Can I Continue to Receive SSDI Outside of the U.S.?

Published on: February 27, 2018

What happens to SSDI benefits when you change citizenship

While many people around the world continue to look toward America as the land of opportunity, others are considering making a temporary or even permanent move.

 While the current political climate is often to blame (Royal LePage, Canada's largest realtor, reported a 40 percent increase in the number of Americans looking at homes on its website in the aftermath of the election), many emigrants are simply seeking to take advantage of more affordable healthcare, lower taxes, or an improved education sytem. In 2017 alone, it's estimated that nearly 7,000 Americans chose to expatriate—an increase of over 25 percent from the previous year. For some of these people, questions over their SSDI benefits loom large. 

Intended to help those afflicted with a disability receive a benefit based upon their contributions into the Social Security system, the Social Security Administration’s SSDI program provides income to help you keep up with your financial responsibilities.  Whether you cannot effectively work due to blindness, cardiovascular illness, or any other kind of impairment, this income can be a literal life-saver. 

But what if you're no longer an American citizen? We've got some answers. 

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Countries Where You Can Continue to Receive Benefits

Generally, SSDI is regulated more leniently than other benefit programs because the United States maintains a Social Security agreement with over 50 countries. If you're currently receiving SSDI payments and become a citizen, dual or otherwise, of any of the following countries, your payments will continue without restriction as long as you remain eligible:

• Australia • Austria • Belgium • Canada • Chile • Czech Republic • Finland • France • Germany • Greece • Ireland  Israel • Italy

• Japan • Luxembourg • Netherlands • Norway • Poland • Portugal • South Korea • Spain • Sweden • Switzerland • United Kingdom

For a complete listing of countries, accesss the SSA's guide to international payments here

If you change your citizenship from to a country not on the U.S. Social Security Agreement list, you will generally lose your SSDI eligibility. The SSA will stop your payments after the sixth calendar month you are abroad.

Direct Beneficiaries vs. Survivors and Dependents

You may lose your eligibility in certain countries during extended stays or due to a change in citizenship if you are a recipient as a survivor or dependent. In most cases, you will have has to live in the U.S. for at least five years, and have been in the same relationship with the main beneficially throughout that time.This applies in countries such as:

• Argentina • Bahamas • Brazil • Colombia • Guatemala • Hungary • Jamaica • Mexico • Panama • Peru • Turkey  Venezuela

For a complete listing of countries, accesss the SSA's guide to international payments here

Exceptions to the Rule

Like everything in this world, there are always exceptions! If you meet any of the following criteria, you will still receive your typical monthly benefits despite no longer having U.S. citizenship:

  • You are actively serving in the U.S. Navy or military
  • You were eligible for monthly benefits for disability in December 1956
  • The worker you are receiving benefits for as a survivor died in service of the U.S. military or as a result of service-related disability
  • The worker you are receiving benefits for as a survivor had railroad labor classified as covered employment by the SSA

Countries Where the SSA Cannot Send Payments

Unfortunately, the SSA is not able to send payments for SSDI to some nations, no matter your personal eligibility or citizenship as an American. If you are U.S. citizen residing in any of these countries, you can still receive benefits by reporting in-person once each month at the U.S. Embassy in that country:

• Azerbaijan • Belarus • Georgia • Kazakhstan • Kyrgyzstan • Moldova • Ukraine • Uzbekistan • Vietnam 

A change in citizenship can be like navigating muddy waters. If you are currently a SSDI recipient and plan on leaving the U.S. or gaining citizenship in another country, consider contacting a disability expert first. The Disability Experts of Florida can help you determine how your benefits will be affected. 


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