Retiring Overseas? Make Sure Your Social Security Benefit Will Follow

Ever dreamed of retiring overseas?

After a life spent in the States, maybe you’d prefer the cultural heritage of Latin America, the sand of the Caribbean or the ancient beauty of Europe. Before you pack your bags, make sure your selected destination is one of the countries where you can still receive your Social Security benefit.

Want to retire overseas? Make sure Social Security will follow

The rules are incredibly complex for those who are eligible for Social Security benefits, but are outside of the United States.  These rules apply not only to those who plan to move, but could apply to someone who was on a missions trip or extended vacation.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll limit our discussion to US citizens who have lived and worked in the United States and decided to retire overseas (or extensively travel) during their retirement years.

The Social Security Administration makes it clear.  If you are a US citizen, you can receive your Social Security benefits if you are outside of the United States.  As you may suspect, there are some stipulations.

1) The Definition of Outside the US

According to the Administration’s rules, you are outside of the United States if the following is correct:

  • You are not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US virgin Islands , Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa.
  • You have been out of those areas for 30 consecutive days.

If you meet this definition, you are considered to be “outside the country” until you return and stay in the United States for 30 consecutive days.

2) Prohibited Countries

Although you are eligible to receive your payment if you are out of the country, there are certain countries where they will not send your payment.  The list of prohibited countries include Cuba, North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam and many of the countries that were part of the Soviet Union.

Your entitlement to your benefit still exists, but your process your payment until you leave the prohibited country.  Once you leave, and go to a non-prohibited country, you can receive all the benefits that have been withheld.

3) Exceptions

As with most rules, there is always an exception.  If it’s granted, you’ll be able to continue to receive your Social Security benefit.  This exception is only granted to residents of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan or Vietnam.

This exception will only be granted if:

  • You do not have a representative payee
  • You agree to the conditions
  • The Field Service Post that has jurisdiction agrees to handle your in-person visit and make reports to the Social Security Administration
  • The Office of International Programs approves the payment

Once you are outside of the US, and have reported it to the Social Security Administration as required, you will occasionally receive a questionnaire.  It is extremely important that you send this report back to the Administration.  Otherwise, your payment will stop.

In addition to this questionnaire, you are required to report any changes that could affect your payments.  Things such as marriage, divorce, or change of address should be reported promptly.  Not doing so may not only affect your payments, it could lead to fines or imprisonment.

If you are a US citizen, it is not that difficult to move around the world and continue to receive benefits.  As long as you stay aware of the prohibited countries and report your status changes as quickly as possible, you shouldn’t ever miss a payment.

As an additional resource to this article I highly encourage you to read the following Social Security Administration publications:

Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States.

SSA Restrictions on Payments to the Former Republics of the Soviet Union

Special Payment Procedures for Certain SSA-Restricted Countries

SSA International Programs and Resources

If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We offer a FREE 15 minute consultation with additional work offered on an hourly basis.