If you’re suffering from a disabling condition, traveling or living abroad may help. But can you still receive SSDI or SSI benefits even when abroad?
Well, you may still receive SSDI payments depending on the country you’re in. But SSI benefits are a different story.
As it happens, SSDI and SSI travel restrictions differ. If you’re receiving SSDI, you can travel to certain countries without losing your benefits. But if you’re on SSI, you cannot be out of the country for too long. Else, you’ll lose your benefits.
To help you understand where you can travel without sacrificing your social security benefits, we created this quick guide.
Can You Receive SSDI Benefits While Abroad?
As mentioned, you can receive SSDI benefits while abroad as long as you are qualified. However, it still depends on the country you’re traveling to.
For US Citizens
If you’re a US citizen, you can receive SSDI payments as long as you’re in a country where the SSA can send payments. According to their site, the SSA can send payments almost anywhere EXCEPT:
- North Korea
Just to be clear, if you’re residing in these countries, your benefits will still continue as long as you remain eligible. But you can only receive your benefit payments once you move to a country with no payment restrictions. This includes accrued benefit payments the SSA has withheld while you are still in one of the countries listed above.
The SSA, however, can make special payment arrangements for residents of these countries (except Cuba and North Korea). To qualify for this, you will need to:
- personally appear at the Foreign Service Post (FSP) or Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) to have your identity and eligibility verified;
- notify the FSP or FBU of any change of address or citizenship;
- personally pick up your benefit check from the FSP or FBU
The FSP or FBU will not release your check to anyone unless you have a qualified representative. If you fail to appear at the FSP or FBU every six months or become unable to manage your own benefits, your payments will stop.
Since you are a US citizen, your SSDI benefits may also be subject to income tax wherever you are in the world.
Like US citizens, qualified non-citizens can also receive payments anywhere EXCEPT in countries with payment restrictions.
However, their benefits will stop while they are living in the countries listed above. Meaning, they cannot receive accrued benefits even when they move to countries where the SSA can freely send payments.
In addition, if you are receiving benefits based on your own earnings, you can only continue to receive benefits abroad if you are a citizen of:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bahama Islands
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Costa Rica
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Marshall Islands
- Fed. States of Micronesia
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- San Marino
- Slovak Republic
- Trinidad and Tobago
But if you are a citizen of the following countries, you can continue to receive benefits abroad regardless of whose account you’re receiving benefits on:
- Czech Republic
- Korea (South)
- Slovak Republic
- United Kingdom
You can also check your eligibility based on the SSA’s Payments Abroad Screening Tool.
When Are You Considered “Outside of the US”?
The SSA will consider you to be living “outside of the US” if you are outside the US territory for at least 30 consecutive days. US territory, in this context, includes:
- the 50 states
- District of Columbia
- the US Virgin Island
- the Northern Mariana Islands
- American Samoa
You will only be considered to be back in the US if you’ve returned and stayed in the country for at least 30 days in a row. If you are not a citizen, you may also need to prove that you were legally staying in the country during that period.
For non-citizens who do not meet the conditions for continued payments, their benefits will stop if they’ve been outside the US for 6 full calendar months.
Non-citizens may also have to pay federal taxes on their SSDI benefits unless they’ll qualify for an income tax treaty.
SSI Travel Restrictions
Unlike SSDI, you cannot continue to receive SSI payments if you’re living outside the US.
As you know, SSI is a needs-based benefit given to US citizens and qualified aliens. To qualify for it, you:
- must be a resident of one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands;
- must not be absent from one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands for 30 days in a row
In short, being outside the US for 30 days or more can disqualify you from receiving SSI.
If you’re planning to live outside the US for a time, you should consider signing up for electronic payments. Though the SSA still issues treasury checks, it can be difficult to encash in a foreign country. Not to mention that it can take weeks to get delivered.
With direct deposits, you can receive your payments almost instantly. Plus, you don’t have to go through all the hassle of encashing it or paying currency conversion fees.
You can also receive it directly in your US bank account regardless of where you live. Or if you prefer, the SSA can deposit it in your foreign bank account as long as your country of residence has an international direct deposit agreement with the US.
You can also opt for SSA’s Direct Express Debit Card. It’s much more convenient since you can use it to pay bills, buy things, or withdraw cash in many countries.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.