What Is the Statute of Limitations on Applying for Unemployment?


The term "statute of limitations" is usually used to describe the time period in which a suit can be filed in court against an individual for violating the law. Used colloquially, the term refers to the time period in which an individual is able to take a particular legal action. While there is no statute of limitations on unemployment benefits per se, a person must usually file before a certain date if he wishes to be eligible.

Unemployment Benefits

  • When a person loses his job, he is often eligible to receive benefits from the state government that can be used to pay bills while he looks for new work. To receive these unemployment benefits, the individual must apply to a state agency, which will determine whether he is eligible. Generally, the individual will want to apply soon after he has been fired, as he may be rendered ineligible after a certain period of time.

State Laws

  • Each state has its own set of laws regarding eligibility for receiving unemployment benefits. In all cases, only individuals who have recently lost jobs can receive benefits. However, exactly when a person must have lost his job will depend on the laws of the state in which the benefits are being administered. In some cases, a person can apply for benefits more than a year and a half after leaving his job, but this is rare.

Size of Benefits

  • In many states, the size of the benefits will be calculated depending on how much money a person received as income within a given period of time. For example, an agency might base the benefit amount on all the income an individual made within the previous six months. In some cases, if the person waits before filing benefits, the amount he made within a given time period will necessarily be smaller, leading to fewer benefits.


  • Depending on the laws of the state, if a person waits to file, he may be entitled to receive unemployment benefits for less time than another person. As of January 2011, a person was eligible to receive benefits from the state for 26 weeks and from the federal government for an additional 73 weeks. If the person were to file for benefits late, he might receive benefits from the state for fewer than 26 weeks.


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