Are Permanent Residents Eligible for Social Security Benefits in the US?

According to Social Security Administration, more than 62 million Americans will receive approximately $955 billion in Social Security benefits in 2017. Representing about 34% of the income of the elderly, Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly in the US, acting as a safety net when they retire.

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Social Security comes under the Social Security Act, which was implemented in 1935. The basis of this program is the contribution in the form of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes that a worker makes into the social security system while they’re employed. When they retire, they receive benefits against the contributions they made. With these benefits, the beneficiary gets a certain cash amount in hand, depending upon the benefits they have earned.

Social Security Benefits Coverage

Social security benefits include:

  • Benefits for dependents
  • Retirement benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Survivors benefits for survivors of workers who have died

Those who are permanent residents or green card holders can also receive Social Security Benefits. Here’s how.

Eligibility to Receive Social Security Benefits

To receive Social Security Benefits, the green card holder will have to work and make contributions by paying Social Security taxes in the US for a minimum of ten years. After this, their dependents will become entitled to social security benefits. Dependants of a permanent resident will include his spouse and children under the age of 18, and not his parents and other relatives.

How Green Card Holders or Permanent Residents Can Earn Social Security Benefits

To earn these benefits, permanent residents and green card holders who work in a country need to you pay Social Security taxes. In return, they earn social security “credits,” which could be up to a maximum of 4 “credits” in a year.

In 2012, to get one “credit,” Green Card Holders or Permanent Residents needed to earn at least $1,160. In 2016, the amount needed for a credit was $1,260. When the green card holder manages to earn the mandatory 40 “credits,” which is equivalent to 40 quarters or 10 years of work, they become eligible for Social Security Benefits when they retire. Even when the permanent resident has accumulated their 40 credits their his lifetime, they can’t start getting payouts until they reach the age of 62 years or older.

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What if You Don’t Have Enough Credits for Social Security Benefits?

Those who run short of the mandatory 40 credits required to be eligible for the benefits might have to work post retirement till they manage to earn those 40 credits. However, there may be chances that the spouse has worked and earned sufficient credits.

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In such a situation, you’re can still enjoy half of the benefits from the income of your spouse’s social security. If the spouse has died after earning 40 credits, the spouse becomes eligible for survivor benefits.

It is advisable to maintain other sources of savings for retirement to avoid a difficult situation due to lack of credits when you retire.


Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC’s to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I’ve learned in life, through this blog. It’s read today by more than 150K people world over! I currently live in LA, California and visit India occasionally. Here’s my full story on who I am and why I blog. Connect with me on FacebookInstagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). Happy to help! 🙂

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