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If you are not a U.S. citizen at the time you become disabled and you apply for Social Security disability benefits, the rules that apply to residents of the country of origin may be different than they are for you as a non-citizen. One difference you may discover is that you will likely be subject to more restrictions with regard to traveling outside of the country for an extended period of time. Another difference that you may discover is that your disability payments may stop if you are no longer residing in the United States.

Generally, if you are not a U.S. citizen at the time that you are residing outside of the country, your disability payments will stop after you have been out of the country for six full calendar months. However, if you are a citizen of the following select foreign countries (as set forth by the SSA), you may be allowed continuation of your disability payments:

  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • Brazil
  • United Kingdom

It is important to note, however, that this benefit may not apply in all cases if you are receiving your payments as a dependent or a survivor, unless additional requirements are met.

For non-U.S. citizens who are not citizens of one of the countries listed above, and you have been residing outside of the U.S. for the past six months, your benefits will be stopped unless you can show that they meet one of the following exceptions:

  • You were eligible for monthly Social Security benefits for December 1956.
  • You are an active member of the U.S.  Military or naval service.
  • You had railroad work treated as covered employment by the Social Security Administration.
  • You died while in the U.S. military service.
  • You died as a result of a service-connected disability and you were not dishonorably discharged.
  • You are a resident of a country that the U.S. has a social security agreement with.

Countries With Social Security Agreements With the U.S.

Examples of countries that have a social security agreement with the U.S. are Denmark, Australia, France, and Spain. If payment of your Social Security disability benefits were to stop because you are a non-U.S. citizen who was out of the country for longer than six months, you can have these benefits re-initiated by returning to the United States and staying for a full calendar month. To qualify, you must be inside the U.S. for the first minute of a calendar month and stay through the last minute of the last day of that month. The Social Security Administration may request proof that you have satisfied this requirement.

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Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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