Step 1: Contact your State Unemployment agency.
Unemployment insurance benefits are administered through local state offices. You must apply directly with the unemployment agency in your area to receive benefits.
Step 2: Determine eligibility.
To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, you must have become unemployed through no fault of your own and be willing and able to work. Each state has different eligibility requirements regarding minimum income and hours worked. Your local unemployment agency will be able to provide this information.
Step 3: File your claim.
Nearly all unemployment agencies accept claims online. Submitting online claims helps speed up the claims process and reduce errors. If you prefer to file your claim via mail or phone, those options are available in some states. You will need to provide the following information when you apply:
- Social security number
- Driver’s license or state ID number
- Most recent date of employment
- 18 months of employment history
- Employer information, including address and phone number
- Dates of employment
- Wages earned
- Reason for becoming unemployed
- Pending payments from past employers (e.g. cashing out vacation time)
- Confirmation that you are willing and available to work
Step 4: Wait for a ruling.
Most claims are processed within 10 business days. You may be contacted by your unemployment agency if there are questions about your claim or certain information needs to be confirmed. Many states also conduct phone interviews prior to ruling to help eliminate unemployment insurance fraud. During the interview you will be asked basic questions about your employment history and other information provided in your claim.
Step 5: Make an appointment at your America’s Job Center (Employment Office).
You must attend this meeting at your America’s Job Center to receive unemployment insurance benefits. The center will offer workshops, one on one consulting and other job search services to help you get back to work.
To find a center near you, visit the USA Job Center or contact your State Unemployment agency.
Step 6: Look for a new job.
Individuals receiving unemployment benefits are required to search for a new job in order to maintain eligibility. It is your responsibility to look for suitable work and you are expected to pursue job leads every week. All job offers should be reported in your weekly claim.
Step 7: Submit your weekly claim.
Once you begin receiving payments, you are expected to file weekly claims to maintain eligibility. You should fill out the claims truthfully and on time. If you don’t, claims may be delayed and/or stopped.
For more information, consult our Ultimate Guide to Unemployment.