How to File an Unemployment Claim

You must file for unemployment with your state unemployment insurance agency before you can begin receiving compensation. When you apply for unemployment, the first claim you file is essentially your application for benefits.

Therefore, submitting an unemployment application is different from filing a weekly or bi-weekly claim for receiving ongoing benefits.

Workers wondering how to file for unemployment after they lose their job should note that the process varies from one state to the next. Each state has its own unemployment office, and as a result, also has its own application methods and eligibility criteria. Even though the specific methods and qualifications for getting benefits vary, the overall process is very similar no matter where a claimant lives. Below, workers will learn how to apply for unemployment, including, what information is required and what application methods are available for making an initial claim.

When to File Unemployment Claim Forms

Generally, you should claim unemployment benefits as soon as possible after separating from your job. Most states recommend that you file for benefits during the first week that you lose your job or have your full-time hours cut. Your claim will usually become effective starting on the Sunday of the week that you apply.

With that in mind, some states have instructions that are more specific. For example, certain states specify that you should file for unemployment benefits on Sunday if you worked your full, normal hours during the week that you lost your job. If, on the other hand, you lost your job during the workweek, states may recommend that you file immediately rather than waiting until a specific day of the week. Some states may have even more specific criteria, only allowing you to apply on certain days based on which number your Social Security Number ends with or other identifying information. Keep in mind that the exact procedures vary based on where you live.

Where to Apply for Unemployment

You may be wondering where to file for unemployment if you work and live in different states, or if you have jobs in more than one state. In general, you should contact the unemployment agency in the state where you live in order to start the process. Your home state’s unemployment agency will be able to provide any information you may need on filing claims in other states if necessary. You usually cannot file an unemployment claim in a state where you have not worked in the past two years. However, if you worked in more than one state in the past two years, it is in your best interest to contact each state when you are ready to apply for benefits, as this may increase the amount of compensation you are eligible for.

Information Required for an Unemployment Claim

Before you can file for unemployment online or through any other method, you will need to collect a variety of information. Details about you, your employer and the circumstances of your unemployment will help in determining whether you can receive benefits and how much your compensation will be.

Information about You

When you file for unemployment, be prepared to share basic information about yourself including your full name, date of birth, Social Security Number, address and contact information. Some states will only require a phone number, but you may need to have an email address, especially if you plan to file for unemployment online. To help verify your identity further, the unemployment office may need to know your driver’s license or state ID card number. When you apply for unemployment benefits, some states also require that you include your banking information so that you can set up direct deposit for any compensation you may receive.

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If you are a qualified non-citizen, you will need to have your employment authorization number to verify your eligibility. Furthermore, if you served in the military recently (usually within the 18 months preceding for application date), you will need to include a DD-214 Member Copy 4 form with your application for benefits.

Information about Your Employment

Filing for unemployment will require that you enter various pieces of information about your former employer and work history so that an accurate assessment can be made. Be prepared to enter the following:

  • Your employer’s name, address and contact information
  • The start and end dates of your former employment, including the year, month and day
  • Dates of employment for any other jobs you held in the past two years
  • Your reason for leaving the job
  • Any information you may have on your pension, retirement or other benefits
  • Pay stubs from your most recent employer
  • Whether you will receive severance pay or any other type of payout
  • Your affiliation with any unions or labor groups
  • Your earnings from the past week
  • Whether you have received worker’s compensation in the past two years

Methods of Applying for Unemployment

When deciding where to apply for unemployment, you should consider your working schedule. You can submit an unemployment application online, through the mail, over the phone or in person depending on the policies in your state. Some states may offer additional options, such as faxing your claim or using a video service if you need to communicate using sign language. Contact your state unemployment office to learn the exact application methods available.

When filing through the mail, via fax or in person, you will need to locate the applicable paper application form. In some cases, this form can be printed from the unemployment office’s website, ordered through the mail or even picked up in person.

Many states require you to file an unemployment online initially. Even when not mandatory, making an online unemployment claim is generally the fastest way to start receiving compensation, and as a result, many states recommend using this method. When asking how to apply for unemployment online, note that the process will vary from one state to the next.

In most cases, your state unemployment office will require you to create an online account when submitting your first claim. If you are unable to file for unemployment using your own computer, do not fret as local workforce offices are equipped with computers for use to file claims and even search for work. When you apply online, be sure to save your login information if you have created an account. You will need these details to use your account if you are approved for benefits.

Registering for Work after an Unemployment Claim

Once you apply for unemployment, your state may require you to complete a process known as registering for work. In many states, your registration is completed automatically when you apply for benefits. Other times, you have to register for work separately. Not all states require this part of the application process, but completing it may be in your best interest even if it is not mandatory. Registering to work will give you access to a variety of resources, including referrals to training programs and access to job search tools.

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