How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

Washington Unemployment Benefits

Because the funds for unemployment benefits will not run out, you do not have to file right away to avoid missing out. When people are approved, they will be paid the full amount for which they are eligible and they will be paid retroactive to the date of their eligibility. Funds are generally taking 7-10 days to arrive, or as little as 24-48 hours with direct deposit.

Please be sure to check first before calling/sending in a note with your questions because many questions have already been answered there.


The Fastest Way to Apply

The fastest way to apply is online. If you have computer access, you are encouraged to apply online. While you can file by phone, you should expect long wait times. There are no in-person unemployment offices in Washington State.

Try these tips to improve your ability to apply on-line:

  • Apply during off-peak hours (9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.) or try again later in the week – once approved benefits are retroactive to your date of eligibility.
  • Use a computer or laptop if you can, as smart phones are experiencing technical difficulties in the application process.
  • Only try reloading twice in 10 minutes. If you don’t get through wait 2 hours before trying again.
  • Following the steps below before you apply can help make your application process as smooth as possible.
Unemployment Eligibility Flyer

Review this Two Page Eligibility Checker

Click the flyer to view and download.


Watch These Two Videos to Avoid Common Issues That Could Delay Your Benefits

Learn About How to File a UI Claim and Next Steps Online

Due to the continued high demand for unemployment benefits, Employment Security Department is offering two new options for customers to learn more about setting up a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account and submitting a claim for benefits online. You can watch the video below or sign up for the next webinar. See the information below for more details.

What You Need Before You Apply

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Play Video

Creating A Secure Access Washington (SAW) Account

If you do not already have a SAW account. Close captions available.

Play Video


Helpful Webinar: Introduction to Unemployment Insurance

Due to the continued high demand for unemployment benefits, we are offering a new option for customers to learn more about setting up a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account and submitting a claim for benefits online.  To respect individual confidentiality, it is important to point out that this is not an opportunity to answer questions about individual or personal situations.

This webinar will be conducted using WebEx. For issues connecting to the webinar, contact WebEx Support. We can not provide technical assistance.


  1. Setting up a SAW account,
  2. Filing a new UI Claim,
  3. Guidance on standby and work search requirements,
  4. General UI requirements and information,
  5. Services and programs offered through the WorkSource Offices.


Apply for Regular Unemployment Benefits

If you are approved for regular unemployment benefits, you will receive normal unemployment payments and you will have the option to extend your benefits if needed. 

Apply for Unemployment Benefits

It’s a big shock to lose your job, but how you react makes all the difference. The first step is to apply for unemployment benefits. The fastest way to apply is online at (24 hours a day).

You also can apply by phone at 800-318-6022 Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Unemployment benefits application checklist preview

Review This Checklist for Regular Unemployment Benefits

Click the flyer to view and download.


If You Are Denied for Regular Unemployment, Apply for Expanded Unemployment Benefits

If you are denied regular benefits, an alert will show up in your eServices account. You then can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. 

Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Visit ESD's website for the latest information on how to apply for Regular and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Answers to Common Questions

Click on the slides below to view. 


Self-employed or Independent Contractor?

Benefits available for self-employed workers

Unemployment benefits are now available for Washingtonians who have lost work because of the COVID-19 crisis—including freelancers, independent contractors and other self-employed workers. The federal CARES Act makes this possible.

If you’re a self-employed worker who’s lost income in this crisis, you may now qualify for unemployment benefits. The amount of financial help varies. But if your application is approved, you will be paid at least the minimum weekly benefit amount.

Get Started on Filing Your Claim

Employment Security Department

Click here for information on Unemployment Insurance Benefits for the Self-Employed or Independent Contractors and to start your application.

After You Apply for UI Benefits,you will receive an Unemployment Claim Determination

Review your wages and hours carefully. If information is wrong, call the claims center at 800-318-6022 (Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. except holidays. People with hearing or speaking impairments can call Washington Relay Service 711) to request a correction. 

Sampe UI Determination claim

Unemployment Claim Determination Example

This sample is for reference purposes only. Click to view and download.

The statement shows your:

  • Weekly benefit amount and your maximum benefits payable – these numbers represent the most you may receive in a week and total amount potentially available on your claim
  • Employers you worked for, and the wages and hours they reported each quarter for you in the base year of your claim
  • Your benefit year begin and end dates – you can only claim benefits on this claim for weeks falling between these dates
  • Whether this statement is an initial determination or a redetermination

Your Washington unemployment benefit claim is available for one year, which is 52 weeks from the week you applied.  This 52-week period is called 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.

The Unemployment Claim Determination also may provide other information about your claim, such as a message letting you know that you don’t have a valid claim since you have less than 680 hours in your base year and that you may qualify for an alternate base year claim or information letting you know we are requesting wages and hours from your former employers.


Submit a Weekly Claim or Restart a Claim

Filing Weekly Claims

After applying, start submitting weekly claims right away—even before you’re approved—to get paid faster. The link to submit a weekly claim will be in eServices and will show up when we are ready for you to complete it.

Key information:

  • If job search requirement is optional, so if you answer “no.” it won't affect your benefits.
  • You will be paid based on the weekly claims you complete. Weekly claims you filed before being approved will be processed together for an initial lump sum payment. After that, new weekly claims will be processed and paid each week.
  • You will receive payment via the method you choose: direct deposit (fastest) or debit card.
  • If you find work, stop filing weekly claims. Your payments will stop.

Frequently Asked Questions About UI

For more information about how Unemployment Insurance works click the button below.