Residency Requirements for Social Security Disability Benefits

Posted September 16, 2016 by Premier Disability Services, LLC® world-wide-01Your eligibility for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be affected by your citizenship status or where you live. Most SSD recipients are American citizens, either living in the United States or abroad. However, non-citizens who are permanent residents and have paid taxes into the Social Security system for the required amount of years are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, as are non-citizens who are veterans or active duty members of the U.S. military.

If you are neither a citizen nor a permanent resident, you still may be entitled to receive SSDI if you can show that you are lawfully present in the United States and meet certain other criteria. (8 U.S.C. § 1611(b)(2)).

Most foreign workers in the United States are covered under the U.S. Social Security program and can potentially qualify for disability benefits, even if they are not citizens or permanent residents. Federal law generally requires that all workers pay Social Security taxes, and therefore be covered under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for services performed in the United States. This is true even if they are nonresident aliens or employees who work here for short periods.

There are a few exceptions. Some nonimmigrant foreign students and exchange visitors temporarily working in the United States may be exempt from paying Social Security taxes and therefore would not qualify for disability benefits under SSDI if they became disabled.

The rules are stricter for Title XVI, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), benefits. To receive SSI, you generally must be either: (a) a citizen or national of the United States; or (b) a non-citizen who meets the alien eligibility criteria under the 1996 legislation and its amendments. Beginning August 22, 1996, most non-residents must meet two requirements to be eligible for SSI: first, the non-citizen must be in a qualified alien category; and second, must meet a condition that allows qualified aliens to get benefits. The seven categories of qualified aliens and qualifying conditions can be found here:


Additionally, to receive SSI payments, you must reside within one of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or the Mariana Islands – individuals living in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, or abroad may not receive SSI payments. You also cannot receive SSI while in prison or jail, and are not entitled to retroactive pay for that time.

If you are considering applying for benefits but are not sure whether you qualify, please contact us for a free case evaluation.

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®