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Under certain conditions, a worker may be exempt from coverage in a contracting country, even if he or she has not been transferred directly from the United States. For example, if a U.S. company sends an employee to its New York office to work for 4 years in its Hong Kong office, and then re-opens the employee for an additional 4 years in its London office, the employee may be a member of Social Security under the U.S.U.K. agreement. The rule for the self-employed applies in cases such as this, provided the worker has been seconded from the United States and is under U.S. Social Security for the entire period prior to the transfer to the contracting country. Agreements to coordinate social protection across national borders have been commonplace in Western Europe for decades. This is followed by a list of the agreements reached by the United States and the effective date of each. Some of these agreements were then revised; The date indicated is the date on which the original agreement came into force. Australia currently has 31 bilateral international social security agreements. 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. Workers who are exempt from U.S. or foreign social security contributions under an agreement must document their exemption by obtaining a country coverage certificate that continues to cover it. For example, an American worker temporarily posted to the UK would need a SSA-issued coverage certificate to prove his exemption from UK social security contributions. Conversely, a UK-based employee working temporarily in the Us would need a certificate from the British authorities to prove the exemption from the US Social Security Tax. All of these agreements are based on the concept of shared responsibility. Responsibility-sharing agreements are reciprocal. Under each agreement, partner countries make concessions to their social security qualification rules so that those covered by the agreement have access to payments that they may not be eligible for. The responsibility for social security is thus distributed among the countries in which a person has lived during his or her working years and where the person is able to obtain potential rights. In general, it is possible to access a pension from one country in the second country, although the paying country retains some discretion with regard to the exchange and delivery mechanisms used.

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.