What Happens To Social Security If You Retire Abroad?

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If you are planning to retire abroad, one of the first things that likely comes to your mind is whether or not you will get Social Security benefits. Although whether or not you get Social Security depends on many factors, the answer in most cases is yes. In this article, we will try to answer all your questions about what happens to Social Security if you retire abroad.

When Do You Qualify For Social Security Benefits Abroad?

Before we talk about what happens to Social Security if you retire abroad, you need to know whether or not you qualify for Social Security Benefits abroad.

If you are working and making Social Security contributions, you earn credits toward your Social Security benefits. A person needs to earn the minimum required credits to qualify for retirement benefits.

So, if you work abroad and made Social Security contributions to the U.S. and a foreign country, you may not qualify for the benefits if you have not acquired enough credits. In such a case, Social Security agreements or Totalization Agreements could protect you.

Such agreements protect taxpayers from making Social Security contributions to two countries. If you work in a country that doesn’t have any such agreement with the U.S., then you will have to make Social Security contributions in both countries.

Depending on the rules of the agreement, you may be eligible for partial foreign or U.S. benefits on the combined credits from the U.S. and the country of your residence. If your total credits from both countries make you eligible for Social Security benefits, then you will get partial benefits depending on your work time in each country.

Visit this link to view the names of countries that have Social Security agreements with the U.S.

What Happens To Social Security If You Retire Abroad?

As noted above, several factors decide whether or not you get Social Security if you retire abroad, including the country you are planning to retire in and the status of your U.S. citizenship. Let’s discuss each of these factors in detail:

Which Country Are You Planning To Retire In?

The U.S. government will send Social Security checks to most countries, but there are a few countries to which it won’t send checks. These countries are: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

You may, however, get an exemption that could allow you to continue getting Social Security in most of the above countries, except for Cuba or North Korea. You must contact the Social Security Administration to get more information on getting Social Security in these countries.

If you don’t get an exemption, you may get delayed Social Security checks. The U.S. government, in this case, will withhold your Social Security for the time you live in that country. Once you move back to the U.S. or any other country where the U.S. sends Social Security checks, the government will transfer all Social Security money that it previously withheld from you.

What About Non-Citizens?

In general, U.S. citizens abroad would continue to get benefits provided they worked long enough to qualify for the benefits, or are married to someone who has worked long enough. However, those who are not U.S. citizens may lose their benefits if they live in a foreign country for a long time.

A person will lose Social Security payments if they live outside the U.S. for six full calendar months. Moreover, the government will only resume the payments once that person is back in the U.S. for a full calendar month.

There are exceptions to this rule depending on the native country of the retiree.

What If You Are Already Living Abroad?

If you are already living abroad, it is very important that you keep the Social Security Administration informed about major events in your life that can impact your benefits. You can keep the Social Security Administration in the loop by mail or phone or through my Social Security account.

The major life events that we are talking about include you moving to a new address or country, a change in your marital status, adopting a child, a minor child or child with disabilities leaving your care, or you returning to work after claiming disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration will not be able to calculate your benefits accurately if it doesn’t have the above information on you.

Alternatively, the Social Security Administration periodically sends a questionnaire to those living outside of the U.S. The SSA uses this questionnaire to determine your eligibility for benefits. It is important that you accurately fill out this questionnaire and return it to the SSA as soon as possible.

Final Words

So, you now know what happens to Social Security if you retire abroad. Moreover, it is also important that you stay up to date with any rule changes from the Social Security Administration that could impact your benefits. You can always contact the Social Security Administration if you have any questions regarding your benefits.

Alternatively, there is another way to find out whether or not you can get Social Security if you live abroad. You can visit the Social Security Administration’s Payments Abroad Screening Tool to get answers to your questions. The tool will ask a few questions regarding your citizenship status, your native country or the country you plan to retire in. Once you answer all the questions, the tool will tell you about your Social Security benefits.