If you are a United States citizen, you can travel or live in most foreign countries without affecting your eligibility for Social Security benefits. However, if you reside in Cuba or North Korea, you cannot receive your Social Security benefits because of U.S. Treasury Department payment restrictions. If you go to any of the following countries, you can receive your Social Security benefits only if you meet and agree to certain restricted conditions – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, the law requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to stop your payments after you have been outside the United States for six consecutive calendar months unless you meet one of several exceptions in the law allowing your benefits to continue. Most of these exceptions are based on your country of citizenship, residence or on other conditions.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will cease for both citizens and legal residents once they are outside the United States for 30 days. The SSA will start paying SSI again once the person has been back in the United States for 30 days.
An exception to this is the children of military personnel receiving SSI. Military children who leave the United States because of their parents’ military service will not have their SSI payments stopped. In terms of SSI payments, out of the country includes Puerto Rico and inside the country includes the Northern Mariana Islands.
The SSA operates a division specifically set up to deal with international matters called the Office of International Operations (OIO). According to the SSA, the division receives assistance from the Department of State’s embassies as well as various consulates. The OIO serves people who are already living outside the U.S. or who plan to live outside the U.S.
Can I apply work overseas to my U.S. Social Security record?
The SSA does not transfer social security credits from one country to another, but your work overseas may help you qualify for social security benefits from the United States or an agreement country. This is because the United States has agreements with 24 countries to coordinate social security programs across national boundaries. This helps people who worked in both the United States and in an agreement country, who may have not worked long enough in either to qualify for benefits. See the entire list of U.S. International Social Security Agreements here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/international/agreements_overview.html.
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®