If you’re planning to live outside of the United States and you qualify for Social Security benefits, you may still be able to get them. The Social Security Administration considers you living abroad if you’re not in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands or Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Marinara Islands for at least 30 consecutive days. The SSA's rules include stipulations for foreign residency that may impact your benefit eligibility.
The SSA has lists of countries you can live in without having any problem getting your Social Security benefits. Country List 1 includes Poland, Austria, Italy, Japan and Spain. Living in countries on List 2 such as Argentina, Hungary and Peru won’t affect your benefits either. The difference between the two lists involves dependents and survivors of workers. There are additional requirements dependents and survivors have to meet to get benefits in countries on List 2 while there are no additional requirements needed if living in countries on List 1.
There are a few countries around the world that are blacklisted by the SSA and if you live in any of them, you won’t get your monthly benefits. These countries include Cambodia, Vietnam and certain countries of the former Soviet Union. The SSA cannot send your payments to anyone else either. Your monthly benefits will be withheld until you go to a country that is not blacklisted and the government agency will send them to you. You may qualify for an exception by meeting the SSA’s requirements. One of them is you have to report to the U.S. Embassy in that country in person each month to get your check. The U.S. Treasury prohibits benefits sent to you if you live in North Korea and Cuba.
Your benefits are generally taxed if you are living abroad. As of 2012, the SSA withholds 30 percent of 85 percent of your Social Security benefits for federal income taxes. There is an exception to this taxation policy. Certain countries have tax treaties with the United States and if you’re a resident of one of them, your benefits may not be taxed or taxed at a lower rate. Canada, Egypt, Ireland and Israel are some of the countries with tax treaties with the U.S.
You can get benefits by mail but it may take weeks to get to you. Direct deposit is another option for beneficiaries living abroad. If you’re a survivor or a dependent child and not a U.S. citizen, you must have lived in the United States for at least five years with your parents to meet residency requirement and get benefits abroad. If you adopted a child outside of the U.S., the SSA won’t pay the child benefits if he is living abroad even if he meets the residency requirements. If you’re not a U.S. citizen or a citizen in a country on List 1 or List 2, your benefits will stop after six full calendar months unless you’re in the military or meet several other exceptions.