TN 48 (02-24)

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 they are 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 they reside, 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:

  1. a. 

    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;

  2. b. 

    The claimant presents a grommeted I-551 or a commuter I-551 (both documents indicate the bearer commutes to the U.S. to work);

  3. c. 

    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

  4. d. 

    The address is near Mexico or Canada and the claimant is filing out of service area.

  5. e. 

    The claimant declares that their spouse lives in another country.

  6. f. 

    The claimant explains that they live with a “friend”, but their family is in another country.

  7. g. 

    The claimant has prior periods of ineligibility to SSI benefits due to absences from the United States.

  8. h. 

    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.

  9. i. 

    Relatives or other third parties respond to requests for information and ask that appointments be rescheduled.

  10. j. 

    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, they 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 they return 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:

  • Is a U.S. citizen; and

  • Is living with a parent who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces assigned to permanent duty ashore outside the United States.

(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 they are 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.

  1. a. 

    Property, income or other tax forms or receipts;

  2. b. 

    Proof of U.S. home ownership or rental lease or rent payment record;

  3. c. 

    Utility bills addressed to the claimant;

  4. d. 

    U.S. driver's license;

  5. e. 

    Telephone directory listing;

  6. f. 

    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;

  7. g. 

    Proof of employment, such as pay stubs or a contract;

  8. h. 

    Proof of active participation in a religious, fraternal, or social organization;

  9. i. 

    A record of volunteer activity which shows regular and frequent performance;

  10. j. 

    Clinic cards or doctor's record showing dates of visits for regular medical treatment;

  11. k. 

    Proof of a local U.S. bank account or check-cashing card at a local establishment; and

  12. l. 

    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 their daughter, who provides for all their needs. Juanita says they did not file previously because they did not realize they might be eligible.

They are unable to provide any convincing evidence of their U.S. residence except a receipt from a local doctor, which does not show their address. Upon questioning, they can describe their home, are familiar with their neighborhood and are able to name businesses and several of their neighbors.

They have 2 children in the U.S. and 3 in Mexico. They claim to visit their other children occasionally, for a week or two at a time, but keep all their personal possessions at their given address. FO calls to two neighbors confirm Juanita's full-time residence and they answer 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 their residential neighborhood, two statements from disinterested persons confirm their 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 their residency, they present a current weekly room receipt from their landlord and a check-cashing card as evidence of U.S. residency. They claim 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 their neighborhood. They state that their family is in Mexico, but they don't see them often. When asked for the names of persons who can attest to their U.S. residency, they give 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 they have rented a room for the past several weeks but declines to sign a statement to that effect. The nephew confirms their 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 their 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

Jana Bihari has resided in the U.S. for several years. Recently, they traveled to India to visit their son for a few weeks. While visiting, they became ill and the short visit extended to 4 months. Jana took only a suitcase with them on the visit, leaving the bulk of their household goods and clothing at their apartment.

Upon questioning, Jana indicates that they continued to pay rent on their apartment in the U.S. and pay utility bills from their U.S. bank account. They present monthly rent receipts for the last year and cancelled checks from their U.S. bank account used as payment for utility bills. U.S. residency is maintained because they present “convincing” evidence of their 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. They also rent a room in a boarding house in the U.S., near the U.S./Canadian border, where they occasionally stay if they work late or during inclement weather. When questioned about their U.S. residency, Jacques presents, as evidence, several weekly rental receipts for scattered periods in the last 6 months. They have no other evidence of U.S. residency, nor can they give the names of any persons to attest to their U.S. residency.

Upon further questioning, Jacques states that they do not participate in local U.S. social or other programs. They receive medical care in Canada, their household goods and most of their personal belongings are kept in Canada, and they bank at a Canadian bank.

U.S. residency is not established because their weekly rental receipts are not sufficient “convincing” evidence and they can't provide the names of persons to attest to their U.S. residency. Their room at the boarding house is not sufficient evidence of U.S. residency and, thus, they cannot be considered a U.S. resident.

5. Frequent Absences from the U.S. for Long Periods- U.S. Residency is Questionable

Luna Ortiz recently arrived in the U.S. from Puerto Rico. They file for SSI and during the interview say they intend to live here with their daughter for several months of the year and then return to Puerto Rico for several months. This will be a recurring pattern. Although Luna meets the SSI 30-day presence requirement at the time they file the application, the CR determines that they do 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. Luna 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, they are 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 them 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 they can be reached;

  • Why they are not receiving mail where they live;

  • 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.

Pete Domingo, a U.S. resident living near the U.S./Mexican border for several years, requests an in care of change of address to their daughter's residence in the same U.S. neighborhood. Upon questioning, it appears that Pete has moved back to Mexico. However, when contacted, they state that they are close to their daughter and stay frequently with them. As evidence of continued U.S. residency, they can provide only an expired driver's license and a receipt showing their old address. Two neighbors give statements by telephone indicating that they have known Pete for many years and see them frequently. Further questioning reveals that Pete:

  • Keeps some clothing and a few personal articles at their daughter's home, but the bulk of their personal belongings are in Mexico.

  • Visits friends and joins them for activities while staying with their daughter.

  • Does not participate in any local U.S. social programs, organizations or religious services.

  • Occasionally visits their daughter, but spends most of their time with family in Mexico.

The CR makes several phone calls to the daughter's residence, but the daughter is unable to say when Pete will be at home. They state they will tell Pete to call the office when they see them.

Pete has not maintained U.S. residency. They cannot provide “convincing” evidence of U.S. residency. Although Pete has knowledge of the neighborhood and neighbors verify seeing them at the given residence occasionally, Pete's answers to open-ended questions and the CR's attempt to contact them “at home” do not support a finding of U.S. residency.

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GN 00303.740 - Establishing U.S. Residency - 02/22/2024
Batch run: 02/22/2024