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Got The Deal on Marrying a Colombian, living there and SSN for her

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mattinnorfolk
8/12/2019 13:30 EST

I am sorry if this is redundant but I sent a email to the SSN office in Santo Domingo and they called me today and went through everything. We all know the requirement that she needs to spend 5 years in USA (consecutive not needed) or can spend time as a widow and qualifies for benefits at age 60. This I did not know, that if we married and lived in Colombia the whole time and did not get the 5 years in the USA, she can still get benefits at age 60, but like all scenarios must be married for at least one year to qualify. She must travel to the USA every 6 months, and spend one month there and can go back and will get the same as living in USA for 5 years. I forgot to ask as a widow what percentage she would receive at age 60, but I think its the same as normal. Obviously a pain to do that every 6 months, but get a friend near Miami or relative. It might be worth it for $2,000 USA dollars a month. Hope this helps, but this is how it was gone over by the SSN office in Santo Domingo.

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ParadiseLost
8/12/2019 13:51 EST

I’m not sure two rules aren’t being mixed up here.

Firstly there’s an issue if the country doesn’t have an agreement with the US about Social Security. I’m happy to be corrected but I don’t think Colombia has one.

Where there isn’t an agreement if a spouse LEAVES the US then her benefits stop after six months of being away. The spouse can mend that by returning to the US for a full calendar month. Then payments will continue for another six months etc. Return, one month, six months, return etc.

So, and I may be wrong, but I think that’s a rule that for foreign spouse who were living in the US being able to live in non agreement countries and still receive the benefits, not a device to allow spouses who live in the non agreement country to receive benefits. After all it’s not unreasonable that a foreign spouse would want to return to her home country after the death of their US partner.

I might be wrong, but that’s my understanding.

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ponymalta
8/12/2019 14:09 EST

mattinorfolk

Unless the spouse is in a treaty country which Colombia is not, then :

"Five-year resident requirement: If your foreign spouse is neither a citizen nor resident of the countries listed above, he or she may still may be able to collect ongoing spousal Social Security benefits if the two of you lived together in the U.S. for at least five years while married (not necessarily continuously).
Please note: Lists of countries provided are subject to change. Check with the Social Security Administration to see if your foreign spouse will be able to receive benefits based on their country of citizenship or residence.
----If I die, will my foreign spouse receive survivor benefits?
Yes. Generally, your foreign widow or widower can receive Social Security survivor benefits if they meet the requirements for spousal benefits listed above and have not remarried. They may receive reduced benefits as early as age 60 (if not disabled) or full benefits at full retirement age or older. If they do not initially meet the five-year U.S. residency requirement, they can choose to relocate to the U.S. after being widowed to complete the residency requirement and then qualify for Social Security benefits."

So I think the Costa Rica office may have misinformed you.

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mattinnorfolk
8/12/2019 18:02 EST

Perhaps you all know more then the Social Security representative that works at the US Embassy in Santo Domingo which Colombia goes through in this regards. I am simply repeating what he definitively said 3 times and I repeated and he said that is correct. He said in non agreement country's (Colombia and DR) if there is not a 5 year residence there is only one other way she can still receive payments assuming they were married for at least a year. He said if she travels and stays for one month every six month, and stays for 3o days she will continue to receive benefits. If she stops her benefits will stop.


https://do.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/social-security/services-we-provide/


E-mail -FBU.Santo.Domingo@ssa.gov

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JustSomeGuy
8/12/2019 18:14 EST

Hi Matt,
Could you ask him for a link to the SSA documents that he referenced to learn this? I would be interested in reading more about this. I don’t think the rules he described are in the SSA Handbook.
Thanks
Nathan

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mattinnorfolk
8/12/2019 18:42 EST

Yes, and I will forward the exact question to a different regional social security office such as Manila. I want o see if I get the same response as they are government employees so backup collaboration would be nice. It took them a week to call me back on the first email, so be patient with me please. He said specifically that some countries such as England, Chile and others had a separate agreement and do not need to come back every 6 months, but other countries could but had to use the 6 month rule. It does seem it would make more sense that if you met the residency requirement first, and then you moved, you would follow the 6 month rule which is quite strict. If you leave the USA even for a 3 day cruise during the one month, that month does not count.

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ParadiseLost
8/12/2019 19:15 EST

@martinnorfolk

If you’re checking the information then you might want to ask under what visa the one month/twice a year rule works. Presumably most people would only have access to a Visitor’s visa and I can’t see that (as its limited in what you can use it for) as being a trigger for any sort of Federal Benefits.

As you’re meant to state your intention on coming into the US do you have to indicate that the visit is to build up adequate ‘months’ to qualify for the five year alternative?

How many years do you need to make the trips for? Before the spouses death, each year after?

It doesn’t ring right to me. I think my earlier posting that it’s another rule for spouses already in the US but wanting to leave makes more sense.

If I’m right it’s not a very pleasant rule. As the widow spouse gets older her ability to travel back to the US may decrease and become impossible. ‘Failing to show’ then loses the benefit. So, even if you can get a spouse qualified maintaining the benefit may not be easy.

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mattinnorfolk
8/12/2019 20:50 EST

More research is needed as shockingly Manila responded to my question within two hours with a link to explain. Unfortunately the link is very old and we now have 30 Country agreements, and this link says we had 10 at that time. Can't wait to have these morons run healthcare and do open heart surgery. More research is needed and I agree to your point. It's hard to get straight info from SSN.

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ponymalta
8/13/2019 05:44 EST

mattinnorfolk

You wrote "Perhaps you all know more then the Social Security representative that works at the US Embassy in Santo Domingo"

Actually it is in their own rules, and there is a brochure on their website, the quote I sent you was from a US CPA firm specializing in such issues.

As far as a state department employee knowing the rules, and in particular that office, my own experience was twice contacting that office they gave me the wrong information- once on this same issue I contacted them two years ago.

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ponymalta
8/13/2019 06:24 EST

martinfolk

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10137.pdf

As you can see it is clear what you were told is wrong- above is their own publication. And looking at the 6 month rule,. Paradise Lost's comments are right on as it seems to matter what type of residency the person,i.e. seems a visitors visa just won't be enough.

When I looked into this my first step was to look at Social Security Administrations own rules, then I did a Google search and came across various websites of CPA's or Lawyers serving Expats and all were consistent in their understanding of the rules. Last I called the same office you did, and readily apparent they were not conversant with the rules ( on this and other matters).

Easier option may be for Colombian spouse to get residency and maintain address in Chile or Spain which are both tax treaty countries, and no where near as difficult as the USA to get and maintain residency.

Guess the only good news is some countries will not pay benefits to a non-citizen spouse abroad ( UK I think this way).

( The brochure also has some arcane rules on working more than 45 hours abroad while receiving social security, or being an officer/director/owner of a business abroad while receiving social security) .

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mattinnorfolk
8/13/2019 06:28 EST

This is the regional Social Security office at the USA Embassy in Santo Domingo, so it's their job and Colombia falls in your region. You are likely right Pony as getting correct answers from government employees can be a challenge. I have a client that works for the SS administration, so will call and see if she can point me in the right direction.

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ponymalta
8/13/2019 11:09 EST

Mattinfolk,

It will be interesting what you find out- I posted social security's own publication on the subject, and have consulted several websites of legal and accounting professionals- it seems everyone agrees except the person you spoke to in Costa Rica, who disagrees with social security's own rules.

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Scott1
8/18/2019 15:01 EST

martinnorfork. Nice your thinking of your girlfriends future when you are gone. How about marrying her, and taking her to the USA on a CR1 spousal visa, After 3 years she applies for USA citizen and receives SSA spousal survivor benefits in Colombia?

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ParadiseLost
8/18/2019 15:14 EST

@scott1 one issue might be relying on the laws remaining the same as they are today.

As part of the current Administrations immigration cut backs are suggestions that ‘chain migration’ might be eliminated. Now foreign spouses aren’t exactly chain migration but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t tighten the rules, add new ones or extend the timeframes. Equally they can slow down processing.

When you’re older timeframes of three or five years are more punitive then when you’re younger.

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mattinnorfolk
8/18/2019 17:14 EST

They have not slowed it down, as mine took 8 months back in 20013 and I used an experienced lawyer, and its still 6-8 months. It's on the website.

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mattinnorfolk
8/18/2019 17:28 EST

Scott, that is a idea worth looking at for sure, because a couple thousand bucks a month at age 60 for her would put her in pretty good shape there, as she is used to a lot less now. PL, only the minor children of my ex fiancé got approved to come in with her, and adult children did not. Unfortunately, she got approved, but we had broke up thankfully.

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ParadiseLost
8/18/2019 17:39 EST

@matt

Clearly a man with connections if you can predict US immigration rules out into the future.

Up until a week or so ago claiming any sort of benefits didn’t endanger any green card status. That’s changed.

In the UK for example they changed the law so that you could only bring your foreign spouse in if you could demonstrate income of around $24,000 a year. Many of these rules are not written to be retiree friendly. The standard U.K. state pension is not even half that.

All we can assume is that (from a expats point of view) the rules on foreign spouses entry will at best stay the same, but could be more stringent. What the US now sees as immigrants is highly skilled workers who can add value to the economy. A few expats wives might fall into that category, but not many.

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Elexpatriado
8/18/2019 19:42 EST

I hope you arent going to marry the one that stole from

And i hope thhe SSN thing isnt her idea.

Why would anyone want to get married at your (our) age anyway?

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ponymalta
8/19/2019 04:12 EST

ParadiseLost

My understanding is the figure is 18,600 pounds minimum to bring in foreign spouse to UK, so I am unsure where 24,000 figure from unless you are counting children as well. Plus one has to pay 500 pounds a year up front for annual health care for 2 1/2 years, then another application.

Good point that figure far above a standard state pension.

Strangely at least until Brexit, a British citizen can bring a spouse into the EU with just a marriage certificate, then 6 to 12 months later just move to the UK.

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ParadiseLost
8/19/2019 04:59 EST

@ponymalta - because the number I used had a $ sign in front of it. I thought it easier to make the exchange conversion for the ease of our Colonial cousins as we were talking about US immigration.

I think the EEC anomaly was that the real intention of the rule was to slow further chain like marriage immigration from the Commonwealth and elsewhere. However in making that rule it impacts everyone wanting to bring a foreign bride back from non-EEC countries. The number of people caught up in it is fairly negligible, so no one cares really cares.

I’m never sure if it’s really clear to the ‘Yanks’ on here that although they may support stricter migration into the US if they’ve a Colombian spouse or other half that they want to bring into the US they may in the future get caught up in the new rules. Rules have to be written so that they don’t appear to target specific ethnic groups, so as with the U.K. one, it applies to everyone.

It even applies to visitors visas. When my wife needed to renew her U.K. visitors visa the new process clearly didn’t care if she was married to a UK citizen or not. In the interview process for example rather than interviewing her with me as my wife I was excluded from the process. Not a big deal for my wife but as I pointed out to the immigration people making the decision in the past the fact that she was my wife would have automatically qualified her. They explained to me that ‘for fairness’ everyone now had to go through the same qualification process and that she needed to meet the same standards, including financial background here in Colombia, that every successful applicant did. And that’s for a visitors visa.

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mattinnorfolk
8/19/2019 07:36 EST

In the USA if you bring someone here, and they go on public assistance you are responsible for I believe 8 years if you bring them here on a Fiance' Visa. I have no serious plans to marry at the moment, but like to do flow charting and what ifs in advance.

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ParadiseLost
8/19/2019 08:02 EST

With the fiancé visa I thought you had to meet income levels - and the affidavit of support also has levels of complexity to it.

Those income levels seem to be well above a lot of Social Security payments but I may be wrong.

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Vikingo
8/19/2019 08:18 EST

@PL, 'As the widow spouse gets older her ability to travel back to the US may decrease and become impossible. ‘Failing to show’ then loses the benefit. So, even if you can get a spouse qualified maintaining the benefit may not be easy.'
This has crossed my mind as well and after she is too old or too sick to travel, her benefits come to a screeching halt and she is doomed to live under a bridge and eat out of trashcans?
I can not imagine the US government would pass such a law.
It is also suspect that no one knows about this except the SSA agent in Costa Rica.
What I can't understand is how Chile as the only Latin American country and being a developing country qualified (Except for French Guiana which still belongs to France) for a contract with the SSA.

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ParadiseLost
8/19/2019 08:57 EST

@vikingo paying pensions overseas is something governments don’t seem to like. In the U.K. for example pensioners living overseas have had their amounts frozen (no cost of living increases etc.)

On the US six month rule I think it’s sort of like proof of life form US pensioners get. It’s to make sure the claimant is still alive. Presumably when a US citizen dies abroad the US should find out. For his spouse, who may or may not have dual citizenship that might not be the case. So, to prove you’re alive you need to present yourself in the US.

As to why Chiles’s approved it might be a reciprocal agreement. In the past, the Chilean pension system was privatized and received great praise from Republicans as a model of a modern pension system. It was meant to provide 70% of income in retirement but has performed badly - around half of that amount.

Bottom line when expats come here and point out the contribution they make to the economy with their dollars and paying IVA they’re actually making the argument as to why their host country doesn’t like making pension payments abroad. They’d rather those dollars were spent at home in the US economy.

If you’re looking for any other clues that the Foreign governments don’t put too much effort into their overseas retired citizens look at the closure of US services in Colombia or how the U.K. authorities in Colombia provide little or no help.

The U.K. even outsourced visa processing to a Dubai based company. Since then visa costs have gone up significantly in particular as fees have been charged for things like quick processing.

Cost of my wife’s 10 visitors visa (allows multiple visits over 10 years, not residency) over $1,000.

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