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Retiring ABROAD? What You Need to Know about Getting Benefits Outside the U.S.

Nov 1, 2017, 8:30 a.m.
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By Kirk Larson Social Security Washington Public Affairs Specialist

Retiring outside of the United States can be an exciting way to spend your golden years. Perhaps retirement in Poland or Peru is in your plans. In many cases, it’s possible to receive your Social Security retirement benefits while living abroad. Our website can help you navigate your benefit eligibility while living overseas. Many people who travel or live outside the country receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including retired and disabled workers, as well as spouses, widows, widowers, and children.

If you’ve worked in both the United States and another country, it may be possible for your credits to combine for a larger benefit. Currently, there are 25 countries with such international agreements with the United States. To find out if you have qualifying work in a country with such an agreement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/international.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible. When we say you are “outside the United States,” we mean you’re 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. Once you’ve been outside the United States for at least 30 days in a row, we consider you to be outside the country. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you cannot receive benefits if you’re outside of the United States for a month or more.

If you’re traveling outside the U.S. for an extended amount of time, it’s important that you tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back, no matter how long you expect your travel to last.

You can use this online tool to find out if you can continue to receive your Social Security benefits if you are outside the United States or are planning to go outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments_outsideUS.html. This tool will help you find out if your retirement, disability, or survivor’s payments will continue as long as you are eligible, stop after six consecutive calendar months, or if certain country-specific restrictions apply.

When you live outside the United States, we send you a questionnaire periodically. Your answers will help us figure out if you still are eligible for benefits. Return the questionnaire to the office that sent it as soon as possible. If you don’t, your payments will stop. In addition to responding to the questionnaire, notify us promptly about changes that could affect your payments. You can also read the publication titled Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Securing today and tomorrow is our priority, no matter where you might be living. Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey, even if that journey takes you outside the United States. You can always access our wide range of safe and secure online resources at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Kirk Larson is a Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist located in Seattle and serving Western Washington.

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