I-2-0-72.Assigning and Processing Requests for Hearing Filed by Claimants Who Do Not Reside in the United States

Last Update: 1/21/20 (Transmittal I-2-229)

A. General

Under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, we hold hearings in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands. See 20 CFR 404.936(b) and 416.1436(b). However, under section 210(i) of the Social Security Act, individuals who reside in American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands are residents of the United States for title II purposes. Therefore, we also hold title II hearings in these locations.

If a claimant who resides outside the United States requests a hearing, the regulations require the claimant to inform the agency that they wish to appear at the hearing. If the claimant does not do so, and no other parties wish to appear, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will decide the case on the record without holding a hearing. See 20 CFR 404.948(b)(1)(ii) and 416.1448(b)(1)(ii).


“Foreign claimant,” as used herein, refers to residence, not citizenship.



Most often, a foreign claimant will request a hearing for a title XVI claim when the agency issued an initial or reconsideration determination while the claimant was living in the United States, before the claimant moved outside the United States. However, an individual is not eligible for title XVI benefits in any month the individual lives outside the United States. See 20 CFR 416.215. See also 20 CFR 408.1045 for Special Veterans Benefits under title VIII.



Though not as common, a child who lives outside the United States may receive title XVI benefits if they (1) meet the criteria for disability or blindness, (2) are a United States citizen, and (3) live with a parent who is a member of the armed forces of the United States assigned to permanent duty outside the United States. See 20 CFR 416.216.

B. How a Foreign Claimant Files a Request for Hearing

To file a request for hearing, a foreign claimant must:


For title II claims, foreign claimants may also file hearing requests at the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in the Philippines or, for persons having 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, with the Railroad Retirement Board. See 20 CFR 404.933(b)(2).

If the claimant does not timely file the request for hearing, see HALLEX I-2-0-40 E.

C. Receipt of a Request for Hearing from a Foreign Claimant

The Division of International Operations (DIO) has jurisdiction over cases involving foreign claimants (except in certain title XVI cases) and DIO maintains the folder for these cases. DIO has jurisdiction over title XVI claim folders for blind or disabled children of military personnel stationed overseas and concurrent title II and title XVI claims. The Disability Determination Services (DDS) retains jurisdiction of title XVI only claims.

However, hearings and appeals in these cases are handled by the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) and the Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight, respectively. Upon receipt of a request for hearing from a foreign claimant, DIO or DDS will:

  • Contact the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ) via email at OHO OCALJ and request the designation of a hearing office (HO) for the claim; or

  • Locate and prepare the paper claim(s) folder and send it to:

    • Office of Hearings Operations
      Attn: Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge, Division of Administrative Support
      6401 Security Blvd
      Baltimore, MD 21235-6401

D. Designating a Hearing Office

Unless otherwise assigned by the Chief Administrative Law Judge, the Division of Administrative Support in OCALJ is responsible for handling these cases. Upon receipt of a request for hearing, OCALJ will:

  • Designate a HO to process the claim and forward the request for hearing and the claim folder to the HO.

  • Notify the Division of Workload Management if the claim is an “aged case” (as defined at the beginning of each Fiscal Year).

  • If the case is electronic, send an email to DIO indicating which HO has been assigned to process the claim. DIO will forward the claim electronically to the HO.

1. Determining Which HO Will Process the Claim

a. Claimant Requests to Appear at the Hearing

A claimant generally has the right to appear at a hearing before an ALJ either in person, through a designated representative (20 CFR 404.950(a) and 416.1450(a)), by video teleconferencing (VTC), or, in extraordinary circumstances, by telephone. We do not conduct hearings outside of the United States and territories, as set forth in HALLEX I-2-0-72 A, including appearances by VTC from a location outside of the United States. However, when a claimant does not reside in the United States and requests to appear at a hearing by telephone, the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ), or their designee, may consider whether extraordinary circumstances exist to justify the claimant's appearance by telephone.

If a foreign claimant requests to appear at a hearing in the United States, OCALJ will ordinarily designate the HO that is closest to the claimant's port of entry. However, OCALJ may designate an HO other than the one closest to the port of entry if it would promote the just and efficient administration of the hearing process. For example, OCALJ may consider whether a particular HO has access to VTC locations that could be used to hold the hearing more efficiently than the closest port of entry.

SSA will reimburse travel expenses as provided in I-2-0-72 E below.

b. Claimant Does Not Request To Appear at Hearing

If neither the foreign claimant nor appointed representative, if any, requests to appear at a hearing in the United States, OCALJ will designate an HO that can handle the claim most expeditiously.

If the foreign claimant does not wish to appear at a hearing in the United States, but a United States resident, who is either a party to the hearing or the claimant's representative, does wish to appear, OCALJ will designate the HO that services the residence of the party who is a United States resident, or the business office of the claimant's representative.

2. Sending an Acknowledgement Letter

Foreign claimants will receive two acknowledgement letters. First, when an HO is designated, OCALJ will send an acknowledgement letter to the foreign claimant identifying the HO processing the claim and providing contact information for the HO. Next, the HO receiving the claim will then receipt the claim and follow existing procedures in HALLEX I-2-0-20 to acknowledge receipt of the request for hearing.

3. Claimant Requests Appearance at Different HO

If a foreign claimant responds to the acknowledgement letter and requests to appear at a hearing at a different HO, the designated HO considers the request in light of the criteria in HALLEX I-2-0-70 D.


If the request is granted, SSA will reimburse travel expenses only to the extent provided in HALLEX I-2-0-72 E below.

4. Special Considerations When Scheduling a Hearing by Telephone and Claimant Is Located Outside the United States

When arranging a hearing by telephone with a claimant located outside the United States, the HO must confirm that international phone calls can be placed from the telephone that will be used on the day of the hearing. If that telephone does not allow international phone calls, a Move, Adds and Changes (MAC) request must be submitted to the telephone contractor (currently Avaya) to authorize a specific extension or extensions to make international calls. This request must be submitted at least forty (40) days prior to the date the international phone call will be placed.

E. Reimbursement

Sections 201(j) and 1631(h) of the Social Security Act authorize the expenditure of funds to pay travel expenses to claimants for travel within the United States to attend proceedings before ALJs. Based on the implementing regulations (20 CFR 404.999c(d) and 416.1498(d)), SSA will reimburse a claimant only if the distance from their residence to the hearing site exceeds 75 miles. For foreign claimants, SSA considers the port of entry closest to the designated HO to be their residence for the purpose of computing the 75 miles.

The following rules apply to foreign claimants:

  • If the designated HO schedules the hearing at a place within 75 miles of the claimant's port of entry, SSA will not reimburse travel expenses.

  • If the designated HO schedules the hearing at a place more than 75 miles from the claimant's port of entry, SSA will reimburse the claimant for travel to the hearing under the applicable regulatory provisions in 20 CFR 404.999a through 404.999d, and 416.1495 through 416.1499.

  • If the claimant requests to change the designated HO, and the request is granted, SSA will reimburse travel expenses only if they would have been payable had the hearing been held within the jurisdiction of the originally designated HO and only in the amount that would have then been payable.

  • If the foreign claimant, representative, or any necessary witness requests reimbursement of travel expenses, HO staff will follow the procedures in HALLEX I-2-3-13 and the Administrative Instructions Manual System, Financial Management Manual, Chapter 07, Instruction No. 26 (AIMS. FMM 07.26).