Nationality and social welfare

Health, old age, disability, and family related benefits

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 August 2009
Last updated 24 August 2009


See Shiomi v SSA, 1973-1989: Nationality clause nullification not retroactive for disability benefits for overview of court cases related to nationality and various pension benefits.


Restrictions in United States

Chapter 14 of Title 8 of the United States Code concerns "Restricting Welfare and Public Benefits for Aliens". The chapter contains an introductory section, and several subchapters each of which includes a number of sections.

The content of Chapter 14 is typical of federal codes in that they constitute a veritable maze of provisions concerning eligibility for benefits based on "citizenship, alienage, or immigration status".

Chapter 14 begins with Section 1601, which describes federal "national policy" concerning welfare and immigrations, as follows (adapted from website of Legal Information Institute of Cornell University Law School, retrieved 25 August 2009).

United States Code (USC)

8 U.S.C. 1601

USC Title 8: Aliens and Nationality

Chapter 14: Restricting Welfare and Public Benefits for Aliens

Section 1601: Statements of national policy concerning welfare and immigration

The Congress makes the following statements concerning national policy with respect to welfare and immigration:

(1) Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of United States immigration law since this country's earliest immigration statutes.

(2) It continues to be the immigration policy of the United States that?

(A) aliens within the Nationfs borders not depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, their sponsors, and private organizations, and

(B) the availability of public benefits not constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States.

(3) Despite the principle of self-sufficiency, aliens have been applying for and receiving public benefits from Federal, State, and local governments at increasing rates.

(4) Current eligibility rules for public assistance and unenforceable financial support agreements have proved wholly incapable of assuring that individual aliens not burden the public benefits system.

(5) It is a compelling government interest to enact new rules for eligibility and sponsorship agreements in order to assure that aliens be self-reliant in accordance with national immigration policy.

(6) It is a compelling government interest to remove the incentive for illegal immigration provided by the availability of public benefits.

(7) With respect to the State authority to make determinations concerning the eligibility of qualified aliens for public benefits in this chapter, a State that chooses to follow the Federal classification in determining the eligibility of such aliens for public assistance shall be considered to have chosen the least restrictive means available for achieving the compelling governmental interest of assuring that aliens be self-reliant in accordance with national immigration policy.