Where you reside can have a significant impact on the smooth and efficient receipt of your Social Security disability payments. Residents of the United States face different requirements when it comes to travel abroad than those faced by non-U.S. citizens or individuals who are not citizens of a country set forth on a list prepared by the Social Security Administration.

For example, U.S. citizens are eligible to continue receiving Social Security disability benefits for as long as they qualify, regardless of where they are, unless they are in a country where the Social Security Administration cannot send payments. Non-U.S. citizens, however, may lose their ability to receive disability payments if they are outside of the U.S. for six months or longer.

Countries Where the Social Security Administration Cannot Send Payment

Due to the restrictions imposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Social Security Administration cannot send you your Social Security disability payments while you are in the following countries:

  • Cuba
  • North Korea

If you are a U.S. citizen, however, you may receive all of the payments that were withheld when you enter a country where the payments are permissible.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will not be eligible to receive the missed payments for the months during which you resided in Cuba or North Korea. This is true even after you go to a country where Social Security disability benefits can be sent.

Additional countries where Social Security disability payments generally cannot be sent include:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Moldova
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam

The Social Security Administration will not send payments to others on your behalf while you are living in any of these countries. There are some exceptions, however, when disability recipients agree to certain conditions of payment. For example, the recipient must appear in person at the U.S. Embassy each month to pick up the payment.

What Does it Mean to Be “Outside of the United States” for Purposes of Social Security Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Administration deems a disability benefits recipient to be outside of the United States under the following circumstances:

  • The recipient is not in one of the 50 states
  • The recipient is not in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa
  • The recipient is not in any of the above locations and has not been there for at least 30 days in a row

Individuals will continue to be deemed outside of the country for Social Security disability purposes until they return to the United States and stay there for at least 30 consecutive days. Recipients who are not citizens of the U.S. must also prove that they were present in the country lawfully during that 30-day period.

Returning Home to Mexico: What You Need to Know

Although you are a citizen of Mexico, you may be a permanent resident of the United States and you may be eligible for Social Security disability. These benefits are important to you. Not only have you earned them, but you need the money to help make ends meet during this difficult time.

Your doctors have told you that you have a limited amount of time left to live or that the rest of your live will be lived with a significant disability. You may decide you want to return to Mexico to live out your remaining time. Your family is there, and you want to spend time with them while you still can. You want to return to the country where you were born, but you can’t give up the Social Security disability benefits you are depending on now.

You may continue to receive Social Security disability benefits while you are in Mexico. However, the law may require you to return to the United States at least once every 30 days or for 30 consecutive days within a six- month period.

If you have any questions about your residency and your Social Security eligibility, we urge you to take action before the Social Security Administration notifies you that there is a potential problem. Ask questions and get the help you need to make sure you are getting the benefits you deserve. Please browse our related links, or contact us directly for more information.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law
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