Social Security Away from Home

By September 17, 2014Benefits

If you are receiving monthly Social Security payments and leave the state where you live or the country as a whole, your benefits may or may not be in jeopardy. This mainly depends on whether you are eligible for benefits in the first place, how long you will be outside the state or country, and whether you are receiving SSDI or SSI. For the intents of this article, we will only be addressing the requirements for U.S. citizens.

What does the SSA consider “outside the country?”

Any changes (outside of being due to ineligibility) that come to your monthly payments will come only after you have been, or are planning to be, outside of the United States for more than 30 days. Not only does this status include being outside of the 50 states, but also includes Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. Your status of being “outside the United States” will only change back to your original status if you come back and stay for another consecutive 30-day period. In other words, if you have been gone for an extended period of time (longer than a month) then you cannot just come back briefly in order to maintain receiving your benefits.

How does leaving my home state affect my benefits?

If you are receiving SSDI, your benefits will not be affected if you spend extended periods of time in or move to a different state. If you move, however, you are required to call your local Social Security office and change your address officially. You can also change your address online (for SSDI recipients only).

For those who receive SSI benefits, your payments will most likely change. Each state has its own unique supplementary payment check that it includes with the federal check you receive every month. This also may affect your income limit, which is $721 per month for individuals and $1,082 per month for couples this year (2014). Depending on the state where you live and where you move to, this could change the amount of money that you are eligible to receive, as well as your actual payment.

It is recommended that you contact your local Social Security office and talk to a representative before you decide to move so that you can compare the differences between your monthly payments.

Receiving SSDI “Outside the United States”

If you are a U.S. citizen, you are able to continue to receive benefits if you live outside of the United States as long as it is on the SSA approved list of countries with whom the country has formed Totalization Agreements. The U.S. has Social Security agreements with 25 countries in order to benefit those workers who have split time between countries. These agreements ensure that you do not have to pay contributions to both countries on the same earnings. SSI and Medicare are not covered in these agreements, and therefore applicants are ineligible for those specific benefits. The following is a list of the countries with whom the U.S. has an international agreement:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

The United States cannot send Social Security payments to the following countries:

  • Cuba
  • North Korea
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • Former Soviet Union republics (except for Russia, Armenia, or the Baltic States)

More on SSI

If you receive SSI payments, these benefits will automatically stop if you have the “outside the United States” status (being outside for 30 days or more). You can only be reinstated after returning back to the country and staying for more than 30 days. Children of military personnel who receive SSI and are required to live outside of the U.S. are an exception to this rule.

Sources: SSA and Nolo