Regarding your last article – Making Sense of the New Way of Qualifying for a State Pension – I worked in Ireland for five years before moving to the United States in 1985. I will be 65 this month. I plan to work for the next 16 months, by which time I have maximized my Social Security.
My question is, can the contributions I made during my five years working in Ireland count towards my social security contributions here in the United States?
I am aware that Ireland / Canada have a bilateral agreement on this. I had not been able to get a resounding yes or no from the various agencies I contacted here and in Ireland.
Mr. P.O’H., USA
You are not alone. Thousands of people have moved between the United States and Ireland to work during their careers. For some, this was a result of career development within the extensive network of US companies operating in Ireland or the growing number of Irish multinationals with a presence in the US. For others it was simply emigrating to the USA in search of a better future and for still others moving to Ireland.
In most of these cases, people in both countries – and possibly others – will have proof of work.
Outside the EU, Ireland has a number of bilateral agreements with countries that regulate social security. That includes, as you say, Canada. This also includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan. Because Ireland has a different social security system than the rest of Canada, Ireland has a separate bilateral agreement with Quebec.
There are also bilateral agreements with Austria and Switzerland, but both of these are being replaced by the EU rules. The same is true for the UK, even after Brexit. Therefore, the suitability of the large number with mixed job references between here and Great Britain or across the northern border is checked according to EU regulations.
Each of these agreements has its own separate rules. These are pretty accurate and I would advise anyone in a position to check with the local authorities for clarity. Knowing where to go, as you found out, can be half the problem.
The Irish bilateral connection with the US dates back to 1993. I’m looking at a statement of the agreement published by the U.S. Social Security Agency in 2017.
If you were a resident of Ireland at this point, you would apply to the Department of Social Protection and they would calculate your entitlement in a similar way to the EU – that is, they use the formula A x B / C, where A is the notional Irish pension rate You would get if all of your stamps were treated as Irish in both countries, B is the actual number of stamps earned in Ireland and C is the total number of social security contributions in both countries.
The difference is that the sum within the EU is the cumulative number of contributions made in all EU countries. In the case of bilateral agreements in which you have worked in more than one of the countries covered by such agreements, the ratio is calculated with each country in which you have worked independently.
Ultimately, for any Irish state pension from the Irish side, only the result that gives you the highest Irish pension is relevant.
It then applies for a pro rata pension from the other country for you. While the Irish pension is only determined by a bilateral agreement, you may be eligible for pensions from more than one other country depending on your social security status in each.
As with EU rules, you must have a certain number of social security stamps for the bilateral system to take effect. In the case of Ireland, this is one insurable work week and 52 “qualifying” weeks – that is, worked or counted. In the US, that’s typically six quarterly credits, or 18 months of work.
Now, looking at the agreement from a US citizen’s perspective, it says where you are that you cannot use your Irish job references to increase your US pension if your US Social Security has already paid you for one Performance justified. In your case, where you have run out of your Social Security by 2024, it is clearly so, so you cannot just add the Irish contributions to the US record.
The agreement states that the US authorities in both countries will review your work records to determine if you are eligible for partial benefit if you do not have enough work credit under the US system to be eligible for recurring benefits.
But even if you can’t top up your pension from the US authorities, I think it is still possible to get a partial pension from the Irish authorities for the five years of work over here before you leave for the US.
The agreement states that if you don’t need an agreement in either country to be eligible for Social Security benefits, your US benefits may be reduced. In this case, however, you need the agreement to qualify for the Irish benefits so you should be fine in my opinion.
It won’t be much financially, but there is no reason not to pursue it.
Since you live in the US, according to the records I’m looking at, you can go to any US Social Security Office or write to it. There is also a toll-free number 1-800-772-1213.
It states that you can claim Irish benefits by completing Application Form SSA-2490, which should be available from any Social Security Office.
If you live in Ireland and would like to claim benefits under the bilateral agreement with the US or any other country, contact the Department of Social Protection (Pensions Section) at College Road, Sligo or by calling 071 915-7100 or (for the price of a local call) 1890-500-000. The 1890 numbers will expire in January, so the area code of the local number will be changed to either 0818 or 1800 next year.
Please send your questions to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email [email protected] This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. No personal correspondence will be conducted