Social Security Disability Benefits for Children Born Outside the USA

Stepchildren and dependent grandchildren born outside the U.S. can get disability benefits.
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In 2011, more than 4.3 million kids received Social Security disability and other benefits. If you have a child who wasn’t born in the United States and you qualified for Social Security disability, he gets benefits from your record by meeting eligibility requirements. He's entitled to disability benefits whether he's living inside or outside the U.S. However, if he's living abroad, he has to follow foreign policies set by the SSA and other government agencies before he gets benefits.

Living in the United States

If your child is living in the United States and is 16 years old or younger, he is eligible for Social Security disability benefits and can get them until he turns 18. If he's still in high school, he can get benefits until he graduates, or two months after his 19th birthday, whichever happens first. If your child is disabled and the disability happened before he turned 22, he can get benefits into adulthood as long as his medical condition meets the SSA’s adult definition of disability.

Benefit Amounts

Your child’s disability benefit is one-half of your entitled disability benefit. Just like your benefits, his payments are tax-free and sent out on a monthly basis. However, his benefits can be reduced if you have other family members getting disability benefits on your record as well. The SSA limits the amount your family can get on your record to between 150 to 180 percent of your entitled benefit. If the total of your family benefit is more than the maximum limit, each person would get their checks reduced.

Living Outside the United States

As a nonresident, your child may have to meet the residency requirements of the SSA. This includes your child living in the United States for at least five years with you or the other parent. In some situations, however, your nonresident child doesn’t have to meet any residency requirements, such as a child who resides in a country that has a totalization agreement with the United States. This agreement between the United States and a foreign country outlines how payroll taxes are collected and benefit payments are made to you and other workers splitting their careers in the two countries. Your child also doesn’t have to satisfy the residency requirement if he was eligible for benefits before January 1, 1985 or a parent died during military service or from a service-related disability or illness.

Federal Taxes

Living abroad causes the taxation of your child's Social Security benefits. Your child gets tax-free benefits if he lived in the United States. However, because your child lives outside of the United States, the SSA generally imposes a 30 percent federal tax rate on 85 percent of his Social Security benefits. He can get this tax rate reduced or eliminated if he lives in a country that has a tax treaty agreement with the United States. Some of these countries include Brazil, Australia and Peru.


If you have an adopted child who was born outside of the United States, he can get benefits from your record if he's living in the United States. Your adopted child is not eligible for benefits if he is living abroad. Also, if your nonresident child left the United States and is living abroad, his benefits stop after six consecutive months unless he is living in a country with a similar Social Security program as the U.S. However, if he's living in a country such as North Korea, Vietnam or Cuba, he would not get any benefits, as the U.S. Treasury prohibits any Social Security payments being sent to anyone living there.

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