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Can my foreign wife collect my Social Security?

November 2, 2011: 5:05 AM ET

I am a U.S. citizen living in Canada and married to a Canadian citizen. I am 75 years old, and we have been married for 12 years. Assuming I die before my wife, who is 59, will she be able to claim any of my Social Security benefits? – Name withheld

Yes, your wife should qualify for Social Security benefits based on your record as long as she can meet basic eligibility requirements, such as showing proof of your marriage and death. Non-citizens from many countries must also have lived as a married couple in the United States for at least five years. In your case, however, your wife doesn't have to worry about the residency rules. The Social Security Administration has an agreement with Canada and several other countries to waive that requirement, says Kia Green, an SSA spokesperson.

For more information, including a full list of countries exempt from the residency requirement and the Social Security office you can contact with more questions,
go to the Social Security Administration's online publication entitled "Your Payments While You are Outside the United States."

— Walecia Konrad

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