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bluebird80

Can Applying for California SDI benefits affect US citizenship application?

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Hi all,

We are expecting a baby soon, and my wife is a permanent resident. In California she is entitled to apply for maternity benefits (payment equal to 55% of her salary) through California State Disability Insurance for about 4 weeks before her due date and until 6 weeks post-partum. She is then also entitled to take additional 6 weeks of payed family leave for bonding for a new child, again, through California State Disability Insurance. She qualifies for both of these (since she has been employed, earning the necessary amount of wages and paying the deductions for the State Insurance).

From what we could gather from the California EDD program (through which these benefits are issued) for this type of payment they don't check neither immigration nor US citizenship status, neither was it listed anywhere that you are required to be a US citizen to get the payments (only that you have worked for such and such time, earned a minimal amount of wages and payed into the insurance). However, our worry/ question is whether this could somehow affect her permanent residency status or ability to apply for US citizenship later. It is a benefit that is payed through the State (although not the Federal government)- could this mean that at some point US immigration could consider her a public charge for taking advantage of the Maternity Leave payments? Could there be other issues?

My thoughts on this are that:

1) Even if they do, we found somewhere that this should have no affect once she is already a permanent resident and this should have no effect on US citizenship application (but perhaps it could make her "look bad" even though on paper they should not discriminate based on that).

2) It's a temporary situation and a temporary disability payment- it's not permanent, meaning that it's not the case that she'll rely on this for the rest of her life, which, from what we could understand is more or less the definition of "public charge" (someone who needs to rely on government aid to survive).

At any case, we'd like to hear some thoughts on this, and to see if there might be other issues or potential problems with her permanent residency or future citizenship application. And if anyone in California has been in this situation and taken advantage of the SDI benefits (because of pregnancy) we'd love to hear from them!

Appreciate any input!

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SDI is not a means tested benefit so you are fine as long as you are not abusing the system. During my interview, IO was really particular about me applying for any benefits. I did use my unemployment at one point during a job transition but IO said it was ok as I did not abuse it.

Edited by huy_le

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SDI is not a means tested benefit so you are fine as long as you are not abusing the system. During my interview, IO was really particular about me applying for any benefits. I did use my unemployment at one point during a job transition but IO said it was ok as I did not abuse it.

Thanks for the reply! Was it during the Naturalization interview that the IO asked about the benefits? I found somewhere online that you should not be denied citizenship even if you used means-tested public benefits, so I am a bit surprised that they would ask this at all...

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It was during my naturalization interview that IO asked this. Think about it, why do you need to have a sponsor when you apply for GC? It is because US government does not want you to leech off of the social benefits.

Thanks for the reply! Was it during the Naturalization interview that the IO asked about the benefits? I found somewhere online that you should not be denied citizenship even if you used means-tested public benefits, so I am a bit surprised that they would ask this at all...

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It was during my naturalization interview that IO asked this. Think about it, why do you need to have a sponsor when you apply for GC? It is because US government does not want you to leech off of the social benefits.

Right, which is why they check this at your GC interview. But I read on multiple websites that receiving benefits (even means tested) should not affect US citizenship application, hence I am confused why they would even ask about this at the citizenship interview...

Here's one such source that says that getting public benefits (of any type) as long as you have not abused the system should not affect citizenship application:

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/will-receiving-public-benefits-hurt-your-chances-us-citizenship.html

I am therefore wondering how much USCIS is following that guideline, if they ask applicants this question during naturalization interviews...

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I was not saying that they would deny you on the spot if you applied for benefits. What I am trying to say is applying for means tested benefits would raise a bigger red flag and that they would need to take a closer look to see if you abused the system. It will eventually boil down to whether or not you are leeching off of the system. My IO asked me about when I received my unemployment and for how long, I guess to determine if I was abusing the system.

Right, which is why they check this at your GC interview. But I read on multiple websites that receiving benefits (even means tested) should not affect US citizenship application, hence I am confused why they would even ask about this at the citizenship interview...

Here's one such source that says that getting public benefits (of any type) as long as you have not abused the system should not affect citizenship application:

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/will-receiving-public-benefits-hurt-your-chances-us-citizenship.html

I am therefore wondering how much USCIS is following that guideline, if they ask applicants this question during naturalization interviews...

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Hmm... In this situation would it be best if my wife retracts her SDI claim (it has already been approved), forfeits the money and goes on unpaid maternity leave, in order to avoid any potential issues and additional questions during naturalization?

We haven't even really thought about this, we didn't think that this would be an issue at all, but since USCIS seem to inquire so vigorously about this, maybe we should just not take the money?

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Hmm... In this situation would it be best if my wife retracts her SDI claim (it has already been approved), forfeits the money and goes on unpaid maternity leave, in order to avoid any potential issues and additional questions during naturalization?

We haven't even really thought about this, we didn't think that this would be an issue at all, but since USCIS seem to inquire so vigorously about this, maybe we should just not take the money?

It's not an issue. Take the money.

Hmm... In this situation would it be best if my wife retracts her SDI claim (it has already been approved), forfeits the money and goes on unpaid maternity leave, in order to avoid any potential issues and additional questions during naturalization?

We haven't even really thought about this, we didn't think that this would be an issue at all, but since USCIS seem to inquire so vigorously about this, maybe we should just not take the money?

It's not an issue. Take the money.

Hmm... In this situation would it be best if my wife retracts her SDI claim (it has already been approved), forfeits the money and goes on unpaid maternity leave, in order to avoid any potential issues and additional questions during naturalization?

We haven't even really thought about this, we didn't think that this would be an issue at all, but since USCIS seem to inquire so vigorously about this, maybe we should just not take the money?

It's not an issue. Take the money.

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Nope, I don't think you should, it's your deserved benefits just like my unemployment (I worked and paid tax beforehand). Just disclose and be truthful about it if asked. I don't see any potential problem unless your wife's employer already pays her for maternity leave and you want to claim double with government, which is obviously not the case from your description. I say take the money, use it, pay tax if any (I did with my unemployment), then be honest about it if asked and you should be fine.

Hmm... In this situation would it be best if my wife retracts her SDI claim (it has already been approved), forfeits the money and goes on unpaid maternity leave, in order to avoid any potential issues and additional questions during naturalization?

We haven't even really thought about this, we didn't think that this would be an issue at all, but since USCIS seem to inquire so vigorously about this, maybe we should just not take the money?

Edited by huy_le

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