Knowledge & Education Center

Can A Foreign Spouse Claim U.S. Social Security?

We were recently engaged by an American citizen who wanted to know if her Canadian spouse can claim her U.S. Social Security spousal and survivor benefits. Both she and her husband reside in Ontario, Canada.

Social Security CardsU.S. Social Security benefits can be received in Canada free of U.S. tax. In this post, we will explain how, provided certain rules are met, a foreign spouse can also receive spousal Social Security benefits.

The general rule is that a non-U.S. citizen or non-U.S. resident spouse, cannot receive spousal security benefits if they live outside the U.S. for six consecutive calendar months.

However, a foreign spouse who is a citizen or resident of certain countries – among them Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom – can receive spousal social security benefits if the following rules are met:

  1. The foreign spouse has reached full retirement age;
  2. Social Security benefits are currently being received by the retired spouse who worked in the U.S.; and
  3. The retired spouse and foreign spouse have lived together in the U.S. for at least five years while married (doesn’t have to be continuous) in the case where the foreign spouse is not a citizen or a resident of certain countries such as the ones listed above.

In the event the U.S. citizen spouse passes away, the Canadian citizen spouse in this example will be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits if they meet the requirements for spousal benefits mentioned earlier and have not remarried.

Marc Gedeon is a CPA (U.S), CPA (Canada) and Tax Attorney at Cardinal Point, a cross-border wealth management organization with offices in the United States and Canada. Marc specializes in providing Canada-U.S. cross-border financial, tax, transition, and estate planning services. This piece is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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