Collecting Social Security Benefits While Living Abroad

You may be are curious about how living as an expat abroad (or traveling for an extended period) may effect your Social Security Retirement Benefits. Fortunately, the rules are not too complicated.

< First, we will assume that you will be collecting Social Security as a U.S. citizen. Given that, this is a summary of the rules that will apply to you:

1.  You may collect and receive Social Security benefits while living outside the United States for as long as you would be eligible to receive them if you lived in the U.S.  For retirement benefits, that’s indefinitely.

2.  For purposes of the SSA, being “outside the U.S.” means being outside the 50 U.S. states (and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa) for 30 days consecutively.

3.  The Social Security Administration can send your benefit to any country where you may choose to live, except Cuba and North Korea. (Please don’t think about retiring there!)

4.  You must report your change of residence to the SSA, even if your retirement benefits are sent to a bank account.

5.  If you work overseas for an employer that does not withhold Social Security taxes or receive a pension/retirement benefit from a foreign government or employer that did not withhold Social Security, your Social Security Retirement benefit may be reduced by the Windfall Elimination Provision.

For more information about collecting Social Security retirement benefits while living abroad, download this government pamphlet.


  1. Jack Linker says

    I live in Placencia, Belize. Today another US retiree said he heard that in the future we will have our Social Security benefits reduced because we live out of the USA. That is not what your recent article said. Please tell me he is wrong!! Thanks.

  2. Ekka says

    There are double taxation Treaties with several European countries. I heard that some countries like Portugal, do not charge income tax for 10 years for those who retire to those countries and become their permanent residents. Is this true? I looked through many websites but could not find any answer. Thanks a lot.

  3. says

    If you go to “Living outside of US on Social Security, It states that your SS will be reduced by 30% if you live on the continent of North America except for Canada. This reduction includes Latin America & Mexico.

  4. Jill Fasick says

    I live in New Zealand and want to early retirement. How much can I work in New Zealand without being taxed byt the U.S. government.

  5. Ian says

    I have lived and worked in the US for 9 years. I am now a US citizen.
    I may move back to my home country in a couple of years, for family reasons.

    If I move back, I will have reached the 40 credits necessary to be eligible for Social Security Retirement Benefit – when I reach retirement age – 67.

    I am only 40 year of age however. So if I do move back to the country I’m originally from, I will be working there between then and retirment.

    My question is: if I do work in my home country between returning and retiring – approximatly 25 years, will that mean my Social Security Retirement benifit – will be effectively eliminated?

    By this I’m referring to the section in the above Social Security document on page 17:

    The foreign work test
    “Benefits are withheld for each month a beneficiary younger than full retirement age works more than 45 hours outside the United States in employment or self-employment not subject to U.S. Social Security taxes”.

    Is this talking only about work I would do after retirement – or is it work I would do outside of the US before retirement too.

    If it means the latter – my Social Security Retirement benefit would effectify be wiped out by working abroad for the same amount of time as working in the US, it seems.

    Thanks in advance for the information.

  6. Bernhard says

    My parents are Permanent Residents of the US since 1969. They are now recently retired. I am a US citizen living abroad in Central America. They are considering retiring to where I live. TWO QUESTIONS: (1) Will their Social Security payments follow them and in what amount – 100%?? (2) We understand that Medicare only pays for treatment within the US, however, if they retire in CA they must become residents of the host country; will this consequently eliminate their Medicare coverage in the US – after 40 Yrs of paying into the system? (Health coverage in the CA host country is fine except for “major” issues, in which case they would take an Air Ambulance” back to the US.) Thank you.

  7. Emre says

    Hi question for anyone who might know, my father is an us citizen and retired at the end of 2012, but he retired from overseas, now i know he is entitled to benefits, what i am wondering is if anyone has any idea how long it takes to get approved and receive your benefits when living abroad?

    He lives in Turkey.

    He filled out the applicatino at us embassy in turkey that was on october 4th. He is 63 years old, anyone has any idea on the length of the time required to recieve your benefits your help would be appriciated.

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