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Immigrants and Social Security

Can you collect social security if you immigrated to the United States? The short answer is yes; legal immigrants are entitled to benefits from social security. However, you need to be aware of nuances, depending on how many years you worked in the United States.

There are two groups of legal immigrants. The first group is immigrants with ten or more years of work history in the United States, and the second group with less than ten years in the United States.

As of 2022, the minimum income needed to earn a social security credit is $1,510 per quarter. You can only earn four credits per year and do not have to work the entire year to reach the four credits.

For example, an immigrant who earned $6,040 during the first quarter of 2022 made the full four credits needed for that year. An immigrant who has worked for ten years in the US and has earned enough income every quarter to accumulate forty social security credits is eligible for social security benefits.


US Totalization Agreements

US Totalization Agreements allow immigrants who have not earned enough work credits in the US to combine work credits from both countries and still qualify for benefits.

Countries participating in this program include:

Country Entry into Force
Italy November 1, 1978
Germany December 1, 1979
Switzerland November 1, 1980
Belgium July 1, 1984
Norway July 1, 1984
Canada August 1, 1984
United Kingdom January 1, 1985
Sweden January 1, 1987
Spain April 1, 1988
France July 1, 1988
Portugal August 1, 1989
Netherlands November 1, 1990
Austria November 1, 1991
Finland November 1, 1992
Ireland September 1, 1993
Luxembourg November 1, 1993
Greece September 1, 1994
South Korea April 1, 2001
Chile December 1, 2001
Australia October 1, 2002
Japan October 1, 2005
Denmark October 1, 2008
Czech Republic January 1, 2009
Poland March 1, 2009
Slovak Republic May 1, 2014
Hungary September 1, 2016
Brazil October 1, 2018
Uruguay November 1, 2018
Slovenia February 1, 2019
Iceland March 1, 2019

The program will not pay for the benefits earned in the immigrant home country. Each country will pay for the benefits achieved.

To apply for benefits, individuals contact the US Social Security Administration which will, in turn, engage with the social security program in the affiliated home country to verify the individual’s eligibility and start the process.


Your Future Self

I want to leave you all with a quote I believe is vital to success. This quote comes from a book called ‘Be Your Future Self Now‘ by Benjamin Hardy.

“In 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, bearing fatality, you will become someone. The question to ask yourself is: Who will your Future Self be? That is perhaps the most important question any human can ask themselves.”

As immigrants to the US, we get to decide who we will be and how successful we will become. The resources are here. It’s a matter of clearly understanding how to use them.

Resource links: