Supplemental Security Income for Immigrants and International Travelers


Some non-citizen immigrants and some individuals who reside outside the United States are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if the individual meets specific requirements.



What Exactly is Considered “Outside the United States”?

Generally, you are outside the United States if you are not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa. You are still considered in the US if your visit outside these areas is 30 days or less. If you leave for longer than 30 days, you are “outside of the US,” and your benefits may be affected.  To continue receiving benefits, you must return and stay in the US for 30 days unless you meet certain exceptions.



Who Can Get Benefits Even Though They Are “Outside the US”?

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as it’s a country that the US is allowed to send payments to. These countries are:

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

For updates see www.socialsecurity.gov/international/countrylist1.htm




If you are NOT a U.S. citizen, but are a citizen of one of the countries listed below, you can still get your own SSI benefits outside of the US.  If you collect SSI as a dependent or survivor different rules apply, and this article does not cover such issues.

  • Albania
  • Antigua and  Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Burkina Faso
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Gabon
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Macedonia
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia,  Fed. States of
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Nicaragua
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • Samoa (formerly  Western Samoa)
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Trinidad-Tobago
  • Turkey
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

For updates see www.socialsecurity.gov/international/countrylist1.htm



If you are NOT a U.S. citizen or a citizen of one of the countries listed above, your payments will stop if you are residing outside of the US for 6 months unless you can meet an exception to this rule.


The Exceptions to the Rule

The exceptions are: if you were eligible for SSI benefits in December of 1956 or before, if you are active US military, or you are a resident of the country that the US has a special agreement with. These countries are listed below:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea (South)
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
For updates see www.socialsecurity.gov/international/countrylist1.htm



If you are not a U.S. citizen and none of the above exceptions apply to you, your payments will stop after you have been outside the US for 6 months. To get your benefits again, you have to stay in the US lawfully for an entire month.



Countries To Which the US Will NOT Send Benefits

SSA cannot send payments to Cuba or North Korea. If you are a citizen residing in either of these 2 countries you can get all your withheld payments once you leave and come to the US or go to a county where SSA can send you money. If you are not a US citizen, you will not receive any payments for the months you lived in Cuba or North Korea.



When are Non-Citizens Eligible for SSI?

If you are not a US citizen, you may still be eligible of SSI if you meet one of the conditions below:

  • You were lawfully living in the United States since August 22, 1996, and are blind or disabled;
  • You were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996, and you are now lawfully living in the United States; or
  • You were lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and have a total of 40 credits of work in the United States. (Your spouse’s or parent’s work also may count.)

Important: If you entered the United States as a lawfully admitted permanent resident on or after August 22, 1996, then you may not be eligible for SSI for the first five years.

Some other noncitizens who may be eligible for SSI payments are:

  • Active duty members of the U.S. Military;
  • Noncitizen members of Indian tribes;
  • Noncitizens admitted as American immigrants; and
  • Cuban/Haitian entrants under the Refugee Education Assistance Act.

There are other noncitizens that may be eligible for payments, so contact a lawyer to see if you are eligible.

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