Can a Non-US Citizen Receive Social Security Benefits?

In many cases, non-US citizens are able to receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

The first example would be a permanent resident in the US who is not a citizen, but has resided in the country for long enough to have worked and paid into the Social Security payroll tax pool. This would mean the individual was a permanent resident who met the general qualifications for Social Security Disability benefits.

Another example would be a non-citizen who is in the US military or is a veteran of the US military. Others who are not permanent residents but have been in the US for a number of years legally may receive benefits if they meet certain criteria, particularly if they paid into the Social Security tax pool via their payroll taxes as a worker. It is required by law that those who pay into the system are eligible, regardless of citizenship status. Other criteria that would allow a non-permanent resident to receive benefits include refugee status, asylum, domestic violence victims, or being a temporary visitor who does not possess an immigrant visa.

Foreign exchange students or working visitors who arrive via certain programs, however, may not be able to receive Social Security Disability benefits – especially if they are not paying into the tax pool. Also, residents who are not US citizens and are from Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam are unlikely to receive Social Security Disability benefits. In other cases, the US has bilateral agreements with a number of countries to make sure individuals who have worked for a length of time in the US and another country as a resident are able to receive adequate payments. The list of countries with which these agreements exist is available on the Social Security Administration website.