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Can I Receive Disability Benefits if I am Living Overseas?

Any U.S. citizen that’s otherwise eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) can receive benefits, even if living overseas. There are however, certain countries the Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot mail benefit checks to, and payments cannot be processed and sent to someone other than you.

The SSA considers any stay outside the U.S. or its protectorates (e.g. Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.) that lasts longer than 30 days to be residence outside the U.S. rather than just a visit. Therefore, any stay lasting 30 days or more requires you report your status change to the SSA, including submitting change of address information.

Though a U.S. citizen otherwise qualified for SSD benefits can continue receiving benefits even when living outside the U.S., there are countries to which benefit payments cannot be sent. A full list of these nations can be found on the SSA’s website.

Some exceptions to this rule do apply, but you’ll have to visit the U.S. consulate or embassy to determine if you may be approved as an exception. It’s also important to keep in mind that among the rules to qualify for an exception is the agreement that you’ll pick up your benefit checks in person each month from the U.S. embassy or consulate.

If you’re receiving benefits as a dependent or beneficiary, there are different rules that apply. You can still continue to receive benefits as long as you have not been outside the U.S. for more than six months, and provided you don’t live in one of the countries listed here. Again, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Under no circumstances can you receive SSD payments while residing in North Korea or Cuba. There are no exceptions to this restriction.

It’s also important to note that benefit payments withheld due to regulation restrictions while you’re in another country are still available to you. You may not receive them immediately, but you can obtain them once you leave the country in which restrictions applied. Of course, keeping the SSA updated on your whereabouts is an essential part of this process.

You will also periodically receive questionnaires from the SSA if you’re residing in another country. Failure to complete and return the questionnaires within the prescribed time frame will result in your benefit payments ceasing.

Any changes in your address, work status, disabling condition, marital status, income, or parental status, among others, must be reported in a timely manner to the SSA to avoid benefit disruption and/or penalties.