After decades spent saving money for retirement, you put away enough to live comfortably on a fixed budget for the rest of your life — or so you thought. And then you left the country.
For the most part, expatriate Americans across the world are still eligible to receive the Social Security benefits they earned over the course of their working lives. However, the U.S. government won’t send Social Security checks to American citizens living in 10 countries. If you live in one of these countries, you may be able to apply for an exception to receive your payments.
Here we list the 10 countries the U.S. government won’t send Social Security payments to, explain why these countries are banned, and tell you when you can start receiving payments again.
While the U.S. Treasury Department has imposed financial sanctions on more countries than just North Korea and Cuba, these two are the only sanctioned countries where expatriates explicitly can’t receive Social Security payments.
Current U.S. government sanctions ban the sharing of American technology, goods, or services with North Korea. While American citizens can send money back to relatives in North Korea, the U.S. government itself will not dispense Social Security funds to anyone living in North Korea, including the person who earned the Social Security benefits or their beneficiaries.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will send Social Security payments to Americans living in most former Soviet republics, but there are eight exceptions, including Azerbaijan.
The U.S. government doesn’t have a written agreement with the Azerbaijan government ensuring access to expatriates, including to expatriates’ vital records. Since the SSA can’t be certain payments are being distributed correctly to American citizens in Azerbaijan, it won’t send payments to Americans in the country.
However, it may still be possible for you to receive Social Security payments if you live in Azerbaijan as long as you meet certain conditions. For instance, you’ll have to apply and qualify for an exception and agree to conditions like meeting with the U.S. consulate once every six months.
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Unlike Azerbaijan, Belarus is currently under U.S. government sanctions. But the reason you can’t receive Social Security benefits in Belarus is the same as the reason listed above for Azerbaijan: Unlike some former Soviet republics, Belarus hasn’t entered into an agreement with the U.S. government to ensure correct distribution of Social Security checks.
Kazakhstan hasn’t been sanctioned by the U.S. government, but the two governments haven’t reached an agreement that gives the U.S. full access to Americans living in Kazakhstan and their vital documents. As with Americans in Belarus and Azerbaijan, Americans in Kazakhstan can’t receive Social Security benefits, but they can petition for an exception.
The U.S. government doesn’t have an agreement with Kyrgyzstan that ensures free access to the records of U.S. citizens in the country for accurate check distribution. While you can petition for an exception, you generally can’t receive Social Security checks if you live in Kyrgyzstan.
Moldova is another former Soviet country that hasn’t agreed with the U.S. government on a way to accurately distribute Social Security checks. Americans in Moldova won’t be automatically sent Social Security benefits, though you can petition for an exception.
As with the seven other post-Soviet states on this list, the U.S. and Tajikistan don’t currently have an agreement that ensures Social Security checks are being distributed correctly to Americans in the country.
Turkmenistan’s government doesn’t currently have an agreement with the U.S. government to ensure accurate distribution of Social Security payments to Americans in Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan is the last post-Soviet republic that doesn’t yet have an agreement with the U.S. government to distribute Social Security checks to Americans in the country.
Whether you’re working in a foreign country to supplement your Social Security income or you’ve moved to be closer to family after retiring, it pays to know where the U.S. government can and can’t send your Social Security benefits.
Specifically, American citizens in the 10 countries listed here can’t receive Social Security benefits. However, unless you live in North Korea or Cuba, you can apply for an exemption to the rule.
If your request is denied or you do live in one of the two banned countries, you can still recover the money you had to throw away to live abroad: You’ll receive the Social Security payments you earned once you’re living in a non-restricted country.
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