Social Security and Canada Pension Plan
December 27, 2005 10:21 PM   Subscribe

Can a person collect under both the Canada Pension Plan and U.S. Social Security, based on qualifying work in both countries?

My mother-in-law is 80 years old and lives in Calgary, Alberta. She is a U.S. citizen and a Canadian landed immigrant. She has lived in Canada for 35 years and has worked in both Canada and the U.S. She is currently collecting under the Canada Pension Plan, but my husband and I are wondering whether she could also collect U.S. Social Security, as she probably had enough earnings in the U.S. to qualify, before she moved to Canada. (To clarify, we are in the U.S. and don't know much about the Canadian system.) I have been reading the international section of the Social Security Administration web site and am still unsure about this. Most of the information on the SSA site talks about combining work credits from the U.S. and foreign countries in order to qualify for a pension in one or the other country. My question is, if she would qualify for a Social Security pension based solely on her work history in the U.S., would the fact that she is collecting a Canadian pension disqualify her from collecting a U.S. Social Security pension in addition?
posted by Joleta to Law & Government (2 answers total)
Canada and the U.S. have a treaty that governs the relationship of the two countries' social security plans. You'd have to read the treaty. The basic deal is this: they don't want to be collecting social security contributions for both countries out of the same paycheck (ouch!), and in return, any given period of work counts only for one country, not the other.

Social Security says you can collect payments while a permanent resident in Canada.

An additional provision of the treaty goes like this: if you don't qualify for a pension, each country will count time worked in the other country for purposes of pension calculation, and see if you qualify that way. If you do qualify with just time worked in the one country, then they do not count time worked in the other. (Which I fairly strongly assume means that that time can be counted in the other country, if it is enough to qualify.)

So the questions are: does Mom have enough time in both countries to to draw independent pensions? (Social Security will send you a synopsis of your working life as they have recorded it, if you ask them.) Did the Canada Pension Plan count time in the U.S. when determining her eligibility for a Canadian pension?

I think it is entirely possible to draw payments from both countries, assuming you qualify independently. Find out her specifics and start calling the two agencies.
posted by jellicle at 6:07 AM on December 28, 2005

The US and Canada, like the US and many other countries, have a totalization agreement. You can read about it here.

In particular, Section IV.A states:

"If you have Social Security credits in both the United States and Canada, you may be eligible for benefits from one or both countries. If you meet all the basic requirements under one country’s system, you will get a regular benefit from that country. If you do not meet the basic requirements, the agreement may help you qualify for a benefit as explained below."

But call the US Social Security office; I used to have a number for someone in the international office, but I can't find it. You might try googling around for a specific person to call.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:16 AM on December 28, 2005

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