If you have been approved for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), congratulations! The hardest part is over. If you are considering living outside of the United States, however, moving could have implications for those benefits. Whether or to what extent they will be affected depends on your citizenship status, the kind of benefits for which you qualified, and where you reside abroad.
First of all, SSA considers any stay in a country outside the United States for more than thirty days to be residence outside America, rather than just a visit. As a result, you must notify SSA if you intend to stay in a foreign country longer than thirty days and provide them with change of address information.
If you are a United States citizen who receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can keep collecting your benefits as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements. Generally, you can collect payments no matter where you live, unless you live in North Korea, Cuba, or some of the former Soviet republics. Should you live in one of these prohibited countries, you will be able to receive all unpaid benefits once you enter a country that can accept your payments from the United States government.
If you collect Supplemental Security Income (SSI), however, you can only continue to do so if you live in one of the fifty United States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands.
What if you collect benefits but are not a United States citizen? You will be subject to different rules depending on your country of citizenship’s totalization agreement with America. Although the list is constantly subject to change, these are the countries that currently have agreements with the United States: Australia; Austria; Belgium; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Czech Republic; Denmark; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Italy; Japan; South Korea; Luxembourg; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; United Kingdom; and Uruguay.
We’ve previously discussed the fact that SSA conducts Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) to make sure you continue to meet the eligibility requirements to collect disability benefits. SSA will send you questionnaires while you reside outside of the United States, and they will ask you to update them on whether you have resumed working, got married or divorced, or changed addresses, among other things. If you fail to respond to these questionnaires or never got them because you did not tell SSA you moved and they could not contact you, your benefits will stop.
Rest assured that, no matter where you reside, your benefits will be calculated in United States dollars.