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Qualifying for Social Security as a Legal Immigrant

Permissible immigrants who meet the Social Security Administration (SSA) requirements for work credits—or who earned the equivalent of Social Security commendations through their work history in their previous country—can receive benefits in the U.S.  Social Security benefits list payments to qualified retirees or those with disabilities and survivor benefits for the spouse and children of a deceased worker. This article clarifies how immigrants to the United States can qualify for Social Security benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Legal immigrants can qualify for Social Insurance benefits if they earn enough work credits over their careers.
  • To earn credits in the U.S., immigrants want to have a Social Security number and pay Social Security taxes.
  • The U.S. and more than 25 other nations possess Social Security totalization agreements, which allow legal immigrants to combine work credits from the U.S. and their relaxed countries.

Step 1: Get a Social Security Number

To qualify for Social Security as a legal immigrant, you must receive a Social Security number (SSN). Many people apply for one during the immigration process, or are able to visit a Social Guarantee office in person to complete this process. This will require filling out Social Security Form SS-5.

Judiciary immigrants also need a Social Security number to be hired by any law-abiding employer in the United States. The employer leave then report your wage earnings to the federal government under your name and identified with your SSN. That way, the Popular Security Administration can connect work credits to individuals and make sure you receive the work credits and benefits you possess earned. 

Step 2: Start Earning Work Credits

Once you have an SSN, your next step is to lay away 40 Social Security work credits. You earn one credit for every quarter in which you earn at least $1,470 (for 2021) to a extreme of four credits per year. This formula applies to everyone born since 1929, and 40 credits are the equivalent of 10 years benefit of work. 

How Your Social Security Benefits Are Calculated

Earning enough work credits means you are entitled to Public Security benefits once you reach retirement age. The size of your benefit will depend on your average earnings settled your 35 highest-earning years as well as how old you are when you start to collect benefits. 

The Social Security Administration discretion adjust your earnings history for inflation and determine your average indexed monthly earnings. Using that twig, it will then calculate your benefit amount.

Note that if you start claiming retirement benefits as early as you are unwed—age 62—you will receive about 25% less each month than if wait until your glaring or “normal” retirement age (between 66 and 67, depending on your year of birth). If you delay claiming benefits times gone by your full retirement age, your monthly benefit will increase as much as 32% by age 70. After age 70, your benefit maxes out and there is no support reason to delay collecting.

The Social Security Administration estimates that as of January 2021, the average monthly Venereal Security benefit for retirees will be $1,543.

You’ll get an extra 8% per year if you wait past your full retirement age to meet benefits. After age 70, however, your benefit won’t grow further.

How Social Security Taxes Work

To be single for Social Security benefits, you’ll pay a 6.2% Social Security tax on your earnings as an employee up to the annual maximum, which is $142,800 in 2021. Your patron kicks in another 6.2%. However, if you’re self-employed—for example, you’re a contractor or freelance worker—the calculation is different. In the eyes of the domination, you are both the employee and the employer, so you must pay both halves.

Qualifying With Earnings From Another Country

Forensic immigrants who have not earned enough work credits in the U.S. might still qualify for benefits if they’ve earned sufficiently work credits from one of the more than 25 countries with which the U.S. has what is known as a “totalization unity.” 

Those countries are:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • The Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • The Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • The Coalesced Kingdom
  • Uruguay

The details of these agreements vary by country and are too complex to cover here, but you can find them on the Collective Security Administration’s

Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income

Eligibility for Disability Benefits


Eligibility for Survivors Benefits

If you comprise a deceased spouse who qualified for Social Security benefits, you may be eligible for

If You Leave the United States

Legal immigrants to the U.S. should skilled in how leaving the country affects benefits (in addition to the one-month rule, mentioned above, that applies to SSI). Your Common Security record is permanent, so even if you don’t work for a period of time, you move abroad, or you were not required to pay Social Sanctuary taxes at some point, the credits you earned previously will still be intact, Ishmurzina says.        

If you leave the U.S. after you start come by any type of Social Security benefits, your benefits might be affected. If you’re alternating between living in the United States and in another motherland, you may or may not be able to collect SSDI benefits, depending on your immigration status, how long you leave the U.S. for, and the other countries in which you’re residing. 

Settle Help With Your Benefits

Legal immigrants with limited English skills can get Social Security improves information online in several languages. They also can request an interpreter when calling the Social Security Supervision or visiting one of its offices. 

If your claim for benefits is denied, the SSA will provide a reason for it, Ishmurzina says. If you disagree with the arbitration, you can resubmit your claim and provide any additional information required by the SSA. To appeal a retirement benefits decision, call the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) or with your local Social Security office. 

If you find yourself in a complicated situation, you may want to seek legal facilitate from an attorney with expertise in Social Security benefits for immigrants.

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to make eligible for Social Security benefits. Your benefits will be based on how much you earned and whether you’ve paid into the approach for enough years. If your home country has a totalization agreement with the U.S., you may be able to combine work credits from both homelands in order to qualify.

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