Social Security and the Non-Citizen Spouse

With our increasingly global society today, many married couples are made up of a US citizen and a non-citizen.  In some cases, the non-citizen spouse has never been covered by the US Social Security system – he or she may have been covered by another system in his or her home country.  In other cases, the non-citizen spouse may have worked in a Social Security-covered job while living in the US, and so may have generated a Social Security earnings record of his or her own.

At any rate, it is important to know that your lawful spouse who is a non-citizen may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your earnings.

As long as other qualifications are met (length of marriage, age of the spouse, and your filing status with Social Security), your non-citizen spouse may qualify for Spousal Benefits based upon your record.  By the same token, your non-citizen spouse will also be eligible for Survivor Benefits upon your passing, as long as all other qualifications are met.

The good news is that if the non-citizen spouse is receiving a pension from another system (such as in his or her home country), this will not trigger GPO (Government Pension Offset) treatment of the Spousal or Survivor Benefits.  These foreign pensions only trigger WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision) impact, and then only to the individual receiving the pension’s own retirement benefit, not the Spousal or Survivor Benefit.

About the author

Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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