If you are a lawful permanent resident, but not yet a citizen, you may still qualify for Social Security benefits. Ask an RSSA® for details.

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Non-citizens: You may be eligible for Social Security benefits under certain conditions

You came to the United States for a better life and new opportunities, and now you want to live your retirement years with a measure of financial stability. The good news is that you can, provided you meet specific criteria. An Advisor with the RSSA® credential on your side can help you every step of the way — to ensure you don’t miss out on the Social Security benefits you have a right to claim.

You are entitled for benefits if you meet one of these criteria:

  • you are a permanent legal resident of this country;
  • you have a visa that allows you to work in the United States;
  • or you were allowed in the country under the Family Unity or Immediate Relative provisions of U.S. immigration law.
  • Legal immigrants who meet the Social Security Administration (SSA) requirements for work credits—or who earned the equivalent of Social Security credits through their work history in their previous country

How to qualify for Social Security benefits:

1. Get a Social Security Number:

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

2. Start Earning Work Credits:

Once you have an SSN, your next step is to accumulate 40 Social Security work credits. You earn one credit for every quarter in which you earn at least $1,470 (for 2021) to a maximum of four credits per year.

3. Know About the “Totalization Agreement”:

Legal immigrants who have not earned enough work credits in the U.S. might still qualify for benefits if they’ve earned enough work credits from one of the more than 25 countries with which the U.S. has what is known as a “totalization agreement.”  Visit for details. You can combine credits from both countries and receive prorated Social Security benefits, which can be helpful if you immigrated to the U.S. later in life and are unlikely to put in 10 years of work in the U.S. before you are ready to retire.

The takeaway

People who legally immigrate to the United States may be entitled to Social Security benefits. You must either have 40 U.S. work credits (about 10 years’ worth) or come from a country that has a totalization agreement with the U.S. Registered Social Security Analysts® have the education and training provided by NARSSA (the National Association of Registered Social Security Analysts®), to help guide you on your eligibility, file wisely and collect all of the benefits you may be entitled to upon retirement.

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Talk with a Registered Social Security Analyst® — a trained advisor for a free, no-obligation consultation. If you decide to engage the RSSA®, you’ll receive a comprehensive personalized analysis and advice that may provide you with thousands or tens of thousands more in lifetime benefits.

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