Social Security benefits are an important part of retirement planning for U.S. citizens and green card holders alike. But for those who are not familiar with the U.S. Social Security system, it can be difficult to understand how it works and who is eligible for benefits.
Are Green Card Holders Eligible for Social Security?
If you're a new immigrant, green card holder or plan to bring your green card parents or relatives who are senior citizens 65 or older visiting the U.S., the top question on your mind might be: Can green card holders get social security benefits? Social Security benefits include retirement benefits (for people who have retired), disability benefits (for people who have disabilities), survivors benefits (for survivors of workers who've died), and benefits for dependents.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that green card holders are generally eligible for Social Security benefits if they have worked and paid Social Security taxes in the U.S. for at least ten years, or if they are the spouse or dependent of someone who has. However, there are some limitations and restrictions that apply, depending on the individual's situation.
Applying for and Understanding Social Security Taxes and Credits
It is important to first apply for a Social Security Card once you start employment. As you work in the U.S., you pay Social Security taxes, which earns you social security credits. You can earn up to four credits in a year. As of 2023, permanent residents or green card holders need $1,640 in earnings to get one credit. Green card holders need 40 credits (equivalent to ten years of work) to be eligible for social security benefits. Your spouse and children (mainly under 18) are the only dependents entitled to these benefits.
Also, if a green card holder has worked in the U.S. but also has significant work history outside the U.S., you may not be eligible for full Social Security benefits; and green card holders who are not U.S. citizens may face additional restrictions and limitations on their Social Security benefits.
To help navigate these complexities, it's important to work with a qualified financial advisor or attorney who can provide guidance on your specific situation. They can help you understand the eligibility requirements for Social Security benefits, as well as the potential limitations and restrictions that may apply.
How International Travel Affects Social Security Benefits
Another important consideration for green card holders is the impact of international travel on their Social Security benefits. If you plan to travel outside the U.S. for an extended period of time, it's important to understand how this may affect your Social Security benefits and what steps you can take to protect them.
International travel can affect a green card holder's eligibility to receive Social Security benefits if they travel outside of the United States for an extended period of time.
If you leave the U.S., your benefits will stop effective the month after the sixth calendar month in a row that you are outside the country. If you return, you would have to reapply. However, if the green card holder has a valid reason for their absence, such as work or medical treatment, you may be able to maintain your eligibility for Social Security benefits.
International Travel Plans and Social Security Payments
It's important for green card holders to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of any travel plans to ensure that your benefits are not interrupted. You should also be aware that you may need to provide additional documentation to the SSA to prove that your absence from the United States is temporary and that you intend to return.
Additionally, green card holders should be aware that Social Security benefits may be subject to taxation in certain situations. If a green card holder lives outside of the United States for more than 183 days in a calendar year, your Social Security benefits may be subject to taxation by both the United States and the country of residence.
Stay Up-to-Date with Eligibility Requirements
Overall, Social Security benefits can be a valuable source of income for green card holders who have worked and paid Social Security taxes in the U.S. for at least ten years. However, it's important to understand the eligibility requirements and potential limitations and restrictions that may apply, and to work with a qualified advisor to navigate these complexities and make the most of your benefits.
Notes and Updates:
Effective Dec. 12, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to allow USCIS to automatically extend the validity of Permanent Resident Cards (commonly called Green Cards) for lawful permanent residents who have applied for naturalization.
Please note: Social Security is often confused with Medicare. These two programs offer very different benefits. Social Security will protect you financially while Medicare protects your physical health. Click here for more information on Medicare. If you're one of the new immigrants, green card holders or U.S. permanent residents who don't qualify for U.S. domestic insurance or Medicare, you can buy immigrant travel medical insurance to sustain you until you qualify for domestic healthcare.