several SESAs matched the social security numbers of illegal aliens deported from their States over a period of several months with UI benefits payment records for the last 3 Years, and in some cases wage records. A number of deported aliens (as high as 25 percent) had recent claims activity and, in some cases, claims were currently filed under the social security number of the deported alien.

    The sizeable amounts of unemployment benefits being improperly paid to illegal aliens represents an unwarranted drain on State trust funds at a time when the issue of Trust Fund solvency is particularly critical. Accordingly, all SESAs need to take action to implement procedures for preventing and detesting payments of benefits to illegal aliens.

  3. Appropriate Procedures. Unemployment benefit payments to illegal aliens can, largely, be prevented by more careful verification before a first payment is made. Following is the recommended general procedure for implementing a verification system. Specific procedures must be developed jointly with the INS.

    1. When a claimant indicates that he or she is not a U.S. citizen, the claimant should be asked to produce his or her immigration document. If the claimant does not have a document, he or she should be advised that no determination of eligibility will be made until such time as the claimant returns to the local office with the required document.

    2. The claimant's immigration document, which most often will be an Alien Registration Receipt Card, should be carefully examined. First, local office staff should ensure the document is one permitting employment in the U.S. Second, the name, date of birth, and sex on the immigration document should be compared with information on the initial claim form.

    3. A photocopy of both sides of the immigration document should be made. If the local office does not have photocopy equipment, local office staff should hand copy the form number of the immigration document, the individual's name as it appears on the document, the date of birth, and the "A" number appearing on the document. For interstate claims, the agent State should transfer the information - either written on, or attached to the Interstate Initial Claim Form (IB-1)--to the liable State for verification.

    4. The authenticity of the document should be verified with INS, as soon as possible so as not to delay first payments to eligible aliens. The most efficient procedure for verifying documentation will depend upon volumes, location of INS offices, and capabilities of the INS office involved. Most, but not all INS offices have terminals with on-line access to the central computer. In some cases, it may be possible to call the INS office at the time the claim is filed and get an immediate response. In other situations, copies of documents may be submitted on a schedule, or a telephone contact can be scheduled once a week or as needed.

      In most cases, it will be possible to obtain verification before a first payment is due. However, some INS offices may not be able to respond timely. In these cases, SESAs may wish to proceed with the first. payment. and readjudicate the claim, if necessary, upon receipt of information from INS.

    5. SESAs should follow normal claimant call-in and nonmonetary determination procedures in adjudicating issues involving alien status. In this regard, there may be cases where INS records indicate the claimant is an illegal alien, but the claimant, in response to the call-in notice, alleges he or she is a legal alien with authorization to work. It is possible that the alien's status has changed and the INS record was not updated or the information is not accurate. Thus, if the issue cannot be resolved immediately with INS, SESAs should be guided by the "preponderence of evidence" requirement in Section 3304(a)(14)(C) of FUTA and not deny benefits until such time as the aliens status can be positively verified by INS.

    6. To the extent feasible, SESAs should also periodically obtain from the INS, the social security numbers and names of individuals apprehended for deportation within their State. These social security numbers should be matched against recent benefit payment records to determine if claims have been filed. If a claim has been filed and it appears to be improper SESAs should again, follow normal claimant call-in and nonmonetary determination procedures in adjudicating the issues.

      SESAs with wage records should consider matching the social. security numbers with the wage record file. Any wage credits on file under the social security number of a deported alien should be flagged to prevent their use in establishing a claim for benefits.

  4. Arrival-Departure Records.  A Claimant may submit a Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, as proof of legal alien status. The Arrival-Departure Record is issued to nonimmigrants for a specified period of time. The INS advises that the form's use is limited to recording the entry and exit of nonimmigrant aliens, in direct association with valid passports. Accordingly, the I-94 should not be accepted as sole documentation of legal status. Individuals should show corroborative evidence, i.e., a valid passport with visa.

    The Form I-94 will show if the individual is authorized to work and contains an expiration date. Any extensions of stay subsequently granted are shown on the reverse of the form. SESAs should examine the form to determine whether employment is authorized and whether or not the card has expired.

    The INS ability to validate the authenticity of Arrival-Departure Records varies among district offices. In most cases, INS cannot be expected to validate these forms. However, the extent to which these documents can be verified and any verification procedures should be addressed when developing procedures for verifying other immigration documents.

  5. INS Cooperation.  The ETA national office has discussed these suggested procedures with the INS national office. The INS is willing to cooperate with the States because the INS believes the nonpayment of benefits to illegal aliens removes an incentive for them to return to or remain in the U.S. and is notifying its district offices of the joint effort. The INS has given its assurance that the SESAs will not be called upon to enforce immigration laws nor will the SESAs have to release data contrary to confidentiality provisions in State 1aw. However, if State law permits, SESAs are encouraged to cooperate with INS in providing information on illegal aliens.

    ETA's regional offices have been requested to make the initial contact with the appropriate INS offices and assist SESAs in developing procedures for verifying immigration documents and obtaining social security numbers of deported aliens.

  6. Action Required.  SESAs are requested to:

    1. Work with ETA regional offices and INS authorities in developing suitable procedures.

    2. Implement these procedures as soon as feasible.

    3. Advise INS offices, periodically and to the extent permitted by State law, of the results of the verification procedures.

  7. nquiries.  Questions may be directed to the appropriate ETA regional office.