Caring for a loved one? Find a part-time job that fits your schedule. Search the AARP Job Board.
En español | Medicare has different enrollment rules for Americans who live outside the United States, depending on whether they work or are retired.
If you are retired and neither you nor your spouse works while abroad:
In this situation, you have a difficult decision to make: Either pay monthly Medicare Part B premiums for coverage you can’t use outside the United States, or delay enrollment until you return to the U.S. and then become liable for permanent late penalties.
(There is one exception to this Catch-22 rule. Some people don’t qualify for Medicare Part A benefits without paying monthly premiums for them because they or their spouses haven’t contributed enough in payroll taxes at work. In this situation, you cannot sign up for Part A or Part B outside the United States. Therefore, in this specific circumstance, you can delay Medicare enrollment until your return, without being subject to late penalties — regardless of how long you lived outside the U.S. or how many years have passed since you turned 65. Your special enrollment period begins during the month of your return as a U.S. resident and expires at the end of the third month following. Coverage begins on the first day of the month after you enroll.)
If you decide to sign up for Part B while abroad, you can do so by contacting the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You can find contact information on the Social Security Administration’s international website, at https://www.ssa.gov/foreign/.
Part D drug coverage has different rules. If you enroll in a Part D drug plan within two months of returning to the United States, your coverage will start on the first day of the month after you enroll and you will not be liable for late penalties. If you miss the two-month deadline, though, you must wait until the next annual open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, with coverage beginning Jan. 1 — and then you will receive permanent late penalties, based on how many months elapsed between your return to the United States and when you begin receiving Part D coverage.
If you or your spouse is working while abroad:
You can delay Medicare enrollment in Part B (and avoid its premiums) if you have health care coverage from:
When you (or your spouse) stop working or lose your coverage from any of the above situations, you will be entitled to a special enrollment period of up to eight months to sign up for Medicare without risking late penalties. So if you stop working but don’t return to the United States within that time frame, you’ll confront the same dilemma that nonworking people abroad face — either sign up for Part B and pay premiums for coverage you can’t use or delay enrollment until your return to the U.S. and then become liable for permanent late penalties.
The rules for Part D drug coverage are the same as those noted in the information provided above for nonworking Americans abroad.
Return to Medicare Q&A Tool main page >>
Enter address, city, state, or ZIP code.
Driver Safety (0)
Tax Aide (0)
Entertainment & Dining (0)
Healthcare & Insurance (0)
Financial Services & Insurance (0)
Member Local Offers (0)
Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at