Spousal Social Security Benefits for Non-US Persons: What You Need to Know

foreign spouse

If you’re a US citizen or resident married to someone who doesn’t have financial ties to the US, you might have wondered if they are eligible for spousal social security benefits. Fortunately, there are a number of different circumstances in which they can be. Read on to find out what these benefits include, who is eligible to receive them, how to apply for spousal social security benefits, and more.

What Could My Non-US Spouse’s Social Security Benefits Include?

There are different forms of social security benefits, with spousal benefits typically including dependent benefits and survivor benefits.

Dependent Benefits

Dependent benefits refer to payments sent to the spouse or child (and sometimes ex-spouse or grandchild) of a social security income (SSI) recipient. These payments can equal up to 50% of the primary SSI recipient’s original payment.

Who’s Eligible

For your dependent to be eligible for dependent benefits, in general:

  • – You must have worked and paid into social security for at least 10 years
  • – You and your spouse must be at least 62, although this requirement is waived for caretakers of dependent children (under 16 or disabled)
    • Note: Your spouse will receive only partial payments until you both reach the normal retirement age (between 65 and 67, depending on when you were born)

If you live abroad with your non-US spouse, it gets a little more complicated. As a rule, non-US spouses that have lived outside of the US for six or more consecutive months are not eligible to receive benefits. However, there are exceptions for non-US spouses who:

Read more:  Social Security And US Expat Taxes – What You Need To Know

Survivor Social Security Benefits

Survivor social security benefits refer to payments made to the widow/widower of an SSI recipient. These payments may equal up to 100% of the deceased’s original SSI payments.

Who’s Eligible

For the most part, requirements for survivor social security benefits are the same as requirements for dependent benefits. There are a few differences, though:

  • – Non-US spouses can apply for survivor social security benefits at 60 instead of 62* (with partial payments until they reach the normal retirement age)
    • Note: Surviving non-US spouses who are disabled may apply at 50
  • – Non-US spouses who have not yet met the five-year test can move to the US to complete it, at which time they will become eligible for survivor social security benefits
  • – Non-US spouses can receive survivor social security benefits if their spouse died in active military service
  • – The non-US spouse must have been married to the primary SSI recipient for at least nine months (waived in the case of accidental or military deaths)


Would my spouse still be eligible after divorce or remarriage?

If you were married for less than 10 years, social security benefits may not apply to your ex-spouse. To receive dependent benefits, a non-US ex-spouse must:

  • – Be 62 years or older
  • – Be currently unmarried
  • – Have been married to the SSI recipient for 10 years or more*

To qualify for survivor social security benefits, a non-US ex-spouse must:

  • – Have been married to the SSI recipient for 10 years or more*
  • – Not have remarried until age 60 or older

Can social security payments be made anywhere?

Social security income payments can be made to almost anywhere around the world, even if it’s to a foreign bank account. Neither US citizens/residents nor their non-US spouses can receive social security benefits while living in Cuba or North Korea. Additionally, it’s usually impossible to make payments to anyone living in ​​Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Read more: The 7 Best Places To Retire Outside The United States

Will my spouse’s social security benefits be taxed?

Your spouse may have to pay taxes on their social security benefits, especially if they have another source of income. Additional income can also reduce payments if you and your spouse are below the normal retirement age. You should receive an SSA-1099 form that shows how much you’ve earned in benefits, which you will then use to complete your 1040 or 1040NR form.

How do I apply for spousal social security benefits?

You and your non-US spouse can learn more about and apply for dependent social security benefits here. The page on survivor benefits is here, although you’ll have to apply over the phone or in person at your local social security office.

* Requirement waived for carers of the primary SSI recipient’s dependent child

Get Clarity From a Tax Professional

Social security qualifications, especially for non-US spouses, are complex. If you want someone to help you navigate these complex rules, the professionals at Bright!Tax are here for you.

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