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Can I still get SSI if I have to leave the United States?

Previous posts here have discussed many of the aspects of applying for and, hopefully, ultimately receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits in New Jersey. We've touched on the application process, how to appeal and what changes need to be reported to the Social Security Administration once you are receiving benefits. One of these changes that requires reporting is travel outside of the county. Sometimes people need to go abroad, whether to attend to family matters or perhaps just for vacation. However, people who receive SSI should understand how this could affect their benefits.

The first thing SSI recipients should be aware of is what the SSA considers to be travel "outside the U.S." Generally, going anywhere other than the 50 recognized states or the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands will be leaving the country. This includes, interestingly, going Puerto Rico, because even though Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens people living there are not eligible for SSI. Secondly, SSI recipients will need to report to the SSA the dates of their expected departures and expected returns, so that SSA can determine what effect, if any, the trip will have on their benefits.

As a general matter, people who leave the U.S. for more than 30 days at a time can no longer get their SSI benefits. When such people return, they must remain in the U.S. continuously for 30 days before they can begin receiving benefits again. It should be noted that there may be exceptions to this rule for children who are dependents of U.S. Armed Forces members, or for certain students who are studying abroad.

While people who receive SSI often do not have the funds to travel extensively, in some circumstances it may be unavoidable. Knowing one's rights and responsibilities as an SSI recipient may help to make any required travel a bit less stressful.

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