“Am I still eligible for Social Security if I retire overseas?”
Happy Monday, John!
The short answer to your question is yes. Provided you were eligible to receive Social Security benefits while living in the United States, choosing to retire and move to another country doesn’t necessarily mean you forfeit your benefits.
However, moving overseas will make you subject to the laws and treaties in place between the U.S. and your new country regarding Social Security payments. If you’re considering retirement abroad, you need to be aware of our agreements with your chosen country if you plan on claiming your benefits.
The U.S. has established Social Security payment agreements with many countries across the world. These agreements will determine how much you can collect, how income you earn in your new country will affect your ability to file or how much you can receive from the federal government (both here and in your new country), how your citizenship status affects your ability to file, and even whether you can receive benefits at all.
And while all of these agreements are unique, there are a few conditions an expat retiree needs to be aware of in general before making the big move:
If you are not a U.S. citizen or a citizen of a particular country, your benefits will likely end after six months of living overseas.
The U.S. does have agreements with many countries (like the United Kingdom) that allow non-U.S. citizens to collect Social Security benefits earned in the U.S. indefinitely. In other countries (Lithuania, Monaco), non-citizens can collect their own Social Security retirement benefits on their own earnings record, but may not be able to collect additional benefits, like a survivors benefit.
If you live in Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, or Ukraine, you can’t receive Social Security.
The U.S. is totally restricted from sending benefits to these countries. In this case, the Social Security Administration would hang onto your benefits until you were in a country where payments were accepted.
The Social Security Administration will require you to regularly update them as to your activity overseas to stay eligible.
The SSA contacts expat beneficiaries every so often to get address updates, pertinent life event updates (like marriages, divorces, or deaths) and to know if you’re earning income abroad. These things could affect your continued eligibility for Social Security benefits. It is required for retirees abroad to report this information to the SSA. Failing to notify or respond to the SSA’s inquiries may cause your benefits to stop.
Be aware of whether or not your new country will tax your benefits.
Living abroad, your benefits will be subject to the same taxes as in the United States, but depending on where you move, they may also be subject to taxes in your retirement country, too.
Keep in mind, this is just a brief overview. How retirement abroad can affect your Social Security benefits is a complicated matter and can be radically different from country to country.
The Social Security Administration offers this quick guide to Social Security payments abroad if you’d like to learn more.
But retiring abroad does NOT mean you surrender your earned Social Security benefits. You still paid in. You still met your eligibility requirements to file. And you’re still entitled to your retirement benefits.
Great question, John. Thank you!
Do you have a question about your Social Security benefits or Social Security policy? Please give us a shout over at our contact page. We’d love to hear what you have to say and feature your question on our weekly “Ask The Seniors Center” blog post!