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How to Qualify For Unemployment Benefits if a Spouse Gets a Job Transfer in the US

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Leaving your job and relocating to follow your spouse on a work assignment can be challenging. An article by the UN Special indicates that most ‘following spouses’ have a difficult time finding employment when they relocate. This is especially true for women who have to care for their children while their spouses work. Being able to access following spouse unemployment benefits after relocation is largely dependent on the unemployment laws of each state. Here’s how to qualify for the benefits:

Distance of relocation

The Unemployment Compensation Office in the state where you had your job will determine whether you are eligible for benefits based on how far you are relocating. You could be eligible for benefits if your spouse is transferred out of state. It is also possible to access benefits for in-state relocations if your new location is too far from your workplace. You may not qualify if the compensation office determines that you can reasonably commute to your workplace from your new location.

Good cause vs. military relocation

In some states, for example, California, New Hampshire and Minnesota, you can access unemployment benefits on the basis of ‘good cause’ – this includes voluntarily leaving your job to follow your spouse on any type of job transfer. In other states such as Connecticut, Kentucky and Nevada, spouses can only access unemployment benefits if they are following a military spouse on a job assignment. Check with your state’s specific requirements to see whether you are qualified for benefits by virtue of any job transfer or specifically for military transfers.


Nature of relationship

In most states, you must be legally married to be able to access following spouse benefits. If you and your partner are just about to get married, you may be able to apply for benefits in some states. Only a few states allow ‘domestic partners’, or lovers who live together, but are not legally married, to access benefits if one of them gets a job transfer.

Difference in state laws

The laws of the state where you were employed apply to your benefits claim. It is much easier to qualify for benefits if the state where you were employed has such a provision in their laws and if the same provision is also applicable in the state where you are relocating. In case the state, where you were employed, does not allow unemployment benefits for trailing spouses, it can be almost impossible for you to file for benefits even if your new state allows trailing spouse benefits.

Benefits limitations

As a following spouse, you need to be actively looking for work for at least six months to qualify for unemployment benefits. Additionally, the amount you can collect diminishes with time and depends on your previous wage. Do not wait too long after the transfer before applying.

The unemployment compensation office is in charge of processing your claim for unemployment benefits. If the laws in your new and old state differ, it can be difficult to make your case. What is really important is to ensure that you meet basic qualification requirements, such as actively looking for a job and proving that your decision to leave employment was based on a good cause.