DI 43530.035 How Working Affects Receipt of Benefits--FAM 241.8-2
The same retirement test applied within the United States is applied to the few individuals outside the United States who work in employment or self-employment that is covered under the social security system of the United States. That test is in terms of earnings. It would not be realistic, however, for the law to specify a dollar amount as a measure of whether a beneficiary living outside the United States and working in employment or self-employment not covered under the U.S. social security program is retired. No single money amount could realistically differentiate between full-time and part-time work in all foreign countries. A different type of test is provided in the law, therefore, which is generally applicable to individuals living outside the United States and working in noncovered employment or self-employment. Under the test, no benefit is payable for a month in which the beneficiary was under age 72 and worked or engaged in a business on any part of 7 or more days. The selection of 7 days was for the purpose of allowing some work--roughly during a quarter of a month--and still considering the individual to be substantially retired. Services performed without pay, or the expectation of pay or profit, are not counted toward the 7-day test. After age 72, benefits are paid to individuals living abroad as to those continuing to live in the United States, without regard to their work activity or earnings.
A detailed discussion of the 7-day foreign work test may be found in the Social Security Handbook, chapter 18.