Social security for Overseas retirees

American citizens who retire abroad are eligible for social security benefits.

Of course, everything about social security is subject to change in the coming years. But it is good to know that overseas retirees are not shortchanged on this (as is the case for Medicare, which I will cover in a separate post).

Here are the important facts about receiving social security payments while living outside the US:
  • If you are a US citizen, you are eligible for social security retirement benefits (provided you have worked for a minimum of 10 years), just as if you stayed in the US.
  • If you are not a US citizen, your eligibility to receive social security benefits depends on which country you are a citizen of. [If you are an Indian citizen, you are eligible to receive benefits provided you have lived in the US for at least 10 years or earned at least 40 credits under the social security system.]
  • Social Security payments may be deposited directly into your account at a US financial institution. This is the most convenient way to receive social security payments. They may also be directly deposited into accounts in some other countries. However, India is not one of them.
  • The Social Security benefits paid to a US citizen outside the US are taxed in the same manner as those paid to a US citizen living in the US. In addition, some foreign governments also tax US Social Security benefits. [Under the Indo-US Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), India does not tax social security payments.]

Related posts:

Related links:
  • AARP's FAQ about receiving social security benefits abroad
  • SSA publication on social security payments outside the US
  • India: Double taxation Avoidance agreements with other countries

67 comments:

jack said...

Will a Green Card holder who earned more than 40 Social Security credits, returns to India (thus forsaking US citizenship), be eligible to get Social Security payouts at the retirement age? If he maintains a US bank account, can the payout be direct deposited?

Nigel said...

jack,
Under current rules, the answer to both questions is "Yes". Rules may change in the coming years, so I would not depend on this too much.

Anonymous said...

My understanding was that social security is paid overseas only to citizens or permanent residents. Now, if a green card holder is living in India, then he automatically loses his permanent residency status, and thus will not be eligible for social security payments.

You answered "yes" to jack's question. Am I missing something?

Nigel said...

You do not have to be a citizen or permanent resident to receive social security benefits under current rules. The SSA publication that I linked to (under Related links) has all the details on social security eligibility for non-citizens.

This is not the case for all countries -- India is one of the countries listed as an exception to the normal case (which is that SS payments stop after 6 months of leaving the US).

aksurana said...

Hi Nigel,
On reading the publication in detail, my understanding is that, for a person who has stayed in the US for 10 years and has now moved back to India, the Social Security benefits paid will almost be negligible because the benefits are paid only based on the average salary paid in the US for the last 35 years before retirement. In this case, I would not have got any US salary for the last 20-25 years since I've been working in the US.

Nigel said...

Someone who paid social security payroll taxes only for 10 years (whether they continued to live in the US or left the country) will be eligible for much lower benefits than someone who did for 30+ years. After all, that would only be fair!

I have an earlier post on social security retirement benefits where I discussed details of how social security payments are calculated.

Anonymous said...

I am an Indian by descent and a naturalized US citizen. I plan on retiring as an OCI in India after another 4 years,at the age of 62. I do have enough credits for social security benefits, just adequate to sustain me there while I will find some approprite area to volunteer for the longest that I will be able to.
My question is about taxes. Will my social security income be taxed both by US and India?

Nigel said...

Anon,
As I mention in the article, India does not tax Social security payments (due to tax treaty between India and the US).

Your Social security payments are considered taxable income in the US. Whether you have to pay any actual US taxes depends on several other factors -- How much will you receive in SS payments? Will you have any other income? What tax credits/deductions will you be eligible for? You will need to figure this based on your specific situation.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
For final benefit amount, does it matter if one is US citizen or Not?

for example : What will be the difference in $ amount when an Indian citizen (have at least 40 credits in USA to qualify for social security benefits) vs. US Citizen ( both residing in India ) and all other factors being equal.

Thanks for you post.

Nigel said...

Anon,
Under current rules, your SS benefit amount does not depend on your citizenship status.

geeth said...

I am a Canadian citizen, contributed 40+ credits for SS benefits and plan to live in India next month onwards to care for my parents. Now, am i eligible to get SS benefits? No GC yet as the US Govt is delaying the job, but GC process is over and currently on EAD.

Nigel said...

Geeth,
You are in the same situation as any Canada-born Canadian citizen who has earned 40+ SS credits. So of course you would be eligible for SS benefits. Your U.S. visa status has nothing to do with this.

Geeth said...

Hi Nigel,

I am not a Canada born Canadian citizen. I am an India born , naturalized canadian citizen. Will I be still eligible for SS benefits if I live in India after retirement. Since your reply specifically indicates that canada born canadian citizens are eligible, I need clarification on the above point.

Nigel said...

Geeth,
What I was trying to say was that there is no difference between naturalized and native-born citizens as far as eligibility for SS benefits is concerned.

Do not take my word on this: please read the SSA publication I linked to in the article. Under current law, eligibility for SS benefits is quite simple -- it just depends on how long you have contributed into SS, and which country you are currently a citizen of.

jrao124 said...

Hi,
Nigel, you said that an Indian citizen who gives up her GC and returns to India will get SS benefits if they have 40 credits.
How will she pay US taxes though when she is not a US citizen? I mean, how does one file US taxes without a citizenship status?
I am in this situation. I've returned to India without a US passport and am not planning to get it either.
Thanks
Rao

Nigel said...

Rao,
You do not need to be a US citizen to file taxes. (After all, plenty of non-citizens work in the US and pay taxes). If you ever contributed to Social security, you must have a social security number. That's all you need to file taxes. And even if you don't, you can request a Tax ID (TIN) from the IRS.

jrao124 said...

OK, thanks, Nigel. That is true. I used to file taxes as a non-immigrant too. I do have an SSN and have 40 credits. Hence the concern about getting my money back.

Is there no way of getting a refund of the money we have been putting into SS if we agree to forfeit the benefits at retirement?
Thanks
Rao

Rao said...

Any inputs to my question regarding SS refund for GC holders who want to leave the country?
Thanks. Any help is appreciated.
Rao

Nigel said...

Rao,
There is no way to get a "refund" of the social security contributions made by an employee (except in some special visa situations for people who are not eligible for SS benefits). Social security contributions made by workers are used immediately to pay benefits to current retirees. It is no more possible to get them back than it is to get back federal taxes paid.

Anonymous said...

Here is my situation, I worked for 8 years including border months in these years where I earned 44 points (example 1995-1996 visit will fetch 8 points). Hope someone also has similar situation. I did not have Green Card. Now I am permanently located in India. Wish to check if some one has done enough research to figure out If I am eligible for Social security benifits. Your feedback is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

So far as I can understand, being an Indian citizen living in India, I can get SSA benefits provided I have 40 credits at least. I am 40 years old and plan to work in India till retirement. Since it will be 27 years before full retirement age for SSA benefits and I'll contribute nothing for the next 27 years, will I be penalised for working and not contributing and thus either will receive low payments or delayed benefits. Thanks.

Nigel said...

Anon,
As one would expect, your social security check depends on how long (and how much) you contributed into the system. Why not try one of the calculators at the Social security site (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/anypia/index.html) to estimate for yourself what your expected payments would be? Also keep in mind that things may change in the future, so this is not a sure thing.

rao said...

HI NIgel,
This blog is excellent. Thanks a lot for your valuable comments about ss benefits. After seeing this I applied for my ss benefits and I am getting them. I am not a us citizen and I dont have the green card now.
I have the necessary 40 credits.
They are withholding 30% of the 85% benefits. Is this correct?
thanks
vv

Raghavan said...

Rao,

How are you getting your benifits since you do not have an account at a US financial institution? Do you have to go to the US consulate every month to collect? And are you getting 85% benifits because you are not yet 67? I presume that the 30 % witholding is due to to the 30% tax you have to pay as a non resident alien. Please reply.

Raghavan said...

Rao,

How did you obtain social security benefits? By visiting the us consualte? Do you need to collect the check every month?

Raghavan

Anonymous said...

Hi Rao,
Can you please document the procedure here, so that it will be useful to others like you.....

Thanks.

Swapan said...

I am 61 years old and about 10 years in USA with green card. I am eligible for getting US citizenship by naturalization. We have plan to retire to India may be 8 years from now. Our children will stay back in USA. In India we will have to depend on the SS benefit for our living. we can not decide my mind whether we should take US citizenship or continue with Green Card. Can you please give your frank suggestion what should be done in such situation ?

Nigel said...

Swapan,
This is really a personal decision and you could go either way. I think US Citizenship with OCI status will give you the most flexibility -- you can live in either country for any length of time and travel back and forth without any restrictions.

Swapan said...

Nigel,
You are absolutely correct. This is really a personal choice. I was just thinking from the procedural aspect like getting SS benefit, movement between USA and India, residence requirement etc. I think your suggestion of retiring to India with US citizenship and OCI card is very wise. I have a friend who has Green Card but mainly lives in India. He visits USA may be once a year to his children. He has to answer lots of question on his long absence from USA every time he enters USA. Every time he is told that being a permanent resident (Green card)he can not stay outside USA for a long time repeatedly. I think US citizens do not have such restriction. Am I correct ? Finally lots of thanks for your website. It really helps.

Anonymous said...

I am US Citizen. Will my parents be eligible for social security retirement benefit if I sponsored them for permanent residency ? They have never worked in US.

Nigel said...

Anon,
No, they won't qualify. You may be thinking of SSI (Supplimental Security income) which is a federal assistance program different from Social security. Since you will be supporting your parents, they will not need, nor qualify for, federal assistance.

Harish said...

It is very useful post and helped decide me if I need to take US citizenship before leaving for India. I already have 40 credits. SS office told me that I can get the payment in India but they will deduct 15% as alien tax. Now what is this addition 30% deduction from 85% payment? If it is US I Tax deduction at source, will I get a refund after filing tex return?

Anonymous said...

my father is an Indian citizen who lives in Malaysia with us because he cannot take care of himself anymore. He gets annuity checks dont know whether he has 40 points or not. He is too old to endorse his checks. his signature is shaky.

His bank in India (a US bank) is not accepting unendorsed checks unless he deposits them in person which he cant do because he is not in India. They will not accept a thumb impression either. Now he doesnt have a social security number anymore

Is he even eligible for these checks? It wd be a shame if he werent...The US embassy has never said he isnt eligible

what can I do to get them to accept unendorsed checks.

GS said...

I am 61 years of age and a US citizen . Have been working in US since 1197and also presently employed. Have 40 credits.
If I move to India now, am I eligible for social security benefits and the procedure.

ajay said...

Hi Nigel,

what an excellent blog. you have more information than even the ssa staff. I called them few days back and all they told me is to check their website because they did not have that information at that time.
My case is little different.
I dont have 40 points but I am eligible for survivor and disability benefits. My question is if I go back to India (I am an indian citizen), will I/my dependents still be qualified to avail the disability/survivor benefits. Please note that my spouse is also Indian citizen but two minor kids are US citizen.
Will they get the benefit for only first 6 months (irrespective of when we move to India)? or since they r u US citizens they will continue to get but spouse will get only for 6 months? Pls give your valuable advice

Anonymous said...

my father is a usa cititzen and is getting pension . my mother was a usa green card holder and was getting her share of pension as a dependent on my father . now my mother has got her green card expired due to certain reasons. i want to know if my mother is still eligible for her share of pension as a dependent.

Anonymous said...

How do we know how many credits we have as of now?

Anonymous said...

You can create an account on SSA website and can see the credits. If you have earned more than $4500 every year of your stay and filed return for 10 years then you have earned 40 credits for SSA benefits.

Hussain M. Naqvi said...

If a person lived in USA & left US without GC and contributed 40+ points for SS. In case if that person got disabled then How that person/depenedents will get disability benefits in India?

Anonymous said...

We moved back to England after living in Ny for many years. I became an American and my husband had a green card. He had to give up his green card when he came back to the USA on holiday. he has about 17 credits and I have about 13.We are getting a separation nd I might move back to Ny. Can Ibenefit with his credits down the line.We have three teenagers and if anythng happened to my husband would they be entitled to anything.Thank You

Anonymous said...

We moved back to England after living in Ny for many years. I became an American and my husband had a green card. He had to give up his green card when he came back to the USA on holiday. he has about 17 credits and I have about 13.We are getting a separation nd I might move back to Ny. Can Ibenefit with his credits down the line.We have three teenagers and if anythng happened to my husband would they be entitled to anything.Thank You

Anonymous said...

Hi. Do I have to open a account in a US Bank based in US for the direct deposit or can I open a international account in India and have the direct deposit set up there? Can you provide a list of Banks? Will be moving back to India after 11 yrs here as a US citizen. Age 37. Thank you!

Venkatesh said...

Venkatesh said.....
I am a Social Security beneficiary,aged80,Green card holder having bank Account in USA.I am planning to move to India permanantly after some time.What documents I have to produce to local S.S.office before I actually shift? I am aware that I loose my green card after my retirement to India but still my S.S.payments will be continueously deposited in my US bank as usual.Pl. note that I have no other Income in USA.Pl. comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nigel,

Brilliant inputs,
I am a US citizen living in India since my childhood. I have worked in India and filed taxes as per Indian taxation laws. I am married to a Indian who is also working here. I along with my husband plan to move to US later and I have a question. How do i go about getting a SS number ?

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I am an Indian Citizen and have worked in US on Visa for more than 10 years continuously without any break and have paid SS regularly.

Now I am back in India for good. By reading these blogs i believe i am eligible for SS benefit while in India. Can you please let me know the process. I dont have any US bank account active as of now.

Regards

Anonymous said...

Hi Nigel,

I am a first generation US citizen of European parents; I was born and raised here, am almost 53, and want to retire early to India at 55. I would love to buy some land and build a house on it but I have heard that it is not possible for non-Indians to buy land in India. Is that true, and if so, is it possible to retire in India without having to leave every year for a few months? I have pets I want to bring with me and do not want to shuffle them about every year.

Thank you for this great site :)

Sandy

Anonymous said...

Hi Nigel,
You have many questions. Here's another and I hope you can the time to answer. My wife is a former citizen of India. Now holds American citizenship. From what I read, we can get PIO, OCI or even Indian citizenship for myself, her and our child from her old passport by applying here at the consulate in Texas. The question is : Which one would be the best status to apply for tax wise with an income of SS and Oklahoma Teacher Pension ? We want to settle in Pondicherry and put our child in school there at local rates. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am a US citizen (OCI) just started living in India. Is my (pretax)401k plan disbursements taxable in India?
John

Anonymous said...

As you have stated, US Social Sec income is exempt from Indian tax (for an Indian resident drawing US soc sec) because of the DTAA.

However, does the soc sec income still need to be reported in the Indian tax return, and if so how/where (which form, which line), and how does it get excluded from taxable income?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any advice on this last question regarding reporting US social security income in Indian tax return. Status of assessee is RNOR.

Ram said...

My parents are retire and getting pension from Indian govt. are they eligiable for SSI. can someone help me.thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I am an Indian citizen. I lived in USA in the past for more than 20 yrs. I moved back to India. I am back in USA on H1B visa which is current until Sept 2016. I am receiving Soc Sec payment every month for one year. I am planning to return to India to retire and permanently live in India. My question is:
Will I continue to get soc sec payment in India indefinitely (till I die) or will it stop after 6 months?
Thank you for your reply.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have two citizenships. I am getting SS payments in USA. In my european country I have a possibility to get small pension 300 dollars monthly.
Will my USA pension reduced_
If YES, what rools exist for such case_
Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

As of today (01/19/2015) India is not in the list. You can get only for 6 months if you are not US Citizen.

Anonymous said...

Hi
I would like some input as well.
I appreciate above comments.
My mother - was green card holder. But after 4 she moved back to Albania and kept paying US taxes. She is rounding 40 credits this year. Do you think she will be having any trouble collecting SS.

Thanks

Jineeta Shah said...

Hi!
I'm an indian citizen retired in India aged 69 yrs. I have lived in US for 12 years and have paid more than 40 credits of ss.
All I want to know that, Am I eligible for ss benefits for retired people and what is the procedure and further requirements. Plzz it's very urgent.

Shashikant Vora said...

I am US Citizen and currently living in India. I do not have any bank account in US.How would I get my SS money?

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm retired from india from a federal government job I'm getting pension there to nd I hv started to receive the social security pension here in new York too does it make any effect or do I need to tell the s si department here too clear the confusion pls

Sivadasan Madhavan said...

There are some misconceptions regarding SS. SS is available to any legal resident of US who had earned an income and paid SS-taxes along with Fed and State taxes. To be eligible, you have to have worked for 10 years (40 quarters) and filed your tax returns. Now, the rest is somewhat complicated. If you reach 66 years of age, you can file with the SSA to collect your SS befits (less Medicare Part A&B and Part D premiums. SSA will deduct these before issuing your check. You can arrange to pay the premiums yourself if you want, but must be paid, whether you will actually make use of Medicare and Part D). If you are in the USA or some few countries, you can have the SS check mailed to you every month. In all other cases, you have to have a US Bank account into which the payments will be deposited directly.
Now, if you leave the USA and move to India for good, you are OK if you have the Bank account set up. SSA will not send you your monthly check overseas except into a few other countries. Now, if you are a non citizen, there are complications such as death, which should be promptly reported to SSA so payments will stop. You are expected to file your tax returns no matter where you live. If you and your spouse and children are US citizens, all of the survivor benefits will automatically roll in. For others, it all depends on who is the beneficiary and citizenship status is. One thing is for sure, if you are a GC holder, and stay out of the USA for long, you will lose it, but your SS benefits, if any, will go to the bank as long as you are alive. Lastly, your SS benefit depends directly on how much you earned in the last 4 quarters of your earnings. India does not tax you on US SS payments, but US does.
Sivadasan

Sivadasan Madhavan said...

Sashikant,
Get an account in CTI. They have branches in India. The US govt wants to know your bank accounts particularly foreign.

mediatorguy said...

I am a US citizen (66 years old) moving to Ahmedabad in May of 2016 to retire there. No problems with receiving social security; currently it is being direct deposited into my Wells Fargo account in the U.S. However to get a wire transfer to a bank in India will cost $45. I've been looking for a less expensive option to access those monthly payments in India. A Bank of America rep said if I have a B of A account in the U.S., I can retrieve funds from certain ATMs in India. I don't know how much those ATM fees will be.

A relatively new company, TransferWise, charges much less than my bank; for example, a $1,500 transfer from a U.S. bank to an India bank would be 0.9% or $13 and change. Sounds like the best solution so far.

Any comments?

Matt

Ashish said...

Hi I like to understand the social security eligibility for a person who is Indian Citizen and was living in US from 5 years met a serious accident and became disabled, the person is returning back to India - is he eligible for any benefit?

Sivadasan Madhavan said...

Ashish,
You will not qualify for SS if you worked only for 5 years. However, if you are disabled, and can prove to SSA, you will qualify for SS disability benefits, which will be somewhat nominal amount determined by SSA. So, your best bet is to go to a SSA office and check. Whether you will get it if you move to India is again anyone's guess. If you are a US citizen, the answers are clear. Better check with SSA.

juanitathomas10 said...

I am eligible for my social security later this year. I want to move to India to be with the person I love. From what you said I should have my ss benefits deposited into my bank account in America. I also need to know what kind of visa I should get, I want to stay there permanently. Thanks

Murty said...

Now in April 2016, Social Security updated their section 5 (where countrylist4.html) is posted. They split that as section 5(a) and (b) where 5(a) they clearly said if you are a citizen of one of the countries listed in the chart below (India included) and :

a) 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; or

b) for dependents/survivors (which was there since long).

Has anybody noticed this change? This is a real boon expressively mentioned by Social Security. eg. I am on a H1 but worked 2 sessions of 12 years (with one year gap in between) and I am eligible for the social security pension even from India.

thx
Murty

Anonymous said...

hi,
Do you think taking us citizenship is better or surrendering GC and settling in India is beneficial?

Aaji said...

Is it beneficial to take us citizenship and retire in India or surrender GC and retire in India. I want to know tax advantages or disadvantages in both scenarios.
Thanks, very helpful blog.