Collecting Social Security While Living Abroad

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may continue to receive payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible for payment and you are in a country where the SSA can send payments. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must meet one of the conditions for payment described in this article.

When we say you are “outside the United States,” we mean you are not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa for at least 30 days in a row. The SSA considers you to be “outside the United States” until you return and stay in the United States for at least 30 days in a row. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you also may have to prove you were lawfully present in the United States for that 30-day period.

If you are not a U.S. citizen or you do not meet one of the conditions for continued payments, the SSA will stop your payments after you have been outside the United States for six full calendar months. Once this happens, the SSA cannot start your payments again until you come back and stay in the United States for a full calendar month. You must be in the United States on the first minute of the first day of any month and stay through the last minute of the last day of that month. In addition, the SSA may ask you to prove you have been lawfully present in the United States for the full calendar month. For more information, contact the Social Security Administration or your Federal Benefits Unit. Contact information is in the last section of this publication titled “Contacting Social Security.”

Conditions for payments to continue while you are outside the United States

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must meet the conditions described in this section to continue receiving benefits outside the United States. You must also remain eligible for benefits and live in a country where we can send payments. You can use the Payments Abroad Screening Tool to determine whether you meet the conditions for payments to continue while you are outside the United States. The Payments Abroad Screening Tool is on the SSA website at: www.ssa.gov/international/payments_outsideUS.html.

  1. The SSA will continue to pay your benefits if:
    • 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.
  2. If you are receiving benefits based on your own earnings and you meet one of the conditions below, the SSA will continue your U.S. Social Security payments. If you are receiving your payments as a dependent or survivor, you must also meet the conditions listed in this publication under the heading “Additional residency requirements for dependents and survivors.”
    • The worker on whose record your benefits are based had railroad work that the Social Security program treated as covered employment.
    • You are in the active military or naval service of the United States
  3. The SSA will continue your U.S. Social Security payments if you are a citizen of one of the countries listed below:
    • Austria
    • Belgium
    • Canada
    • Chile
    • Czech Republic
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • Hungary
    • Ireland
    • Israel
    • Italy
    • Japan
    • Korea (South)
    • Luxembourg
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Slovak Republic
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • United Kingdom
  4. If you are a citizen of one of the countries listed below and you are receiving benefits based on your own earnings, the SSA will continue your U.S. Social Security payments. If you are receiving benefits as a dependent or survivor, you must also meet the conditions listed in this article under the heading “Additional residency requirements for dependents and survivors.”
    • Albania
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Argentina
    • Australia
    • Bahama Islands
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Bolivia
    • Bosnia Herzegovina
    • Brazil
    • Bulgaria
    • Burkina Faso
    • Colombia
    • Costa Rica
    • Côte d’Ivoire
    • Croatia
    • Cyprus
    • Denmark
    • Dominica
    • Dominican Republic
    • Ecuador
    • El Salvador
    • Gabon
    • Grenada
    • Guatemala
    • Guyana
    • Iceland
    • Jamaica
    • Jordan
    • Latvia
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Macedonia
    • Malta
    • Marshall Islands
    • Mexico
    • Micronesia, Fed. States of
    • Monaco
    • Montenegro
    • Nicaragua
    • Palau
    • Panama
    • Peru
    • Philippines
    • Romania
    • Samoa (formerly Western Samoa)
    • St. Kitts and Nevis
    • St. Lucia
    • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
    • San Marino
    •  Serbia
    • Slovak Republic
    • Slovenia
    • Trinidad-Tobago
    • Turkey
    • Uruguay
    • Venezuela
  5. If you are a citizen of one of the countries listed in the chart below, the SSA will continue to pay your benefits outside the United States if:
    • You are receiving benefits based on your own earnings, and you earned at least 40 credits under the U.S. Social Security system or lived at least 10 years in the United States.
    • You are receiving benefits as a dependent or survivor of a worker who earned at least 40 credits under the U.S. Social Security system or lived in the United States for at least 10 years. You must also meet the conditions under the heading “Additional residency requirements for dependents and survivors” in this publication.
  6. If you are a resident of a country that has a U.S. social security agreement, (other than Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, or Switzerland), the SSA will continue your U.S. Social Security payments. You can view a list of these countries in this publication under the heading “Countries that have social security agreements with the United States.” If you are a resident (but not citizen) of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, or Switzerland, the social security agreements allow you to continue to receive your benefits only if you are.
    • A refugee or stateless person.
    • Receiving dependent or survivors benefits on the record of a worker who is (or was at the time of death) a U.S. citizen, a citizen of the country where you reside, a refugee, or stateless person.

Additional residency requirements for dependents and survivors

If you are a citizen of a country for which the SSA require dependents and survivors to meet additional residency requirements, you will have to show that you lived in the United States for at least five years. During those five years, you must have been in the family relationship on which we based your benefits.

However, the U.S. residency requirement does not apply if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • You were initially eligible for monthly benefits before January 1, 1985.
  • Your entitlement is based on the record of a worker who died during U.S. military service or as a result of a service-connected disease or injury.
  • You are a citizen of a country listed under number 3 in the section titled “Conditions for payments to continue while you are outside the United States” in this publication.
  • You are a resident of a country (other than Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, or Switzerland) listed in the section titled “Countries that have social security agreements with the United States” in this publication. For more information about residency in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, or Switzerland, see the heading, “Conditions for payments to continue while you are outside the United States.”

A child who has not lived in the United States for five years can meet the five-year residency requirement if the parent who is the worker, and the other parent, have both lived in the United States for five years. However, the SSA will not pay children adopted outside the United States while they reside outside the United States, even if the child meets the residency requirement.

Countries that have social security agreements with the United States

Currently, these countries have a social security agreement with the United States:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea (South)
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay

Things you must report

Below is a list of things you must report to Social Security. You will find an explanation of each item after this list.

  1. 1. Change of address.
  2. Work outside the United States.
  3. If your disability improves, or you return to work, after qualifying for disability benefits.
  4. Marriage.
  5. Divorce or annulment.
  6. Adoption of a child.
  7. Child leaves the care of a spouse or surviving spouse.
  8. Child nearing age 18 is a full-time student or disabled.
  9. Death.
  10. Inability to manage funds.
  11. Deportation or removal from the
    United States.
  12. Changes in parental circumstances.
  13. Eligibility for a pension from work not
    covered by Social Security.

NOTE: Failure to report a change may result in an overpayment. The SSA will recover any payments not due you. Also, if you fail to report changes in a timely way or you intentionally make a false statement, the SSA may stop your benefits.

How to report

You can report by contacting the SSA in person, by mail, or by telephone. When you contact the SSA, include:

  • The name of the person or persons about whom the report was made.
  • What is being reported and the date it happened.
  • The claim number (a nine-digit number—000-00-0000—followed by a letter or a letter and a number) or BNC# that appears on letters or other correspondence the SSA sends you.

What you need to know about Medicare

Medicare is the U.S. national health insurance program for people who are age 65 or older, or disabled. Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is the agency in charge of the Medicare program, Social Security processes your application for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), and can give you general information about the Medicare program.

Medicare has four parts

  • Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or limited time at a skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay). Part A also pays for some home health care and hospice care.
  • Medicare Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventive services. •
  • Medicare Advantage Plan (previously known as Part C) includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B — prescription drugs and additional benefits such as vision, hearing, and dental — bundled together in one plan.
  • Medicare Part D (Medicare Prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs.

You have choices for how you get Medicare coverage. If you choose to have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) coverage, you can buy a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy from a private insurance company.

Medicare generally does not cover health services you get outside the United States. Part A becomes available to you if you return to the United States. The SSA does not withhold monthly premiums from your benefit payment for this protection. If you want Part B, you must enroll. If you do, the SSA normally will withhold a monthly premium from your payment.

Because Medicare benefits are available only in the United States, it may not be to your advantage to sign up and pay the premium for medical insurance if you will be out of the United States for a long period of time. However, if you do not sign up, be aware that if you do so at a later date, you will pay a 10 percent higher premium for each 12-month period you could have been enrolled, but were not.

If you have Medicare Part B coverage and you want to cancel it, notify Social Security. Premiums for Medicare Part B and associated premiums will continue for one more month after the month you notify us.

Medicare coverage outside the United States is limited

In most situations, Medicare won’t pay for health care or supplies you get outside the U.S. The term “outside the U.S.” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

When does Medicare cover health care services in a foreign hospital?

There are 3 situations when Medicare may pay for certain types of health care services you get in a foreign hospital (a hospital outside the U.S.):

  1. You’re in the U.S. when you have a medical emergency, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your illness or injury.
  2. You’re traveling through Canada without unreasonable delay by the most direct route between Alaska and another state when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your illness or injury. Medicare determines what qualifies as “without unreasonable delay” on a case-by-case basis.
  3. You live in the U.S. and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition, regardless of whether it’s an emergency. Remember, in these situations, Medicare will pay only for the Medicare covered services you get in a foreign hospital.

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