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Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claimant Handbook icon of open book

Section 2 - To Apply for Benefits

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If you are out of work and you have worked for an employer covered by the UI law in the last 18 months, you can apply for UI.

Filing for UI is a two-step process:

  • First, file an initial claim application. We will review your earnings and decide whether you have earned enough wages to qualify for UI. Filing the initial claim application alone will not start sending out UI benefit payments.
  • Second, file a weekly claim certification for each week you want a UI benefit payment. The weekly claim certification triggers the payment for each week you are eligible.

When to Apply

Apply for UI for any of these reasons:

  • You are totally unemployed,
  • Your weekly earnings are reduced,
  • You expect to be laid off within the next 13 weeks and would like to start your benefit year early, or
  • You are participating in the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The TAA program helps workers who lose their jobs due to foreign competition, including work being moved outside of the United States. For more information, please visit or call (888) 258-9966.
Calendar showing initial claim example

If all your work in the last 18 months was done in Wisconsin, file in Wisconsin, even if you now live in another state.

You must file an initial claim application within 7 days of the end of the calendar week in which you want to receive a UI benefit payment. If you wait to file your claim, you could lose benefits. Each time you stop filing weekly claim certifications and want to start again, you must file an initial claim application.

For example, if you lost your job on Monday the 3rd of the month, you could file an initial claim application for UI on the same day or on any other day that week or the following week.

Any time benefits are denied or suspended, we send you a determination explaining:

  • why benefits were denied or suspended,
  • for what period,
  • how to requalify for benefits, and
  • how to appeal if you disagree.

If you have met the requalifying requirements, have stopped filing weekly claim certifications, and are again unemployed or working reduced hours, you must file a new initial claim application.

DWD will confirm you have met the requalifying requirements. We may request more information. Complete the request and return it by the deadline.

If you have questions about your requalifying requirements, call a claims specialist at (414) 435-7069 or toll-free (844) 910-3661 during business hours.

Do not attempt to claim UI while you are outside the United States, a United States Territory, or Canada for more than 48 hours. Your claim will be blocked, and your benefits will be held.

Certifying that you are available for work while you are out of the country or giving your security credentials and/or social security number to another person to file claims on your behalf may lead to penalties including overpayments, loss of benefits, monetary penalties, and criminal prosecution. For more information, please see Overpayments and Fraud and Quality Control.

How to Apply

  • Go to
  • Read and accept terms and conditions.
  • Create a username and password.
      Note: When you authorize to use online services, you may be mailed an identity verification letter with a code that must be entered within seven days.
  • Log on to access your claimant portal.
  • Complete your initial claim application.

Apply online during these times:

  • Sunday, 9:00 AM – Midnight
  • Monday – Friday, Available 24 Hours
  • Saturday, Midnight – 3:00 PM

If you are unable to apply online, call a claims specialist at (414) 435-7069 or toll-free (844) 910-3661 during business hours.

Information You Need to Apply

Applying for UI is easier and faster when you have key information in hand. The information you provide will be used to determine your eligibility for UI.

Answer all questions completely and correctly. You could be penalized if you give false information to get benefits. Information you provide may be verified through data matching programs or with your employer(s). Please review Fraud and Quality Control to learn more.

To make your initial claim application quick and easy, have this information ready:

  • A username and password (for filing online).
  • A valid email address or mobile phone number.
  • Your current address.
  • Your social security number.
  • Your Wisconsin driver license or identification number (if you have one).
  • Your work history for the last 18 months, including:
    • Employers' business names.
    • Employers' addresses (including zip code).
    • Employers' phone number.
    • First and last dates of work with each employer.
    • Reason for no longer working with each employer.
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, your alien registration number, document number, and expiration date.
  • If you served in the military in the last 18 months, Form DD-214.**
  • If you are a federal civilian employee, Form SF-50 or SF-8.
  • If you are a union member, the name and local number of your union hall.
  • If you want UI benefit payments by direct deposit, your bank's routing number and your account number.

** For returning military veterans: The application process for military service veterans coming off active duty is the same as anyone applying for UI. Your claim cannot start earlier than the week of your separation date as it appears on your DD-214.

After you file your initial claim application, you will be asked to submit a copy of your DD-214 for all active-duty terms within the last 18 months. Your claim may be delayed if you are unable to submit a copy of your DD-214. Acceptable copies are Member Copy 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8.

Additional resources are available from the Office of Veteran Employment Services.

After you apply, you may be contacted to provide additional information about your eligibility for UI. Respond promptly to any request for information from DWD.

If you do not take part in a fact-finding investigation, you could lose benefits.

If you haven't submitted your initial claim application yet:

You will have the opportunity to review your initial claim application before you submit it. You should review your answers and make any corrections needed before submitting your application. You may want to print a copy of your answers as well.

If you have already submitted your initial claim application:

If it is the same day you submitted your initial claim application, you can make changes in your claimant portal. Look for: "Important Message: We have received your application. Your claim is being processed. To change information on your claim, click here."

If it has been one day or more since you submitted your initial claim application, call the Claimant Assistance Line at (414) 435-7069 or toll-free (844) 910-3661 during business hours.

Updated: January 4, 2024