Am I Eligible for Unemployment Insurance? Well, It Depends...


You don’t need to do it the day of your separation, but within a few days you should turn your attention to unemployment benefits.

Each state’s rules are different, so you will want to carefully review your state-specific guidance (which can be found here). However, here’s a quick overview of what to expect.

What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment insurance provides monetary payments to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Guidelines are developed by each state and meet Federal guidelines.

Unemployment insurance requires the individual to register with their state. It may be two-to-three weeks before you begin receiving your check, so it’s recommended that you file as quickly as possible.

Am I Eligible for Unemployment Insurance?

There are a variety of state-specific eligibility requirements. Most states will consider:

  • Length of time you worked for your previous employer

  • Wages earned while working

  • Context in which you lost your job

  • Employment status

The following circumstances could disqualify you from collecting benefits, depending on the state:

  • You quit without good cause

  • You’re self-employed

  • You were fired for misconduct

  • You left to get married

  • You are attending school

  • You are involved in a labor dispute

  • You are an independent contractor

What Information Do I Need to Apply for Unemployment Insurance?

While requirements vary state-to-state, most will require you to have:

  • ID (driver’s license, motor vehicle ID card, alien registration card)

  • Social security number

  • Complete mailing address

  • Telephone number

  • Full company name and addresses of all employers you worked for in the past two years

If applying in-person, it may also be helpful to bring:

  • Copy of your most recent pay stub

  • Employer Registration number or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) of your most recent employer

  • Pen and paper

How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?

Filing will differ for each state. Some states allow you to apply online, some will require you to go in-person. Find more about your state’s specific rules and processes, visit the Department of Labor for your state.

What Else Should I Know?

The process of having to go in-person leaves many feeling down. If possible, go with someone else, whether its colleagues who have also been laid off, or a friend who can keep your mind on other things.

Be sure to bring all necessary paperwork with you to avoid making multiple trips.

Lastly, make sure you understand the tradeoffs you are making by filing for unemployment insurance. For example, you cannot take a contractor position or start your own company and continue to receive unemployment benefits.