I have been living in Guatemala for almost 30 years and am now about to claim SS. I checked on-line and I have sufficient credits.

My local embassy is less than helpful (not to mention rude) and they told me to go on-line directly.

I texted SSA and they form-lettered me to contact IRS.

I texted IRS and they form-lettered me to contact SSA.

I have not had enough income for the last few years to file a tax return. (Under $3950)

I would like to know if I should file a return anyway, just to facilitate the approval of benefits. I would prefer not to do this as my wife is a foreign national and IRS is requiring all kinds of information on her (such as ITIN) and this is difficult to do from here.

  • My wife didn't need to show tax documents when she filed for benefits. As for not having to file--what about foreign bank accounts? Mar 30, 2016 at 0:50
  • @LorenPechtel What I was wondering if they need to "see" the returns in the system. Thanks. Mar 30, 2016 at 1:17
  • 1
    They need credits, not recent tax returns. You have the credits, end of story.
    – phoog
    Apr 2, 2016 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


The short answer is No. SSA has a record of your contributions. You can view that record online at http://SSA.gov, where you can also see a statement of whether or not you are eligible and an estimate of your benefits.

However, you say you have been living outside of USA for a long time. If you were self-employed, and making the officially required contributions, you still might have a problem. My friends who spend most of their time in Spain had to return to USA for six months every six years, or SSA would say, "You were living there, so you should have been paying into that country's system."

Seriously: they could lose all their benefits even though they had paid in all those years. It is my understanding that this apples generally to American expatriates paying their own SS contributions (i.e. "self-employed)." But the only thing I can find on it specifically mentions missionaries.

  • Thank you for your answer. While the first part of your answer is spot on, ie "SSA has a record of your contributions", as it turns out that is the only important thing. The countries falling into the category of "shared SSA" are in a small group. In my country (one year on from the original post) I was able to set up direct deposit into a local account--no problem, even though I have been living abroad for 30 years. (It is actually impossible to deny benefits based on years abroad.) Jul 30, 2017 at 23:38
  • I didn't say you can't receive it abroad. I said your credits will not be honored if you spend to much continuous time abroad in certain situations. Unless the lawyers were lying to these people.
    – WGroleau
    Jul 31, 2017 at 4:09

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