Learn How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

United States unemployment benefits are available to workers who have recently lost their jobs and need financial assistance while between jobs.

The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program is operated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on a national, or federal, level. However, each individual state can also manage its own program. This might mean varied rules for eligibility or for applying or maintaining benefits.

It is vital that you review your specific state’s program to make sure you understand and meet all the requirements.

Generally, unemployment benefits are available to workers who have recently lost their jobs and have not yet found new employment. The amount you could receive and the length of time for which you could receive assistance might vary state by state, however.

You should always review the specifics before submitting an application in your state of residence. Also take note if you live in one state but worked in another state and be sure to review the requirements of both states to ensure you file with the correct one.

Discover the Application Requirements for Unemployment Benefits

Remember that your state’s rules could vary from the national guidelines set by the DOL, so be sure to confirm before applying. The general requirements to apply for unemployment benefits in the U.S. include the following main points.

Cause of Unemployment

Workers who have lost employment through no fault of their own may apply. This could include former workers now unemployed due to layoffs or even a reduction in working hours. Make sure to confirm these details with your state agency first.

Previous Wages

There are usually wage requirements you must have met while employed. These can vary based on where you live and the cost of living in that area.

You will need to reveal your wage and employment history when you apply but you should first confirm your state’s requirements. Gather the details of any wages you received over the previous 18 months before beginning the application.

Residency and Citizenship

You will need to prove your residency and citizenship or valid immigration status to receive your unemployment insurance. Your contact information and mailing address will be required for your application.

Be sure to obtain proof of your residency and citizenship or legal immigration status before beginning your application.

Find Out How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

To apply for unemployment benefits in the U.S., you will need to first ensure you meet all the requirements set by the DOL and by your state administration. If you meet the qualification standards, then you can opt to submit your application according to your state requirements.

This could permit an online application, or an application submitted by mail, in person or even by phone. Your state will determine its own acceptable application methods, so be sure to review those first to avoid wasting your time.

You must apply for benefits in the state where you currently reside. If you lost your job in another state, then you should relay those details to the appropriate offices in your state of residence.

The option for unemployment benefits is a nationwide program, so you can rest assured that you will receive assistance that you qualify to receive regardless of the state borders between your work and home.

The application itself will require you to submit various details regarding who you are, where you live, where you work and what you earned while there. You should gather all of the following details in preparation for the application:

  • Your full legal name, date of birth and Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Your contact details, including your mailing address in the state where you are applying for help
  • The details of your former employer, including the name, address and phone number
  • The dates of your employment
  • The reason for your unemployment
  • The number of gross wages you earned while employed

If you were not employed at that job for at least the past 18 months, then you should also be prepared to provide the same details for any other employer you had during that time period.

Discover Where to Apply for Unemployment Insurance

Where to submit an unemployment benefits application will vary state by state. Your specific state agency will accept certain methods of applying, but you must confirm those details first. Generally, many states will accept an online application submitted through their state portal for unemployment assistance.

If you cannot or do not want to apply online, then you can review the other acceptable methods provided. There might be a PDF version of the application that you can download and print to complete at home and mail to the appropriate office.

If you decide to mail your application, be sure to contact the office prior to submitting it to confirm the address to mail it to and to ask about any supporting documentation that might be required. You typically do not need to submit any documentation by mail but be sure to check so you can avoid any delays in processing your claims.

Finally, your state agency might allow you to submit your application in person or by phone. If you need extra assistance completing your application, you should try to submit it in person. You can also receive the assistance of a friend or family member for certain applications, as long as the person helping you is identified and authorized to assist you.

Find Out When to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

Generally speaking, you should submit your application for unemployment assistance as soon as you need the financial help. Some states might have standard waiting periods, which could apply to when you are allowed to submit your application after losing your job.

This waiting period could also apply to the standard time period you will have to wait between submitting your application and qualifying to receive assistance. In both cases, be sure to review the details with your state agency as these can vary state by state.

Some states might also require an interview in person to review your application details. If this is the case, try to schedule your interview as early as possible so you can begin receiving assistance right away.

Typically, your benefits will extend back to the date of application, but you still do not want to wait too long between losing your job and finally receiving benefits.