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How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits in the U.S.

United States workers who have recently lost their jobs can file for unemployment and start getting government benefits every month. The federal program in charge of unemployment payments in the country is the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program of the U.S. Department of Labor.

However, before you apply for unemployment benefits, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements. Generally, the Department of Labor has broad guidelines about how to run the program, like the amount of benefits to be paid, the requirements and the application methods.

Keep in mind that the unemployment insurance agency of your home state may set additional unemployment registration requirements, and allow different methods of application. So before you file for an unemployment claim, get to know the details of your state’s UI procedures.

Normally, states let you apply through the internet and give instructions on how to apply for unemployment online. However, depending on your state’s UI policy, you may have the option to file for unemployment by mailing your application or sharing your personal information by phone.

Learn How To Apply for Unemployment Benefits in the U.S.

To apply for unemployment benefits in the U.S. you have to file for an unemployment claim with your state UI agency. You will need to start the process in the state you were working in.

So if you last worked in a different state than the one you live in today or you have different jobs throughout the country, get information from the UI office of the state you live in today.

To apply for unemployment you will need to first meet your state’s UI requirements, which are:

  • To have lost your job through no fault of your own, whether because your working hours were reduced or because of layoffs.
  • To have earned a minimum amount of money in the months before you lost your job and to be actively looking for a job.
  • Your full name and Social Security Number
  • Your contact information, such as your phone number and your resident and mailing addresses

You will also be expected to share information on the job or jobs you had in the last 18 months before losing your job, including:

  • The dates of your employment and the reason you lost your job
  • Your employers’ names, addresses and phone numbers
  • The amount of gross wages earned

If you meet the requirements mentioned before, you can start the process to file for unemployment benefits through one of the methods available to you. Certain states also let you get help from a close friend or a relative during the unemployment registration process.

For example, if you applying for UI benefits in New York and you have a disability, another person can help you apply for unemployment benefits. However, you have to be present every step of the way and you will be responsible for his or her actions when it comes to your UI benefits application.

How To Prepare to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

Before starting your unemployment registration application, you will need to prepare and put together documents and information. Some state Unemployment Insurance offices may let you apply for unemployment benefits even if you cannot submit all necessary documents during the initial application.

However, you will need to turn in the data and paperwork that is missing later, delaying the benefits.

State Unemployment Insurance agencies will also ask you to give identification documents like your valid driver’s license or state ID card to prove your identity and citizenship.

Note: The documents and information requirements mentioned before may change from state to state.

Where to Sign Up for Unemployment Benefits

After gathering everything you need to complete the unemployment application process, you have to learn where to apply for unemployment in your state. Generally, you can submit an online application for unemployment through the website of your state UI agency.

However, some applicants cannot apply online. Depending on your state’s policies and procedures, you may also be able to turn in your application in person or over the phone.

U.S. states generally have a one-week waiting period after you turning your UI application. If your application is accepted, you will receive your benefits within two to three weeks.

What to Do After Submitting Your UI Benefits Claim

After you apply for unemployment benefits in your state, you will have to complete a few other tasks before getting your paychecks every week or every other week. These mandatory tasks change from state to state.

To qualify for unemployment benefits you need to be actively looking for a job. To do so, you will need to register for work through a local workforce center. Certain states like Colorado will also ask you to fill out a Verification of Personal Information form to check your identity.

Find an unemployment office.