Workers who have shared their careers between the United States and a foreign country may not be entitled to pensions, survivor benefits or disability insurance (pensions) from one or both countries because they have not worked long or recently enough to meet minimum conditions. Under an agreement, these workers may benefit from partially U.S. or foreign benefits on the basis of combined or “totalized” coverage credits from both countries. To qualify for benefits under the U.S. Social Security program, a worker must have earned enough work credits, known as insurance quarters, to meet the “insurance status requirements” specified. For example, a worker who turns 62 in 1991 or later generally needs 40 calendar terms to be insured for old age pensions. As part of a totalization agreement, SSA accounts for periods of coverage acquired by the worker under the social security program of a contracting country when a worker has some U.S. insurance coverage but is not sufficient to qualify for benefits. Similarly, a country that is a party to an agreement with the United States takes into account a worker`s coverage under the U.S. program when it is required for that country`s social security benefits. If the combined credits in the two countries allow the worker to meet the eligibility requirements, a partial benefit may be paid depending on the proportion of the worker`s total career in the paying country. Although the agreements with Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Japan do not use the rule of residence as the main determinant of self-employment coverage, each of them contains a provision guaranteeing that workers are insured and taxed in a single country. For more information on these agreements, click here on our website or in writing to the Social Security Administration (SSA) under the Conclusion section, below.
The goal of all U.S. totalization agreements is to eliminate dual social security and taxation, while maintaining coverage for as many workers as possible under the country where they are likely to have the most ties, both at work and after retirement. Any agreement aims to achieve this objective through a series of objective rules. Expats who have developed obligations in a working relationship or who are self-employed and who have contributed to the social security schemes of countries that are parties to a pension reciprocity agreement may apply for recognition of their duties in order to obtain benefits under the international agreement.