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6 Things to Know About Social Security Benefits for Non-US Citizens Living Abroad

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Many non-citizens who live and work in the United States are not aware that they are eligible for Social Security benefits. In June 2018, the average Social Security benefit was $1,413 per month. While a variety of circumstances impact how much a person receives, these benefits are frequently critical for both citizens and non-citizens. Discover about Social Security benefits for non-US residents living in other countries.


Who is eligible to collect Social Security benefits outside the US?

The rules for collecting Social Security benefits outside the United States vary depending on whether you are a U.S. citizen or a non-US citizen. Here are some fundamentals.

  1. If you are a US citizen: The Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider you to be outside the nation if you spend more than 30 consecutive days outside the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa. If you are a US citizen, you can get retirement, disability, or survivor benefits while traveling overseas as long as you meet the standard eligibility requirements.
  2. If you are a non-US citizen: Non-US citizens may face varying requirements based on their citizenship, where they live, and the sort of Social Security payments they receive.The ‘totalization agreement’ establishes the rules for the US and more than 25 other countries. A totalization agreement serves two main purposes. The first is to avoid double taxation, which prevents the ex-pat from contributing to two distinct insurance systems.

    You may be needed to meet additional residence criteria if you receive dependent or survivor payments, as stated in the Social Security brochure, ‘Your Benefits While You Are Outside the United States. In rare situations, Social Security will discontinue payments to individuals who leave the country for six months or longer, but will restore payments if the person returns for at least one month.

Even if you lack sufficient work credits, you may still be eligible

You may be eligible for benefits even if you do not intend to stay in the United States for ten years and acquire 40 labor credits. Until today, the United States has bilateral agreements with 20 countries. The idea is to make it easier for people who work in other countries to qualify for benefits, so you can combine your work credits earned in the US with those earned in one of the other 20 nations.


You can receive benefits even if you do not live in the United States

You can live and collect your payments wherever you desire, with the exception of North Korea, Cuba, and a few other nations where the US Treasury has imposed payment limitations. Non-citizens must live in the United States for one full calendar month every six months to continue receiving benefits.

But, depending on where you live, there may be exceptions to this rule. If you are a Chinese citizen living in China, for example, you can still receive benefits provided you have at least 40 credits or have been in the United States for at least ten years.

The Payments Abroad Screening Tool from the Social Security Administration can help you determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits outside of the United States.


You will have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits

The IRS will always seek a portion of your income, whether you work or receive assistance. As with everything else, there are several deductions and exemptions, but resident immigrants in the United States normally face a 25.5% cut in their benefits. Typically, the SSA (Social Security Administration) does this by withholding.

The good news is that you will normally be reimbursed for these taxes when you file your US tax returns. You may be eligible to recover some or all of the withholding if the tax due is less than the amount withheld. For those who spend the most of their time outside the United States, one excellent alternative is to determine if they qualify as a nonresident, which may remove withholding.


Foreign benefits and other sources of income may reduce your SSA benefits

Many non-citizens are entitled to retirement benefits from their native countries, but this may limit the amount of Social Security payments you can receive. To account for outside income, the Windfall Elimination Provision may limit your benefits. Check out the’simple screening tool’ to see if this applies to you.


Non-citizen spouses are eligible for spousal and other benefits

In general, foreign spouses who marry US residents are eligible for benefits. It is determined by a number of things. If the non-home citizen’s country has an agreement with the US or if the non-citizen has lived in the US for at least five years while married, they are eligible regardless of where the couple presently resides. Similarly, if the US citizen husband dies, the non-citizen spouse should be eligible for benefits.

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