For U.S. citizens living abroad getting your U.S. social security benefits may or may not
be a simple matter. In a few countries you cannot receive U.S. social security payments.
For example, the U.S. Treasury bans payments to Cambodia, Cuba, and North Korea. There are
additional social security restrictions that prevent you from receiving social security
payments if you live in Vietnam or some parts of the former Soviet Union such as the
Ukraine. These restrictions do not apply to Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and
Armenia. If you live in one of the banned or restricted countries payments will be
withheld, but they will be restored once you move to a non-restricted country.
by Barbara Frew, author of
Finance for Overseas Americans: How to direct your own financial future
while living abroad
Even if you live in a non-restricted country you may face logistical problems receiving
your U.S. Treasury check. Getting your check via the mail may not be the best option. Many
foreign postal systems are reliable, but some are not. Assuming the postal system is
secure, the banking system in your host country will not be able to process a U.S. check
on its own. When you take a U.S. Treasury check to a local bank it will be returned to the
United States for clearance. After the U.S. check
clearing system has processed the check, it will be mailed back to your host country bank
to go through that countrys clearing system. The whole process can easily take three
weeks and can cost as much as if you had wired the money to yourself from the United
States. On top of that, you still must pay foreign exchange charges.
Another option is to have your social security check deposited directly to a financial
institution in the United States and then transfer money to your foreign bank account as
needed. If you do this you will have easy access to your money. Your charges will include
a wire transfer fee plus the cost of converting U.S. dollars to your host countrys
currency. To reduce these costs try to transfer larger amounts less frequently.
You may be able to withdrawal funds via an ATM machine overseas if your have a VISA,
MasterCard or American Express Debit or Check card that is linked to your U.S. bank
account. Be careful here; if your debit or check card is also linked to your credit card
account, you may find yourself taking an expensive cash advance if the ATM machine cannot
connect with your bank account. Check on fees, including any extra fees for processing
overseas transactions, and availability of ATM machines in your location. Finally, make
sure your personal identification number is four to six digits long, but not more, and
that it is in numbers rather than letters.
There may be another option. :The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York and several
central banks around the world have agreed to provide an international direct deposit
service. This service allows the transfer and conversion of U.S. social security benefits
to a foreign bank free of the various charges; the Social Security Administration picks up
the tab. The countries that currently participate in this international direct deposit
service (also called electronic benefit transfer) are: Argentina, Australia, Canada,
France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Many other countries offer other forms of electronic transfer. Check with the Social
Security Administration about your options in your host country.
For details about social security payments while you are outside the United States, obtain
a copy of Social Security Administration Publication No. 05-10137, ICN 480085 by mail from
the Social Security Administration or at your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate or from
their website: http://www.ssa.gov.
To learn more about this and similiar topics, we recommend:
for Overseas Americans: How to direct your own financial future while living
by Barbara Frew
As an American living overseas your
finances are complicated by U.S. and foreign laws and practices that affect everything
from buying insurance to buying mutual funds. To make the financial choices that are best
for you, you need information pertinent to your life style. Personal Finance for Overseas
Americans provides that information along with sound financial strategies and methods that
work for the long term.