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Ask Dr. Fiona Chen Your Own Question
Dr. Fiona Chen
Dr. Fiona Chen, Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 482
Experience:  Former IRS Revenue Agent
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As a citizen of Costa Rica will my spouse be eligible for

Customer Question

as a citizen of Costa Rica will my spouse be eligible for benefits when widowed. I am a USA citizen receiving benefits in Costa Rica
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Social Security
Expert:  Dr. Fiona Chen replied 10 months ago.

Dear Customer,

There is a five-year marriage length and a five-year residence requirements for an overseas spouse to qualify for survival benefit. See below reference and citation. Of course, the SSA is the final authority. It is recommended that you give the SSA a call. If the spouse can meet the survival benefit requirement, your spouse may qualify for spousal benefit which is up to half the amount of your social security payment.

An alien entitled to benefits as a spouse, widow/widower, divorced spouse, surviving divorced spouse, or surviving divorced mother or father must meet the following requirement:

  • The alien must have resided in the U.S. for 5 or more years, and

  • The alien must have been in a spousal relationship with the person on whose earnings record the entitlement is based for 5 or more years.


Effective Dates: 01/06/2012 - Present

TN 15 (05-08)

RS 02610.025 5 Year Residency Requirement for Alien Dependents/Survivors Outside the United States (U.S.)


Social Security Act – 202 (t)

Social Security Act – 202 (t) (11)

A. Policy

In 1983 the Social Security Act was amended (P.L. 98-21) section 340 to include an additional provision regarding the payment of Social Security benefits to aliens outside the U.S. Section 202(t)(11) of the Social Security Act requires that certain non-U.S. citizen dependent and survivor beneficiaries who are first eligible for Social Security Benefits after December 1984, must have resided in the U.S. for at least 5 years as the spouse, widow/widower, child, or parent of the NH, in order to receive U.S. benefits while outside the U.S.. See RS 02610.030 - 5 Year Residency Requirements for Spouses, Natural Child, Adopted Child, and a Parent


Fiona Chen, MPA, Ph.D., CPA, ABV, CFF, CITP

Your widow or widower can receive:

  • reduced benefits as early as age 60 or full benefits at full retirement age or older.
  • benefits as early as age 50 if he or she is disabled AND their disability started before or within seven years of your death.

  • Your widow or widower can get benefits at any age if they take care of your child younger than age 16 or disabled, who's receiving Social Security benefits.