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What Happens to My Social Security Benefits If I Work Abroad?


Working abroad in foreign countries is becoming a big trend with every age group. More people are looking for lower cost of living while being able to work in other countries. Receiving social security while working abroad is a big question for retirement planning. The good news is that Americans working abroad may be eligible for social security benefits if you understand the intricacies of both U.S. and the foreign country’s laws.

Bi-Lateral Social Security Agreements

For an American expat to become eligible for social security benefits, it’s crucial to check the agreements that the U.S. has with that particular foreign country. Bi-lateral social security agreements (or Totalization Agreements) are arranged between the U.S. and other foreign countries for an American citizen working abroad to receive benefits from both countries. If you work less than 40 quarters under U.S. social security, but you also contributed the equivalent amount to the social program in the foreign country that has a bi-lateral social security agreement with the U.S., you might be eligible to receive U.S. social security benefits.

When a foreign country has a Totalization Agreement in place, the American expat does not pay double social insurance tax to both countries. These agreements also helps qualify for benefits from both countries where each country gives a proportionate amount of social security in relation to the number of years that the American citizen had worked in both countries.

Windfall Elimination Provision

Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is another law that affects American citizens working abroad. The WEP affects Americans if they earned a pension while being employed and they did not pay U.S. Social Security taxes, but also worked in other jobs where they qualified for social security benefits. If you work abroad, but had contributed to U.S. social security in the past, the WEP could potentially decrease the amount of social security benefits you qualify for.

Foreign Spouses Receiving Social Security Benefits

Sometimes an American citizen that works abroad will marry a non-U.S. citizen. A foreign spouse may be eligible to receive social security benefits if they live in the U.S. for at least five years as a married couple. Also, eligibility might be granted if the spouse is a resident or citizen of countries that have social security agreements with the United States. Foreign spouses may be able to receive social security survivor benefits as well.

Qualifying for U.S. social security benefits while working abroad can be complicated, as laws vary between countries. If you any questions about receiving social security benefits while working abroad, contact London Disability today.

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