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Can I transfer credits from a foreign country's pension system to my Social Security work record?

Possibly, depending on which country you worked in. The United States has international Social Security agreements with many countries, most of them in Europe, to address the special requirements of people like you.

These "totalization agreements," as they're often called, help you qualify for Social Security by letting you pool your credits from work in the U.S. and abroad. They may also eliminate the need for you to pay payroll taxes to both countries on the same wages — you pay into just one system. People from participating countries who work in the United States get the same benefits. 

As of May 2021, the United States had such pacts with 30 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.

When you're ready to apply for Social Security, call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 800-772-1213 and ask what information and documentation you'll need regarding your work abroad. Among other things, the list will include your Social Security number, the equivalent identification number from the other country and proof of age.

You'll find details on how Social Security works with foreign retirement systems on the SSA's web page on international agreements.

Keep in mind

If you receive a pension from work abroad in which you did not pay Social Security taxes, your Social Security benefit could be reduced under the Windfall Elimination Provision. Contact the SSA to learn about the potential impact.

Updated May 25, 2021