Does Immigration Status Impact a Workers’ Comp Claim?

Immigration Status Impact a Workers' Comp ClaimWorkers injured on the job may still have benefit eligibility for a workers’ comp claim, even if they do not have legal immigration status. Read on for the details and requirements.

Estimates suggest as many as 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. as of 2017. Despite not having legal authorization to work in America, many such people still hold jobs working for U.S. employers.

Undocumented workers who suffer occupational injuries often do not pursue the benefits they should receive. Worse, in other cases, unscrupulous employers may wrongly tell them they cannot claim benefits or inappropriately deny them the benefits they deserve.

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Undocumented Status Does Not Bar Benefit Recovery

Employees with qualifying injuries generally have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of their immigration status. The types of benefits those injured on the job may receive through their states’ programs include the coverage of reasonable and necessary medical expenses, the coverage of rehabilitation costs, partial wage replacement, and survivor benefits for families of workers who suffer fatal work-related injuries.

Federally mandated and state-governed, workers’ compensation typically covers those injuries suffered on the job and out of the course of performing job-related activities. Many states, including Arizona, California, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Virginia, specifically include undocumented immigrant workers in their covered employees.

Reasons for Claims Denials

Employers or their insurance carriers cannot reject workers’ compensation claims for employees injured at work because of their immigration status, but several other reasons may result in claims denials.

Some of the most common of these include…

  • the injured worker having a pre-existing condition that caused or contributed to their injuries
  • they’re faking the injury
  • they suffered the injury while engaged in nonwork activities such as horseplay
  • they’re dealing with alcohol or drug use – which is causing their accidents and the resulting injuries

Injuries suffered by immigrant nurses and others while driving to or from work, or while on an unpaid break do not typically qualify for workers’ compensation and, therefore, may result in claim denial.

Obtain the Right to Work in the U.S.

When immigrating to America, people need permission to work, and not all classifications provide such permission. Only certain categories of foreign nationals may gain lawful employment in the U.S. In addition to citizens and those with lawful permanent residency, people with certain exchange visitor visas, temporary work visas, and seasonal agricultural worker visas may receive work authorization. Other categories of foreign workers may apply for an employment authorization document to allow them to get jobs. Those eligible for such a permit include the following:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees and asylum seekers
  • Fiancés or spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Students seeking certain types of employment
  • Exchange visitors’ spouses with J-2 visas

The government may also grant employment authorization documents to the dependents of foreign government officials, as well as to foreign nationals living in the U.S. while transitioning to lawful permanent residency status.

Whether they have legal immigration status or not, understanding their rights when injured on the job may help people to protect themselves and ensure they receive the benefits they need and deserve.

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