Social Security – Expat Infromation – Part 2 – Proof of Life Form 7162

Yesterday’s post was an overview of the regulations as they pertain to Expats living abroad. Today’s post is regarding the Form 7162 Proof of Life that is required to be completed by all recipients of Social Security benefits living outside of the US.

you can find the form on this web address:
For those living in Ecuador please complete the form and mail it directly to the US or you can mail the form along with a copy of your passport to the US Consulate in Quito.  They no longer accept scanned forms. This post was updated July 13, 2015. NL

By the way, if you are a permanent resident of Ecuador and using a relative or friends address in the US in this matter, you are not compliant.
The Social Security Administration will be sending out a letter requesting that a Proof of Life Form 7162 be completed according to the following schedule.

If your social security number ends in 00 through 49, your letter will be mailed out in May and June of even numbered years.

If your social security number ends in 50 through 99, your letter will be mailed out in May and June of odd numbered years.

The letters for 2013 will be mailed out between May and June (this month and next month). If you fall in the odd numbered years and have not received your letter by August, you should download a copy of the form and submit it..

The responses to those letters will need to be received by the SSA. If they are not received, the checks (or direct deposits) will be stopped! This usually catches the recipients by surprise and they wind up having to contact the Federal Benefits Unit in the US Embassy in Quito to get the check flow turned back on. This is not instantaneous and many living in Ecuador find themselves with financial problems. No money will be lost, but you may be without money until the problem is solved. It has happened to us, Joe’s direct deposits were stopped so be sure to complete the form in the correct year.

So what do you need to do?

1. The obvious answer is to have a mailing address in Ecuador. It can be general delivery or PO Box, but it must be in the country where you reside. Joe and I have not received any mail since moving to San Clemente. We have a PO Box in Bahia for over a year but this still does not assure you that you will receie a ltter. Update 7/13/2015 NL

As all of us that live here know, General Delivery and even PO Boxes do not insure that you will receive the letter in Ecuador. That is why you need to mark your calendar for August and if no letter has been received, then you need to contact the FBU in Quito or just complete the form and submit it.

2. If you have a noncompliant US mailing address, you can complete Form SSA-21. http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-21.pdf

Form SSA-21 is going to ask for a mailing address. Then you need to send it to the FBU in Quito and they will notify SSA of your new address and your payments will continue.

Because we do not receive regular mail here in Ecuador, Joe and I have decided to complete the Proof of Life Form 7162 annually, according to the schedule and you guessed it our social secuirty numbers are in different years, so as not to forget one year and get cut off. In the past we have sent this form with someone going back to the states to mail on our behalf. This form is not new and SS has always allowed you to have an address for correspondence purposes separate from your physical address. It just seems that they are slowly trying to get those who actually live outside the US to tell them.  There is another Federal Form the IRS requires called FBAR (more on this form in my next post). It is for reporting bank accounts outside the US. When the IRS determined there was widespread under-compliance, they announced an amnesty program to get folks to file.  Followed by an announcement of very stiff fines and penalties if you did not come forward voluntarily.  They now go direct to many foreign banks and ask them for a client list of Americans, threatening economic retaliation for not cooperating.

 

Social Security – Expat Information – Part 1

This will be a several part post about old and new requirements from the Social Security Administration as it relates to those of us living outside of the United States,

A form, Proof of Life, will be required from Social Security for folks living outside of the United States and receiving social security benefits. I will cover that form in the next article because it is such an important topic for those of us who rely on those funds for our existence, that I am not going to rush over the guidelines as they apply to us living out of the US.

First please read what Social Security has to say about using addresses in the United States if living in a foreign country for over three months.

https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0202401080

Social Security Online  POMS Section: GN 02401.080
www.socialsecurity.gov

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Effective Dates: 04/20/2004 – Present

TN 17 (04-04)

GN 02401.080 Use of United States Address by Beneficiary Abroad

A. POLICY – WHEN PERMITTED

A beneficiary abroad may use a U.S. mailing address when the beneficiary:

  • Has an APO/FPO address;
  • Has a representative payee in the U.S.; or
  • Will be abroad for 3 months or less.

The beneficiary must keep SSA advised of his residence address at all time for beneficiary contact and foreign enforcement purposes.

B. POLICY – WHEN NOT PERMITTED

A beneficiary abroad may not use a mailing address in the U.S. when the beneficiary is:

  • In a barred country (RS 02650.001); or
  • Abroad for more than 3 months.

Checks for beneficiaries abroad more than 3 months may not be sent to a relative or friend in the U.S. except during interim periods while developing a proper mailing address.

A beneficiary living outside the U.S. may have a foreign address and direct deposit to a U.S. financial institution (FI). See GN 02402.110. See also International Direct Deposit, GN 02402.201.

See GN 02402.080 for the use of a Power of Attorney when International Direct Deposit is not available in the country of residence and the beneficiary wants checks mailed directly to an FI in the country of residence.

 

Mindset on being an Expat – Part I

Joe and I were sitting on the edge of a cliff teetering between holding fast or falling over.  Yes, this was the moment when we decided that living in the US was not what either one of us could do the long term.  We had it all a daughter almost finished with college, our health issues were manageable, the beautiful home of our dreams a 4 br 2 1.2 bath, two-story in a very prestigious neighborhood North of Atlanta. But we were still drowning in uncertainty about our future and what we should do.  Joe was not able to work any longer and I was working sometimes 12 hour days to just “get by”.

After many heart to heart conversations on our deck overlooking our beautiful back yard we started to crystallize what our hopes and dreams actually consisted of.  These conversations finally allowed us to see what each of us wanted in the way of our dream lifestyle.

I was more interested in finding things like more affordable fresh fruits and veggies, fresh meats and seafood and to be able to walk home from the market with my satchel of produce and bread for today’s meal, instead of relying on our gas guzzling automobiles. I was interested in being the at home wife, cooking, cleaning sort of like June Cleaver.  I was tired of the business world with all it’s sniping and false gods (money). That world had not made either of us happy.  We both wanted an outdoor type of lifestyle. That did not mean hiking mountains or trekking the jungle.  It meant a climate that would be conducive to our spending many hours out-of-doors, like sitting on a porch,  reading, listening to music, walking to a park. Joe was more pragmatic, he was looking to get us  out from under a mortgage that was strangling us, looking for a lifestyle that we could afford on his social security payments without me having to work. Allowing him to calm down and relax instead of being uptight and agitated.

That was the first step in making the transition to being an Expat living in a developing country.

Casa in Dolega, Panama

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Traditional Clothing - Panama

Our first experience was living in Dolega, Panama. It was a very small a few thousand residents most who did not speak a word of English and a few Norteamericano’s scattered around the area. Our rented home was a 3 br 1 bath Panamanian style home, built of cinder blocks on a slab with a corrugated tin roof rent $180 per month. Very basic it came with nothing, no hot water, no kitchen appliances, nothing — We spend over three years in that house, in that neighborhood and loved almost every second of it. Our move to Ecuador was prompted by the increase in violent crime in the area, as one of the only expats around we felt that our time was coming to have something big and bad happen to us so our minds made up or suit cases packed we moved to Ecuador back in March 2010.

Next installment will discuss our thoughts and our personal guideline to making it work in a developing country.