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Can I keep my benefits if I move out of the U.S.?

Whether or not you are able to keep your disability benefits if you move outside of the United States depends on several factors, including:

  • What type of benefits you receive
  • Where you move to
  • How long you reside outside of the country

You will need to understand how your benefits will be affected before you make your move as well as what is expected of you by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The way your benefits are affected depends on several things, including the type of benefits you receive.

In most cases, if you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits under your own work record, then you are able to receive your benefits per usual for at least six months after moving outside the U.S., unless you move to a prohibited country.

Under most circumstances, if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and leave the U.S., your benefits will stop after 30-days and cannot be reinstated until you return to the U.S.

There are a number of other factors that can impact your benefits. To know exactly what affect your move may have on your disability payments, you should contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and discuss the situation with them before making a final decision on your move. However, the following information may also help you decide how to proceed:

  • Allowed Nations – The U.S. has agreements with a number of nations to ensure U.S. citizens and individuals that hold dual citizenship are able to receive SSDI benefits even while residing outside the U.S. The list of “allowed countries” is subject to change and varies based on the type of benefits you receive.
  • Prohibited Nations – There are several countries to which the SSA does not send benefit payments, even if you qualify for disability. This list is also subject to change.
  • Payments While Living in U.S. Protectorates – Although Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa are technically located outside the U.S., these international locations are U.S. protectorates. You can receive disability payments from SSDI and/or SSI while living in any of these locations.
  • Your Beneficiary Status – The types of benefits you receive (SSDI or SSI) affects whether living abroad impacts your monthly benefit payments. So does your status as a beneficiary. If you are receiving benefits as a dependent, for example, the list of countries to which your benefits can be sent is different from the list for individuals that qualify for benefits under their own work record.

Also keep in mind that living outside the U.S. may change other things, like:

  • how you receive your payments
  • how you communicate with the SSA
  • where you provide updates or send forms

The rules that govern International Social Security payments can be complicated and difficult to understand on your own. Consult the SSA’s publication on the topic here, and consider reviewing the information with your Social Security advocate, attorney, or disability counselor before finalizing your plans to move.

Because there are so many important details to understand about disability benefits and living abroad, it is also crucial that you speak or meet with an SSA representative before moving.