Thinking of Retiring Abroad? You Won’t Be Able To Collect Social Security in These Countries
For many people, the land of opportunity can become a bit less appealing beyond the working years. Perhaps you yearn for the tropical beaches of Costa Rica. Or maybe you want to take advantage of free healthcare services in the U.K. as you get older.
However, there is one benefit you may not have in other countries: Social Security. In most cases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) stops payments to non-citizens living outside the U.S. for six calendar months in a row. Payments resume only after you return to the U.S. and stay for at least one calendar month.
However, certain restrictions apply to both U.S. citizens living abroad as well as those residing there temporarily. The SSA outlines Social Security benefits while living outside the U.S. and we will take a look at some of those details in this article.
Countries Where Payments Are Completely Restricted
If you are living in North Korea or Cuba, Social Security benefits will be completely restricted. The good news is that if you are a U.S. citizen, payments will be withheld and can be sent if you later move to a country where payments are not restricted. However, that only applies to U.S. citizens. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you won’t receive benefits for the time you were in North Korea or Cuba, even if you move.
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Countries Where Payments Are Partially Restricted
While only two countries are on the list of where Social Security benefits are completely restricted, there are many more where payments are partially restricted. Those countries include:
In general, the SSA cannot issue payments for those living in these countries. However, you may still be able to receive benefits if you qualify for an exception. You will also have to meet and accept certain restricted payment conditions (more in the next section). The SSA provides a screening tool you can use to find out if you may qualify for an exception.
Those who don’t qualify for an exception will have their payments withheld until they move to a country where they can receive payments. The SSA does not mention anything about citizenship in this scenario.
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Conditions for Receiving Payments Outside the US
As mentioned above, some conditions apply if you hope to receive Social Security payments while outside the U.S. Non-U.S. citizens must live in a country where the SSA can send payments and remain eligible for benefits.
Those who are not U.S. citizens can receive benefits if either of the following applies:
- You were eligible for monthly Social Security benefits for December 1956.
- The worker on whose record your benefits are based died while in the U.S. military service or as a result of a service-connected disability and was not dishonorably discharged.
In other words, you must either qualify to receive payments for December 1956 or receive payments on behalf of a U.S. military service member who died while in service or as a result of a disability.
In addition to these conditions, the SSA has citizenship requirements for receiving payments that are slightly complex. For example, those who are citizens of certain countries, such as Canada, France or the United Kingdom can receive benefits with no further considerations. In other countries, such as Argentina, Iceland and the Philippines, additional conditions apply if you are receiving benefits as a dependent or survivor.
Still more countries come with other conditions, such as earning 40 Social Security credits or having lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years. Those countries include China, India and South Africa.
Lastly, some countries have a U.S. Social Security program, and the SSA will continue to send U.S. Social Security benefits if you are a resident of one of those countries. The following countries are excluded from this arrangement: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.
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Last updated: Oct. 27, 2021