TN 24 (12-02)
GN 00303.740 Establishing U.S. Residency
A. Policy - establishing U.S. Residency
It is important to distinguish between U.S. “residency” as a requirement for payment of Special Age 72, Health Insurance or Supplementary Medical Insurance for uninsured individuals and SSI benefits and the concept of “presence” in the U.S.
NOTE: See VB 00205.150 ff. for U.S. residency requirements for special veterans benefits.
1. SSI Benefit Eligibility
To be eligible to receive a monthly SSI benefit, an individual must:
be a U.S. resident; AND
once eligible, meet the physical presence in the U.S. requirement. (An individual cannot be paid SSI benefits for any month during all of which he/she is outside the U.S. An individual who was outside the U.S. for 30 consecutive days or more must be present in the U.S. for an additional 30 consecutive days before SSI benefits are reinstated.) (See SI 00501.410 for additional information about SSI ineligibility due to absence from the U.S.)
See SI 00502.142B.2. for the requirements for an alien who is lawfully residing in the U.S. on August 22, 1996.
2. Evidence of U.S. Residency
U.S. residency is usually demonstrated by evidence that indicates the individual is an active participant in the U.S. community where he/she resides, with a strong economic and social attachment to the U.S. (See GN 00303.740C.1.-GN 00303.740C.3. for examples).
A U.S. residency determination is necessary if there is an indication that the individual applying for a benefit for which U.S. residency is a requirement is not residing in the U.S. (See GN 00303.740B. for exceptions.)
Note that an individual who is lawfully present (LAPR) in the U.S. must meet the U.S. residency requirement in order to get SSI. See SI 00502.142 for additional information on individuals who are qualified aliens who are LAPR.
3. Possible Indicators/Kinds of Doubtful Residency Situations
Circumstances which may raise doubt as to U.S. residency include but are not limited to situations such as:
The address is a rooming house that caters to a transient population or a post office box or general delivery address in a city or town near Mexico or Canada;
The claimant presents a grommeted I-551 or a commuter I-551 (both documents indicate the bearer commutes to the U.S. to work);
The address is in care of another person (refer to GN 00303.740E. for development when the in care of address is in a FO service area which borders Canada or Mexico); or
The address is near Mexico or Canada and the claimant is filing out of service area.
The claimant declares that his/her spouse lives in another country.
The claimant explains that he/she lives with a “friend”, but his/her family is in another country.
The claimant has prior periods of ineligibility to SSI benefits due to absences from the United States.
The claimant fails to respond to requests for information to update records for a continuing disability review (CDR) or other requests for information such as a redetermination.
Relatives or other third parties respond to requests for information and ask that appointments be rescheduled.
The claimant has direct deposit to a foreign bank and a U.S. address.
IMPORTANT: If after establishing U.S. residency, the beneficiary moves to another country, he/she cannot still be considered a U.S. resident, unless development establishes that the individual is actually maintaining U.S. residency. This is true even if he/she returns to the U.S. one or more days monthly to visit. A person cannot establish residency in two places at the same time.
B. Policy – situations when U.S. Residency determinations are not necessary
1. SSI For Children Of Military Personnel Abroad
No determination of U.S. residency is needed for a child who:
(See SI 00501.415 ff. for instructions regarding this provision.)
2. SSI For Students Temporarily Abroad
No determination of U.S. residency is needed for certain individuals who are temporarily abroad for study purposes. (See SI 00501.411 ff. for instructions regarding this provision.
C. Procedure – U.S. Residency development
If there is any doubt that the individual resides in the U.S., such as the indicators/doubtful U.S. residency situations in GN 00303.740A.3. suggest, question the individual concerning U.S. residency. Be alert to an individual's failure to respond to requests for information to update records for a CDR or other requests such as a redetermination. A lack of response may indicate that the person has abandoned U.S. residency.
Develop evidence, as described in GN 00303.740C.1. or GN 00303.740C.2., to establish where the claimant lives and prepare a special determination or report of contact to document the residency determination.
1. Convincing Evidence
Proof of a claimant's institutionalization is convincing evidence of U.S. residency.
In all other cases, base a finding of U.S. residency on a combination of two or more documents.
NOTE: It is normally the claimant's responsibility to provide evidence to establish that he/she is living in the U.S.
Since some types of evidence listed may be routinely obtained in certain localities by an individual who does not intend to establish U.S. residency, use as much as possible of the following current convincing evidence to establish U.S. residency.
Property, income or other tax forms or receipts;
Proof of U.S. home ownership or rental lease or rent payment record;
Utility bills addressed to the claimant;
U.S. driver's license;
Telephone directory listing;
Regular and frequent participation in social programs such as vocational rehabilitation, Meals on Wheels or evidence showing that the claimant regularly receives services from a social agency;
Proof of employment, such as pay stubs or a contract;
Proof of active participation in a religious, fraternal, or social organization;
A record of volunteer activity which shows regular and frequent performance;
Clinic cards or doctor's record showing dates of visits for regular medical treatment;
Proof of a local U.S. bank account or check-cashing card at a local establishment; and
Correspondence addressed to the claimant.
NOTE: Offices that have online access to State Medicaid, Food Stamps and cash program records may check those sources.
2. Secondary Evidence
Use the following secondary evidence, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to establish U.S. residency when convincing evidence is not available.
a. What Questions to Ask
Satisfactory answers to open-ended questions that a U.S. resident, depending on the situation, could reasonably be expected to know, such as:
How long have you lived at your current address? Describe the rooms in your house/apartment.
Where did you live previously? If applicable, when did you move here from Mexico/Canada/other country?
What are your neighbor's names? Describe them.
Where do you shop? What are the names of businesses near your residence?
Are you married? Where does your spouse/family live? How often do you see family members?
What is your daily routine? How much time do you spend at your address?
Where do you keep your household and personal goods?;
Do you periodically visit friends or family outside the U.S? If so, where and with whom do you stay? Do you store personal or household items there? How long do you usually stay?
b. Statements from Disinterested Persons
Consider obtaining statements from two reliable disinterested individuals who have first-hand knowledge of the claimant's U.S. residence. These individuals may include (but are not limited to):
An employer who states that the claimant works on several days a week or evidence that indicates that the claimant works one or two hours several days weekly;
An official of a religious or other organization who can confirm the person regularly attends services and functions sponsored by the organization;
A landlord who provides lodging for the claimant (provided that the landlord is not known to provide housing for a transient clientele only);
A neighbor of the claimant (a crisscross city directory may be helpful in locating a likely individual); or
A social service provider
Since such statements are usually self-serving, solicit them only after all attempts at securing convincing evidence have been exhausted.
3. U.S. Residency Determination
If a claimant cannot provide convincing evidence to establish U.S. residency, prepare a special determination or report of contact to document the residency determination.
Include the following documentation to support a finding that either U.S. residency is met or is not met:
The reason why the claimant could not provide convincing evidence of U.S. residency; AND
Open-ended questions asked and answers provided; AND
A minimum of two required statements from knowledgeable, disinterested persons; AND
Any additional information gained in the application process, including interviewer observations, which impact on the U.S. residency determination.
If U.S. residency appears questionable, document the file to support the decision that a claimant resides (or does not reside) in the U.S. (See evidence requirements for documentation in GN 00301.285.)
D. Examples – U.S. Residency determinations
1. Intent to Establish U.S. Residency Met
Juanita G., age 66, resides near the U.S./Mexican border with her daughter, who provides for all her needs. She says she did not file previously because she did not realize she might be eligible.
She is unable to provide any convincing evidence of her U.S. residence except a receipt from a local doctor, which does not show her address. Upon questioning, she can describe her home, is familiar with her neighborhood and is able to name businesses and several of her neighbors.
She has 2 children in the U.S. and 3 in Mexico. She claims to visit her other children occasionally, for a week or two at a time, but keeps all her personal possessions at her given address. FO calls to two neighbors confirm her full-time residence and she answers the telephone 2 days later when the CR makes an unexpected telephone call to the residence.
U.S. residency is established. The claimant demonstrates familiarity with her residential neighborhood, two statements from disinterested persons confirm her residence and the CR's telephone call all support a finding of U.S. residency. The CR documents the determination of U.S. residency on a Report of Contact.
2. Intent to Establish U.S. Residency Not Met
Juan R., age 65, rents a room in a boarding house near the U.S./Mexican border. When questioned about his residency, he presents a current weekly room receipt from his landlord and a check-cashing card as evidence of U.S. residency. He claims to have no other evidence. The CR, concluding that the weekly room receipt establishes only a temporary living arrangement; and the establishment listed on the check cashing card issues cards without regard to residence, questions the claimant further.
Upon questioning, Juan has difficulty answering questions about businesses, streets or neighbors in his neighborhood. He states that his family is in Mexico, but he doesn't see them often. When asked for the names of persons who can attest to his U.S. residency, he gives only the name of a nephew who lives in the same town and the owner of the boarding house. The boarding house owner verifies that he has rented a room for the past several weeks but declines to sign a statement to that effect. The nephew confirms his uncle's residence in a FO telephone call. The claimant declines to present any additional evidence.
U.S. residency is not established because the combination of evidence submitted does not meet the evidence requirements. Although the two documents presented are listed as “convincing” evidence in GN 00303.740C.1., the CR determines that they are insufficient, based on his/her knowledge of the local area. Only one verbal statement obtained is from a disinterested person and answers to open-ended questions about the neighborhood reflect the claimant's unfamiliarity with the area.
The CR prepares a special determination to document the finding that U.S. residency is not met.
3. Intent Not To Abandon U.S. Residency
Mrs. Bihari has resided in the U.S. for several years. Recently, she traveled to India to visit her son for a few weeks. While visiting, she became ill and the short visit extended to 4 months. She took only a suitcase with her on the visit, leaving the bulk of her household goods and clothing at her apartment.
Upon questioning, she indicates that she continued to pay rent on her apartment in the U.S. and pay utility bills from her U.S. bank account. She presents monthly rent receipts for the last year and cancelled checks from her U.S. bank account used as payment for utility bills. U.S. residency is maintained because she presents “convincing” evidence of her U.S. residency. (See SI 00501.410 for development of “presence” in the U.S.)
4. No Intent to Establish U.S. Residency
Jacques V., who works in the U.S., owns a house in Canada. He also rents a room in a boarding house in the U.S., near the U.S./Canadian border, where he occasionally stays if he works late or during inclement weather. When questioned about his U.S. residency, Jacques presents, as evidence, several weekly rental receipts for scattered periods in the last 6 months. He has no other evidence of U.S. residency, nor can he give the names of any persons to attest to his U.S. residency.
Upon further questioning, Jacques states that he does not participate in local U.S. social or other programs. He receives medical care in Canada, his household goods and most of his personal belongings are kept in Canada, and he banks at a Canadian bank.
U.S. residency is not established because his weekly rental receipts are not sufficient “convincing” evidence and he can't provide the names of persons to attest to his U.S. residency. His room at the boarding house is not sufficient evidence of U.S. residency and, thus, he cannot be considered a U.S. resident.
5. Frequent Absences from the U.S. for Long Periods- U.S. Residency is Questionable
Mrs. Ortiz recently arrived in the U.S. from Puerto Rico. She files for SSI and during the interview says she intends to live here with her daughter for several months of the year and then return to Puerto Rico for several months. This will be a recurring pattern. Although Mrs. Ortiz meets the SSI 30-day presence requirement at the time she files the application, the CR determines that she does not meet the U.S. residency requirement. To be a U.S. resident, a person must establish a residence here with the intent to continue living here. Mrs. Ortiz plans to spend time in both the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Since a person cannot establish residency in two places at the same time, she is not a U.S. resident.
E. Procedure - in care of address
If the address of the claimant is in care of another person and the city or town in the address is in a FO service area which borders Canada or Mexico, contact the claimant in person and question him/her regarding U.S. residency.
Be alert for situations where the claimant is using a U.S. mail drop address where relatives and/or friends receive and hold the benefit check for the claimant who may be residing outside the U.S. In addition to the development in GN 00303.740C.1., request an explanation of how long the claimant has lived at the in care of address.
If the claimant is not living at the in care of address, obtain the following information:
Where the claimant actually resides and for how long;
Where he/she can be reached;
Why he/she is not receiving mail where he/she lives;
Who lives at the in care of address;
The claimant's relationship to that individual; and
When the claimant can be reached at the in care of address.
If U.S. residency cannot be established based on convincing evidence from GN 00303.740C.1. and answers to these questions, obtain secondary evidence as described in GN 00303.740C.2.
F. Example - in care of address
The following is an example of an “in care of address” development that leads to a finding that U.S. residency has been abandoned.
Mr. Domingo, a U.S. resident living near the U.S./Mexican border for several years, requests an in care of change of address to his daughter's residence in the same U.S. neighborhood. Upon questioning, it appears that Mr. Domingo has moved back to Mexico. However, when contacted, he states that he is close to his daughter and stays frequently with her. As evidence of continued U.S. residency, he can provide only an expired driver's license and a receipt showing his old address. Two neighbors give statements by telephone indicating that they have known him for many years and see him frequently. Further questioning reveals that he:
Keeps some clothing and a few personal articles at his daughter's home, but the bulk of his personal belongings are in Mexico.
Visits friends and joins them for activities while staying with his daughter.
Does not participate in any local U.S. social programs, organizations or religious services.
Occasionally visits his daughter, but spends most of his time with family in Mexico.
The CR makes several phone calls to the daughter's residence, but the daughter is unable to say when he will be at home. She states she will tell him to call the office when she sees him.
Mr. Domingo has not maintained U.S. residency. He cannot provide “convincing” evidence of U.S. residency. Although he has knowledge of the neighborhood and neighbors verify seeing him at the given residence occasionally, his answers to open-ended questions and the CR's attempt to contact him “at home” do not support a finding of U.S. residency.