TN 25 (02-08)
GN 02605.210 United States Absences and the Effect on Benefits
In general, temporary absences from the United States for less than 6 months have no effect on the payment of Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) benefits.
An absence of more than 3 months requires a change from a domestic address to a foreign address.
The beneficiary who is, was, or will be outside the U.S. for more than 3 months must complete and submit an SSA-21 (Supplement to Claim of Person Outside the United States). The information shown on the SSA-21 is used to complete the post-entitlement screens concerning the change of address, nonresident alien tax withholding, alien nonpayment provisions, and the date the beneficiary left the United States. Additionally, the SSA-21 provides information concerning the beneficiary’s intent to work while outside the United States.
Once the alien beneficiary is outside the U.S. for more than 6 months he/she becomes subject to the Alien Non-Payment Provisions.
See Significance of SSA-21 (GN 00205.180).
B. Taxation of Benefits While Outside the U.S.
The 1983 amendments provided for withholding a tax from benefits paid to certain nonresident aliens.
U.S. citizens are not subject to this taxation of benefits while outside the United States.
The PELF (Alien Tax Update) screen is placed into the pathway when a domestic to foreign change of address is initiated via the post-entitlement PEAD (POS Address/Direct Deposit/Phone) screen. The PELF screen gathers the information that is used to apply taxation to the benefits payable to a beneficiary while he/she is outside the United States.
Nonresident Alien Tax Withholding- Table of Contents (GN 05010.000)
Beneficiaries Subject to the Withholding Tax (GN 05010.010)
Determining the Tax Status of a Claimant/Beneficiary Who Is (or Will Be) Outside the U.S. (GN 05010.025)
U.S. Resident Status as an Exception to the Nonresident Alien Withholding Tax (GN 05010.030)
C. Work While Outside the U.S.
Beneficiaries who engage in non-covered work or self-employment and:
who are outside the U.S.;
work before the month in which they attain FRA, and;
work for more than 45 hours in a month;
may be subject to the Foreign Work Test (FWT).
It should be noted that earnings from some activities outside the U.S. are subject to the Annual Earnings Test (AET).
The FWT applies to work performed outside the United States which is not covered by the U.S. Social Security program and, for which differences in the values of foreign currencies make it administratively impractical to apply a test based on the dollar amount of earnings.
The Work Tests – Outside the U.S. (RS 02605.001)
Foreign Work Test (RS 02605.005)
The Earnings Test (RS 02501.021)
D. Alien Nonpayment Provisions
According to the alien nonpayment provisions (ANPP), aliens outside the U.S. for 6 consecutive calendar months will not be paid benefits beginning with the 7th month of their absence unless they can meet an exception.
The alien nonpayment provisions are based on Section 202(t) of the Social Security Act and do not apply to citizens or nationals of the United States.
IMPORTANT: The Alien Nonpayment provisions are extremely complex and multi-tiered. Before applying these provisions it will be necessary to fully review the POMS chapter Alien Nonpayment Provisions (RS 02610.000).
The NUSC (Non U.S. Citizen Coding) screen is placed into the pathway when a domestic to foreign change of address is initiated via the post-entitlement PEAD screen. The NUSC screen gathers the information that will be used to apply the alien nonpayment provisions to a beneficiary while he/she is outside the United States.
The LEUS (Left U.S./Outside of U.S.) screen will also be placed into the pathway when a domestic to foreign change of address is initiated via the post-entitlement PEAD screen. The LEUS screen is used to annotate the exact date that the beneficiary left the United States. The RETAP operation automatically selects SSN’s where the LEFT US date is 7 months prior to COM and there is no RETURNED US date. These cases are processed by Title II Redesign, the MBR is evaluated, and the appropriate suspense action is taken.
It is very important that the LEUS screen is completed when a beneficiary who is subject to ANPP leaves the U.S. for any period that exceeds 3 months. It is the proper coding of the LEUS screen which initiates the Alien Nonpayment Provision suspension via the RETAP operation once the beneficiary has been outside the U.S. for 6 months.
E. No SSA-21 Received From the Beneficiary
Place the beneficiary in suspense if the SSA-21 has not been received within 90 days of the date it was requested.
Where benefits have been suspended and the Form SSA-21 is subsequently received, resume benefits retroactively unless suspension is applicable for some other reason (i.e., ANPP applies, work, etc.) If payment cannot be resumed, a notice should be sent to the beneficiary explaining why benefits cannot be resumed. If the beneficiary has already been informed another notice is not necessary.
Samples of notices for foreign address issues can be found in (NL 00703.290 through NL 00703.302).
A new SSA-21 will be required if the beneficiary is again leaving the United States and has been in the U.S. for 1 year or more based on the most recent entry. A change in citizenship status or some other event might have occurred that could affect the current payment of benefits.
If the beneficiary was in the United States less than one year the annual foreign enforcement Form SSA-7162-C1, should have identified any event which would affect benefit payments. Use the exception code previously established unless information in the file indicates it is no longer applicable.
F. Related Publication
The Social Security Publication, 10137 Social Security—Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States, addresses all the information cited above and should be provided to any beneficiary who is planning to reside outside the United States. It is available in a booklet format and on the official website http://www.socialsecurity.gov.