Social Security payments after renunciation of US citizenship

Once you have renounced your US citizenship, you are considered a non-resident alien (NRA) and the US Social Security rules for NRAs apply. It is your responsibility to notify authorities of your changed status, but this question is part of the questionnaire that you, as a beneficiary, have to submit annually.

As an NRA, depending on your country of residence, you can generally continue to collect US Social Security in the long run. However, depending on a combination of US bilateral agreements (or lack thereof), your current citizenship, and your country of residence, differences can range from only a minor tax adjustment to having SS payments discontinued after more than six months outside the US.

In the latter, worst-case scenario, you would have to return for one full month (midnight-to-midnight, not approximate) US presence within every six months' period in order to continue to receive payments. Spending one full (midnight to midnight) day per month in the US also keeps the six-months rule from functioning.

There are a couple of countries to which Social Security cannot make payments (Cuba and North Korea). Only US citizens can accumulate unpaid payments while in these countries and receive them after departing the country; NRAs lose those payments.

Note that dependents and survivors benefits may also be affected by change of status of the individuals or the worker concerned from citizen to NRA. In any case, what you have in your Social Security account always remains there, and your Social Security number is yours forever. It's just a question as to whether Social Security will pay out under specific conditions.

Full details can be gleaned from the publication www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10137.html on "Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States." Best advice is to check with the Federal Benefits Unit serving the country where you live (can be accessed via the American embassy website), which can be found at: www.usembassy.gov.

Last Updated November 18, 2012