It is possible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments while traveling or even living abroad as a U.S. citizen. Non U.S. citizens may also be eligible to continue receiving payments, as long as they are not in a restricted country and all other eligibility requirements are met.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
In order to qualify for SSDI, a person must be considered impaired in either a medical, psychiatric or psychological sense. The impairment must meet certain criteria in order to be considered a disability. Firstly, medical records must prove the existence of one or more mental or physical impairments. Also, the severity of the impairment(s) must prevent the person from working; or earning more than $900 USD, before taxes each month, in the event that he continues to work. Lastly, the impairment(s) must be expected to last 12 calendar months or more.
What the Government Considers Being "Outside the United States"
Traveling for under a month will not affect Social Security Disability payments. The United States government defines being "outside the United States" as spending more than 30 days in a row in a location that is not in one of the 50 states, the Disctrict of Colombia or Puerto Rico. Other areas that are considered "outside the U.S." include the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
SSDI Payments While Outside the United States
If you are a U.S. citizen, you will continue to receive SSDI payments while outside the U.S. as long as you continue to qualify for them. The only exception to this is if you travel to one of the Restricted Countries, outlined below. Payments will also not cease for citizens or residents of Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, as long as the eligibility for the payments remains.
Non U.S. citizens who do not qualify for these exceptions will have their payments stopped after six months. The payments cannot be restarted until you return to and stay in the U.S. for an entire month. Meaning that you must stay in the United States from the first minute of the first day of a month to the last minute of the last day of that month. Also, it may be necessary to provide proof of your lawful presence in the U.S. for this full calendar month.
The U.S. treasury prohibits payments to North Korea, Cambodia and Cuba and regions of the former Soviet Union, not including Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Armenia. While in these restricted countries, your payments will be withheld, and generally cannot be sent to anyone for you, but will be restored upon your return to the U.S. However, some exceptions may be granted.
Applying for an Exception While in a Restricted Country
In order to qualify for an exception, you must agree to receive your payment in person at the U.S. embassy every month. To find out if you qualify for this, you must contact the nearest U.S. embassy or Social Security office.
Special Circumstances: Disabled Children
As part of receiving SSDI for your child, a review of his medical condition must be performed every three years for children under the age of 18 whose condition is expected to improve.
For a child who qualifies because of low birth weight a review must be conducted before his first birthday. This may pose a problem if traveling with a disabled dependent for a prolonged time.