Unemployment Application Process

If you've recently lost your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. These benefits are paid through a joint federal-state program to those who are out of work involuntarily and meet their state's other eligibility requirements. (For more on these requirements, see Who Is Eligible for Unemployment?) To collect benefits, you must file an application, following your state's procedures. If you are found eligible, you'll have to claim your benefits every week or two while you remain unemployed.

Gather Information

To complete your application, you'll have to provide information about yourself and your employment. Each state has its own informational requirements and application form, but all require at least some of the following:

  • Identifying information. In addition to your name, address, phone number, and Social Security number, you may need to provide any names and addresses you've used in the past couple of years. You may also have to list your state driver's license number or identification card number.
  • Work history. You'll have to give the name and contact information for your previous employer. You may also have to provide information for any other employers you've worked for in the last year and a half, as well as information on your earnings.
  • Reason for unemployment. You'll have to state why you are not working. If you quit or were fired, you may have to participate in a hearing to determine whether you're eligible for benefits.

File Your Application

Once you've collected the information you need, you can file your application for benefits. Depending on your state's rules, you may be able to file by mail, by phone, or online. Once the state agency reviews your application, it may contact you for an interview, particularly if your eligibility for benefits is in question. If you're found eligible, the state agency will send you a notice of eligibility and let you know how to claim benefits. This notice may also tell you how much you can expect to receive in benefits. (For information on calculating your benefit amount, see How Much Will I Get? Calculating Unemployment Compensation.)

To get information on your state's application process, contact the state unemployment insurance agency. For links to each state's agency, see State Unemployment Agencies.

Claim Your Benefits

If your application is approved, you'll need to file a claim for benefits every week or two. Your state may require you to do this by mailing in a claim form, calling the agency at a particular time, or completing an online form. On the claim form, you'll have to list any wages you've earned during the claim period. (Even if you have some earnings, you may still be eligible for partial unemployment benefits; see Eligibility for Partial Unemployment.) You'll also have to state whether you are still able, available, and looking for work. In some states, you will have to provide information on your job search or other efforts to find work (for example, attending a training program or jobs fair).

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