Can my non-citizen spouse collect survivor benefits if I die?


Q. My wife is 10 years younger than me. She is here legally and working, but she was born in Germany and is not a U.S. citizen. Can she collect Social Security survivor benefits if I die before her retirement age?
— Husband

A. Non-citizen spouses need to meet the criteria that the Social Security Administration has outlined in order to qualify for any Social Security benefits.

If your wife is lawfully in the United States and meets all the eligibility requirements, then she would be entitled to benefits, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

She said the technical term that is often used is “lawful presence.”

“The earliest age that she could receive benefits would be at 60, but she would get a permanently reduced amount,” D’Agostini said. “She would qualify for your deceased Social Security full benefit.”

She would also forfeit the benefits if she got remarried, she said.

“There is no requirement for your wife to have paid into Social Security herself in order to qualify and she could continue to receive these benefits even if she moves back to Germany,” D’Agostini said.

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This story was originally published on June 26, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.