How long can you live outside the US before losing social security?…

The church in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal, wasn’t far from our holiday home.

We are often asked, “How long can we live outside the US before losing social security?” This question is often asked while on cruises where we spend considerable time in the presence of other senior citizens.

We’ve always known the answer since we checked on this long before we began our worldwide travels, giving us peace of mind, but we thought about checking it out 12 years later to see if anything had changed on this topic. It has not. Today, we’re talking about two situations:

  1. Permanently living outside the US
  2. Travel to foreign countries but return periodically to the US as we do; thus, we aren’t permanent residents of any country other than the US

Today, I stumbled upon the following article bringing this topic to light as follows from this site:

“How Long Can You Live Abroad Before Losing Social Security?

If you plan to retire abroad, here’s what to know about receiving Social Security benefits. By

While Social Security is a U.S. program, foreign citizens can qualify for Social Security benefits if they have a work history in the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. retirees can receive Social Security benefits while living abroad, with some exceptions.
  • There is no time limit on how long a person can live outside the country and receive benefits.
  • Foreign citizens with a U.S. work history may qualify for Social Security benefits under certain agreements.
  • Social Security payments can be deposited directly into a foreign bank account.

The United States attracts people from across the world who seek to live out the American dream. In some cases, Americans are leaving for other parts of the globe to enjoy a different pace of life.

For retirees, the appeal may be a lower cost of living, new adventures, and less expensive health care. However, some may hesitate to leave, worried they will lose their Social Security benefits. Fortunately, the good news is that U.S. citizens can, with few exceptions, continue to receive benefits regardless of where they live.

The Social Security Administration pays out about $6.1 billion in benefits annually to 760,000 beneficiaries outside the United]States, according to 2022 data from the U.S. Department of State.

“If people are planning to do this, they need to do some homework beforehand,” said Tim McGrath, managing partner of Chicago-based Riverpoint Wealth Management, in an email.

Before you book a one-way ticket to your favorite retirement destination, understand government rules for Social Security payments to expats.

Whether U.S. citizens can receive Social Security while living overseas has an easy answer.

“Definitely. They can receive benefits abroad. That’s not a problem,” said Matthew Allen, co-founder and CEO of Social Security Advisors, a firm that helps clients maximize Social Security benefits, in an email.

There is no time limit on how long a person can live outside the country and receive benefits. They will continue indefinitely while proof of life documents are signed and returned. Known formally as the report to the United States Social Security Administration, Form SSA-7162 is two pages long and asks about changes to a person’s residency and marital status, among other things. Depending on a person’s age and country of residence, the forms may be mailed annually or biannually.

However, living abroad doesn’t absolve a retiree from the responsibility of filing a U.S. tax return annually. Just as with U.S.-based retirees, a portion of a person’s Social Security benefits may be taxable if their annual combined income exceeds certain thresholds.

And if a person has a foreign pension, their Social Security benefits may be reduced due to the windfall elimination provision. Retirees can use the Social Security Administration’s Windfall Elimination Screening Tool for Foreign Pensions to see if this applies to their situation.

U.S. citizens can move practically anywhere and receive Social Security payments, but some exceptions exist. Currently, payments cannot be received by those living in the following countries:

  • Azerbaijan.
  • Belarus.
  • Cuba.
  • Kazakhstan.
  • Kyrgyzstan.
  • North Korea.
  • Tajikistan.
  • Turkmenistan.
  • Uzbekistan.

“It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get that money,” McGrath said. “You’re not going to get it in that country.”
Once you move somewhere where payments can be made, you will receive the money that was withheld while you were residing in these countries. The exception is for foreign citizens living in Cuba and North Korea. They will not receive any payments for the time they were in these countries.”

Of course, the above may not apply to those permanently living outside the US. If they have a place of residence in the US and receive your social security benefits paid by direct deposit to your US bank account, that may be a different situation. Please check with the US government, an accountant, or a financial advisor who deals with such situations.

None of this applies to us without permanent residence in another country. We are US citizens and residents able to travel back and forth to any country we choose, always returning to the US to our state of residence.

That’s it for today, folks. We hope this clarifies a few questions you may have if you’re considering living abroad.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 7, 2014:

Celebrity was our favorite cruise line at the time we booked this cruise. We now prefer the smaller Azamara. We sailed on this ship for 14 nights, beginning on January 5, 2016, and ending on January 19, 2016. Built in 2008, it’s rated 5.5 stars of a possible six stars. For more photos, please click here.