Number of Newly Arrived Aliens Who Receive Supplemental Security Income Needs To Be Reduced

Gao ID: HRD-78-50 February 22, 1978

Although the Immigration and Nationality Act has provisions directed at preventing newly arrived aliens from receiving public assistance, many do receive assistance, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI). About 37,500 newly arrived aliens in five States receive about $72 million in SSI benefits annually, and about $16 million of this is paid to refugees who are exempt from the act's public charge provisions.

The SSI program does not have a residency requirement for aliens. Newly arrived aliens need only to be admitted for permanent residency or to be refugees in order to receive SSI. In most cases, aliens apply for SSI because their sponsors, who promised in affidavits of support to keep them off public assistance, do not keep their promises. Sponsors cannot be forced to pay for assistance because the courts have ruled that the affidavits are unenforceable. Aliens are deportable as public charges only if assistance is not repaid on demand. However, repayment is not required under the SSI program and other assistance programs. Better screening of visa applicants, stricter income criteria for judging the ability of the sponsor to support the alien, and increased coordination concerning the alien's overseas assets could reduce the number of newly arrived aliens receiving SSI.


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