PURPOSE: To state the Social Security Administration's position that, in order to qualify under section 202(t)(2) of the Social Security Act for an exception to the alien nonpayment provision of section 202(t)(1), a person must be a citizen of a foreign country which has a social insurance or pension system which pays benefits to any qualified U.S. citizen who is outside of that country, regardless of when U.S. citizenship was attained.
CITATIONS (AUTHORITY): Section 202(t)(2)(B) of the Social Security Act; Regulations No. 4, section 404.463(a)(6).
PERTINENT HISTORY: With certain exceptions, section 202(t) prohibits the payment of social Security benefits to alien beneficiaries while they remain outside the U.S. if they have been outside the U.S. for more than six months. Section 202(t)(2) provides for payment to an alien outside the U.S. if the individual is a citizen of a country which has a social insurance or pension system of general application which may pay periodic benefits or their actuarial equivalent on account of old-age, retirement or death to qualified U.S. citizens who are outside of that country. Implementing regulations require that the foreign country's system must pay these benefits to such U.S. citizens without restriction. See Regulations No. 4, section 404.463(a)(6),m 20 C.F.R. 404.463(a)(6).
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has consistently interpreted section 202(t)(2)(B) to require that the foreign country's social insurance system must pay benefits to any qualified U.S. citizen, even if he or she was not a U.S. citizen when working under that country's system.
The statute does not specifically state that the foreign country's system must pay persons who became U.S. citizens after they ceased working under that country's system, but the statutory language is broad enough to allow this interpretation. Nothing in the relevant legislative history specifically addresses this issue. However, the Conference Report on the bill which enacted section 202(t)(2) indicates that the foreign country's system would not satisfy that provision if it conditions payment of benefits to U.S. citizens on presence in that foreign country, or if it conditions benefits in terms which have the same effect as if it required such presence. The interpretation of section 202(t)(2)(B) contained herein follows this expression of congressional intent.
If a foreign country's social insurance or pension system will not pay U.S. citizens outside that country's borders unless they were U.S. citizens when they worked under that system, the foreign system would exclude from payment all naturalized U.S. citizens who are otherwise eligible for payment and who were citizens of that country but emigrated and remain outside of its borders. This group would include the vast majority of naturalized U.S. citizens from the country. None of those people would ever receive payments from that country's system, unless they return to reside there. Payment of title II benefits outside the U.S. to a citizen of a foreign country is not conditioned on the wage earner's being a citizen of that country while engaged in work covered by the U.S. Social Security system.
Bulgaria's refusal to pay Bulganian social insurance benefits to U.S. citizens, who were not U.S. citizens while working under that system and reside outside Bulgaria, focussed attention on the need for a clear public statement of SSA's interpretation of section 202(t)(2)(B) of the Social Security Act. A determination, effective in 1971, found that Bulgaria's system fulfilled the requirements set forth in section 202(t)(2)(B); i.e., SSA thought that benefits were payable under that system to U.S. citizens who live outside Bulgaria. As a result, U.S. Social Security benefits were paid to Bulgarian citizens outside the U.S.
However, the Government of Bulgaria recently indicated that only those persons who were U.S. citizens at the time of their employment under the Bulgarian system may receive Bulgarian social insurance benefits while outside that country. This interpretation of Bulgarian law, coupled with restrictions placed on the employment of U.S., citizens in Bulgaria, led SSA to conclude that it is improbable that the Bulgarian system would ever pay pensions to U.S. citizens outside Bulgaria. In April 1982, benefit payments to Bulganian citizens living outside the U.S. were suspended due to a revised finding that the Bulgarian system was not in compliance with the provisions of section 202(t)(2)(B).
POLICY STATEMENT: In order for the social insurance system of a foreign country to meet the provisions of section 202(t)(2)(B), that system must pay benefits to any qualified U.S. citizen who is outside of that country, regardless of when U.S. citizenship was attained.
EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 1957, the effective date of section 202(t)(2) of the Social Security Act.
CROSS-REFERENCES: Program Operations Manual System section RS 02610.010G.
Back to Table of Contents