How Social Security Disability Income Works If You Leave the Country

Generally speaking, US citizens eligible for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits can continue to receive those benefits while living outside the country. If the beneficiary is not a US citizen, there are a number of other guidelines that must be met.

Under most circumstances, if you’re a US citizen and have left or are considering leaving the country, you can receive Social Security benefits while abroad. As long as that time abroad exceeds 30 days, you can file an official change of address form with the nearest Social Security Administration (SSA) field office and likely continue to receive payments.

What If I Live in a Country with Treasury Sanctions?

Generally, this only applies to US citizens living in North Korea or Cuba. You won’t be able to receive benefits for the months that you live in either country if you are not a US citizen, but Social Security will pay out everything else you’re owed (citizen or not) when you move to a country that doesn’t have sanctions.

What If I’m Not a US Citizen?

This SSA publication outlines the benchmarks that must be met for non-US citizens to earn benefits, including SSDI:

  • The applicant must have been eligible for monthly Social Security benefits on or before December 1956
  • The worker whose record the benefits are based on died while in military service and either incurred a service-connected disability or was honorably discharged


If you are a dependent or survivor, you will have to meet additional residency requirements including:

  • Initial monthly benefit eligibility before Jan. 1, 1985
  • Entitlement based on the record of a worker who died during American military service or is deceased due to a service-connected disease or injury.
  • You’re a citizen of an approved country for distributions (listed in the linked publication)


There are a number of other specific situations that could affect SSDI benefits, but carefully following the guidelines as specified by the SSA will be a big help towards maintaining current SSDI benefits or working towards future ones. The SSA also has a screening tool that can help determine if you or a loved one is eligible for Social Security benefits while abroad.


In any case, if you’ve been initially denied for Social Security claims in eastern Washington or Idaho, reaching out to a qualified Social Security claims attorney should be your next step. Call the knowledgeable team at Schott Law today at (509) 328-5789 to learn more and schedule a free consultation.