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What to do after you apply for benefits

Read the Unemployment Handbook

  • The Handbook for Unemployed Workers (PDF, 2MB) explains what you must do after you apply for unemployment benefits. It also lists step-by-step instructions for filing your weekly claims.
  • You are responsible for reading and understanding this information.

Watch your mail for a Statement of Wages and Hours

  • Review your wages and hours carefully. If information is wrong, call the claims center at 800-318-6022 or TTY 800-365-8969 to request a correction. The statement shows your:
  • Weekly benefit amount and the total amount available on your claim.
  • Employers, and the wages and hours they reported for you in the base year of your claim.
  • Your Washington unemployment benefit claim is available for one year (your benefit year). You cannot file another new Washington claim until that year is over. Most claims receive between 13 to 26 weeks of benefits.

Get paid - start filing weekly claims right away

In order to begin receiving unemployment benefit payments, you must start filing weekly claims right away and continue to file every week. We are unable to pay you for any weeks you do not claim.

  • Find detailed directions for filing weekly claims on our File your weekly claim Web page
  • You may file weekly claims online
  • You may file with our automated phone system by calling 800-318-6022. Call any time after midnight Sunday through 4 p.m. Friday (unless Friday is a holiday).
  • File weekly claims using this date format: From: XX/XX/XXXX To: XX/XX/XXXX
  • If you miss a week of filing weekly claims, learn how to reopen a claim on our reopen Web page.

When you file a weekly claim, you answer a series of questions (PDF, 34KB) about the previous week. To keep your claim current, you must file your weekly claim each and every week until you return to work.

If you did not apply for unemployment benefits until the end of this week, give us two business days to process your application before filing your first weekly claim next week. 

Report any money you earn while receiving benefits

  • If you work during any week you claim, you must report your earnings before deductions, when you file your weekly claim, even if you have not been paid yet.
  • If you are currently performing work or services on an exchange basis, such as trading work for rent, you must report this as earnings on your weekly claim.
  • The Handbook for Unemployed Workers (PDF, 2MB) has information about how to report earnings.

If you fail to report any earnings, you will have to pay back any benefits you received, plus interest. If you knowingly fail to report earnings, we will also assess fraud, which can result in a denial of benefits and additional penalties.

We may need more information to determine your eligibility

While you are claiming benefits, we may ask for additional information.

  • If we contact you, it's very important that you respond immediately.
  • File weekly claims and keep filing while you wait for our decision. We will not make a decision until you claim at least one week. We can only pay you for weeks you claimed if you are allowed benefits.
  • If we leave a message or send a questionnaire, we'll tell you what we need and where to send it.
  • We may conduct a phone interview.
  • We may not pay you benefits until a decision is made (allow six to eight weeks, more in some cases).

Once we decide if you are eligible for benefits, we will send a written decision letter. You or your former employer may appeal that decision if you disagree with it. The instructions for appealing are included in the letter.

Your personal identification number

To file your weekly claim or get information about your claim, you need to enter a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). This PIN is your electronic signature. You create your PIN when you file your first weekly claim for benefits either by phone or on the Internet.

When you file your first weekly claim, after entering your SSN, the system asks you to enter your two-digit birth month and four-digit birth year using the keypad on your phone or keyboard of your computer. For example, if your birthday is 01/26/76, you enter 01 for the month and 1976 for the year.

Then the system asks you to create a new four-digit PIN, and then to verify it. Select a PIN that is easy for you to remember. Do not use numbers in a sequence (like 1234), repeating numbers (like 3333), four digits of your SSN, or your birth date.

Do not give your PIN to anyone. Remember, it is your electronic signature. You are responsible for all payments made using your PIN.

Job search

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work each week that you file a weekly claim for benefits. The following requirements must be met each week you file a weekly claim or you may lose your benefits for the week:

  • Make at least three employer contacts each week, or
  • Participate in three approved in-person job-search activities at your WorkSource office or local employment center, or
  • Have a combination of employer contacts and in-person activities, for a total of three.

Approved in-person job-search activities at the WorkSource office or local employment center include workshops on topics such as job-finding tips, interviewing skills, and using the Internet to find a job. Other activities that qualify may be offered by your local office.

NOTE: If your claim is based entirely on part-time work of 17 or fewer hours each week, your three employer contacts each week can be for part-time work. We will send you a letter explaining your part-time job-search requirements if this provision of the law applies to you. Call the claims center if you have any questions.

We encourage you to use WorkSource or the department's online job search program, to start your job search efforts. It is a free service and you may use it as often as needed to help you get a job faster.

State law requires you to keep a record that you are actively looking for work every week you claim unless you are participating in a training program approved by the Commissioner, attached to an employer, or are a member of a full referral union. Attached to an employer means you are:

Write all employer contacts and job search activities on a log. A job-search log is included in the "Handbook for Unemployed Workers" being mailed to you. It is also available at your WorkSource office or online. You do not have to use the job search log form, however your log must have all the same required information as the job-search log.

You may be selected for a job search review to check your job-search log. We will review the information on your log and may contact the employers you list to make sure you are meeting the job-search requirements.

We will ask you to show photo identification at your appointment.

We will reschedule you for a second interview to review all weeks that you filed for unemployment benefits if you miss your appointment or your log is incomplete. We will deny your benefits if you have not met all the job-search requirements for any given week(s). The denial may result in an overpayment for which you must pay back.

If you have a Washington claim, you are subject to job search review even if you live in another state. Reviews may take place by mail, phone or personal interview at your local employment center.

Your job search activities may include looking for self-employment, but this cannot substitute for your three employer contacts each week. You must be looking for work as an employee in your regular occupation. We may question your eligibility for benefits if your primary goal is self-employment.

Your WorkSource office or local employment center can offer you a variety of services, including job-readiness workshops, access to a job matching system, and information about Commissioner Approved Training and Training Benefits. They may also contact you about worker profiling services, which you are required to attend. If you do not, your unemployment benefits may be denied.

Most claimants are automatically registered for work at the WorkSource office. However, if you are notified you need to register, you must do so within one week. The WorkSource offices are listed in the Handbook for Unemployed Workers (PDF, 2.9MB) and on the Internet.

Out-of-state claimants: If you live out of state and are filing your claim against Washington, call 877-872-5627, or go online to find the local employment center closest to you. You are required to register for work within one week of receiving your first check.

Your rights while receiving unemployment benefits

If we question your eligibility for benefits:

  • You are entitled to know why.
  • You may ask for a copy of any or all department records or documents about the problem.
  • You have a right to an interview before a decision is made.
  • You may have anyone, including an attorney, assist you at the interview.
  • You may present evidence, documents, or witnesses, including co-workers, at the interview.
  • You may question witnesses or anyone present at the interview.
  • You may appeal any decision you disagree with.

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