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Do I Qualify for Retirement Benefits as a Migrant Worker?

In the United States, most workers have access to retirement benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Retirement benefits are monthly payments made to workers once they retire. These benefits can be accessed by workers with temporary work visas, such as H-2A and H-2B visas, and are benefits that workers can access even if they retire and live outside of the U.S. It is important to know how this system works so that you can prepare for your and your family’s future. 

In order to qualify for retirement benefits you are required to meet the following requirements: 

  1. You must be either a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the U.S. during the time you are working in the U.S.;

  2. You must pay into the retirement system, which is typically done by your employer who contributes a portion of your earnings to the Social Security Administration’s retirement fund; and

  3. You must be at least 62  and have worked a certain amount in order to start receiving the benefits. Additionally, workers are required to have accumulated 40 credits in order to draw retirement benefits. Credits are earned based on how much money you made while you worked and the number of years you worked.  Forty credits are about 10 years of year round work, but it varies based on your earnings and it can take more than 10 years for seasonal workers.

To know how many credits you have accumulated or to make sure your employer is contributing to the system from your earnings, you can view your own personalized statement with this information. To view these statements, you have to create an account on the Social Security Administration’s website. You can create an account by calling 1-800-772-1213 and speak to an agent in Spanish, visiting your local Social Security office, or creating an account online in English at Your online account will also tell you what your future retirement payments will be based on your earnings and contributions. 

It is important to note that social security retirement benefits are NOT the same as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Supplemental security income benefits are based on your resources and needs and are not a benefit that your employer provides. Workers who are U.S. citizens or lawfully present in the U.S. while working may be eligible for SSI benefits, however, they  will only be eligible for SSI Benefits while they are present in the U.S and cannot collect SSI benefit income from outside the U.S.

To learn more about this issue or about your labor rights, follow us on our social media networks found on Facebook or contact us at Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM). Our Mexican toll free number is: 800-590-1771 and our U.S. toll free number is: 1-855-234-9699. To speak with someone in Mixteco, you can call us at: 953-554-0517. Our services are cost free and confidential.

Imágen: Flickr/Quique Marzo 2008/Vía