Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SSI and SSDI Eligibility for Citizens Living Outside the Continental US

SSI and SSDI eligibility rules differ for claimants who are currently living outside the US. Under SSA rules, “outside of the US” is considered living outside of one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or America Samoa for a period of 30 days in row or more. Upon re-entry, one must live for a continuous 30 days or more to be considered as living inside the country.

As SSI is a partially state-funded welfare-based benefit, it is only offered to US citizens living in the United States, the District of Columbia or Northern Mariana Islands and certain groups of non-citizens living in the US. US citizens living abroad in other US territories—The US Virgin Islands, Guam, America Samoa and Puerto Rico—and foreign countries do not qualify for SSI benefits.

In contrast, SSDI benefits can be collected while a US citizen is living abroad or in a US territory—excluding the Northern Mariana Islands—as long as the claimant has enough work credits earned while paying into the US Social Security system. If a claimant is already collecting benefits, traveling or living in a foreign country will not interfere with the collection of the claimant’s payments; however, SSA cannot send payments into certain countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Cambodia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. It is important to notify SSA when traveling outside the US for more than 30 days in order to receive instruction on how to collect benefits while abroad. It will be necessary to notify SSA of the countries the claimant expects to visit and also the date of departure from the US.

In many European countries and a handful of others, US citizens may continue to receive SSA payments as long as they are living in those countries, no matter how long the claimant is living outside the US; however most countries demand additional requirements to be met for the collection of dependent or survivor benefits. For non-US citizens or citizens of countries with which the US does not have a social security agreement, payments will stop after a claimant has been outside of the US for a full six months. Some exceptions apply to this rule, and can be found in full at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10137.html. In addition, SSA will continue to check in on claimants in order to determine that eligibility still stands. If a claimant does not comply with these updates or presents false information, benefits will stop.

Disability Group, Inc. was founded on the principles of dignity and respect. We are a national law firm focused exclusively on helping people receive the Social Security Disability benefits they deserve. For more information about Social Security, or to see if you qualify for benefits, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

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