Can My Wife Get Benefits If She's Not A U.S. Citizen?

Jul 5 2016 - 3:00pm

I am a U..S. Citizen who is eligible for Soc. Sec. retirement benefits. I am 68. My spouse of more than 30 years, who is 66, is not eligible for U.S. Social Sec. retirement benefits. My spouse is neither a U.S. Citizen nor a U.S. resident. I have not asked the SSA for my retirement benefits, yet. We live outside of the U.S.A., and we expect to continue residing outside of the USA. As I understand the SSA, my non-U.S.-Citizen/non-U.S. Resident spouse will not be eligible for U.S. Soc. Sec. "surviving spouse" benefits while residing outside of the USA, based on what was apparently a 1950s-era "anti-foreign-war bride" amendment to the Soc. Sec. Act. Now that so many Americans have moved overseas, Is there any chance that the SSA will recognize the rights of American SSA-eligible recipients to pass on the surviving spousal benefits to their surviving spouses? Requiring surviving spouses, who live in foreign countries to move to the USA in order to receive surviving spouse benefits, could have an overall negative economic effect on the U.S. budget, because by immigrating to the USA in order to receive the Soc. Sec. surviving spouse benefits, these older surviving spouses will likely have to give up their other income sources provided by their present countries of residence; thus, forcing them to apply for U.S. State and federal support. Although this anti-foreign spouse legislation has been on the books for more than 60 years, it is time that the U.S. government recognize that the "surviving spouse" benefit is a right that has been earned by the U.S. Soc. Sec. eligible worker; that it is not, and never was, an ulterior motive for foreign gold-diggers to lure U.S. workers into marriage; and that , with the increase in U.S. expats living abroad, this 50's anti-war-bride era amendment is likely to have an overall negative economic effect for the United States.

Hi,

I think the actual Social Security provision you are referring to is the 'Alien Non-Payment Provision'. There are numerous exceptions to this provision that may enable your wife to not only receive survivor benefits on your record, but also spousal benefits while you are living. Refer to these links to Social Security's handbook for the specific exceptions: https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home%2Fhandbook/handbook.18/handbook-1845.html & https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.18/handbook-1846.html.

Best, Jerry