Explanation (2005) to Social Security Agreement (1976)
An agreement, effective December 1, 1979, between the United States and Germany improves Social Security protection for people who work or have worked in both countries. It helps many people who, without the agreement, would not be eligible for monthly retirement, disability or survivors benefits under the Social Security system of one or both countries. It also helps people who would otherwise have to pay Social Security taxes to both countries on the same earnings.
The agreement covers Social Security taxes (including the U.S. Medicare portion). As the result of a supplementary agreement, beginning May 1, 1996, it also includes the taxes that finance Germany’s sickness insurance and long-term-nursing care programs. The agreement also covers Social Security retirement, disability and survivors insurance benefits. It doesn’t cover benefits under the U.S. Medicare program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
This document covers highlights of the agreement and explains how it may help you while you work and when you apply for benefits.
The Agreement May Help You, Your Family And Your Employer
• While you work If your work is covered by both the U.S. and German Social Security systems, you (and your employer, if you are employed) would normally have to pay Social Security taxes to both countries for the same work. The agreement eliminates this double coverage, so that taxes are paid to only one system (see the section on “Coverage and Social Security taxes” section).
• When you apply for benefits You may have some Social Security credits in both the U.S. and Germany but not have enough to be eligible for benefits in one country or the other. The agreement makes it easier to qualify for benefits by letting you add together your Social Security credits in both countries. For more details, see the section on “Monthly benefits.”
Coverage and Social Security taxes
Before the agreement, employees, employers and self-employed persons could, under certain circumstances, be required to pay Social Security taxes to both the United States and Germany for the same work.
Under the agreement, if you work as an employee in the United States, you normally will be covered by the United States, and you and your employer will pay Social Security taxes only to the United States. If you work as an employee in Germany, you normally will be covered by Germany, and you and your employer pay Social Security taxes only to Germany.
On the other hand, if your employer sends you from one country to work for that employer or an affiliate in the other country for five years or less, you will continue to be covered by your home country and you will be exempt from coverage in the other country. For example, if a U.S. company sends an employee to work for that employer or an affiliate in Germany for no more than five years, the employer and the employee will continue to pay only U.S. Social Security taxes and will not have to pay in Germany.
Special rules apply to self-employed people who, without the agreement, would have to pay Social Security taxes to both countries
Summary Of Agreement Rules
The following table whether your work is covered under the U.S. or German Social Security system. If you are covered under U.S. Social Security, you and your employer (if you are an employee) must pay U.S. Social Security taxes. If you are covered under the German system, you and your employer (if you are an employee) must pay German Social Security taxes. “Certificate of coverage” section explains how to get a form from the country where you are covered that will prove you are exempt in the other country.
As the table indicates, a U.S. worker employed in Germany can be covered by U.S. Social Security only if he or she works for a U.S. employer. A U.S. employer includes a corporation organized under the laws of the United States or any state, a partnership if at least two-thirds of the partners are U.S. residents, an individual who is a resident of the U.S. or a trust if all the trustees are U.S. residents. The term also includes a foreign affiliate of a U.S. employer if the U.S. employer has entered into an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service under section 3121(l) of the Internal Revenue Code to pay Social Security taxes for U.S. citizens and residents employed by the affiliate.
Certificate of coverage
A certificate of coverage issued by one country serves as proof of exemption from Social Security taxes on the same earnings in the other country.
Certificates For Employees
To establish an exemption from compulsory coverage and taxes under the German system, your employer must request a certificate of coverage (form USA/D 101) from the U.S. at this address:
Social Security Administration
Office of International Programs
P.O. Box 17741
Baltimore, Maryland 21235-7741
The request may be sent by FAX, if preferred, to (410) 966-1861. Please note this FAX number should only be used for requesting certificates of coverage.
No special form is required to request a certificate, but, the request must be in writing and provide the following information:
• Full name of worker;
• Date and place of birth;
• Country of worker’s permanent residence;
• U.S. Social Security number;
• Date of hire;
• Country of hire;
• Name and address of the employer in the U.S. and Germany; and • Date of transfer and anticipated date of return.
In addition, your employer must indicate if you remain an employee of the U.S. company while working in Germany or if you become an employee of the U.S. company’s affiliate in Germany. If you become an employee of an affiliate, your employer must indicate if the U.S. company has an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service under section 3121(l) of the Internal Revenue Code to pay U.S. Social Security taxes for U.S. citizens and residents employed by the affiliate and, if yes, the effective date of the agreement.
Your employer can also request a certificate of U.S. coverage for you over the Internet using a special online request form available at www.socialsecurity.gov/coc. Only an employer can use the online form to request a certificate of coverage. A self-employed person must submit a request by mail or fax.
To establish your exemption from coverage under the U.S. Social Security system, your employer in Germany must request a certificate of coverage (form D/USA 101) from the local German Sickness Fund that collects your German Social Security taxes.
The same information required for a certificate of coverage from the United States is needed to get a certificate of coverage from Germany except that you must show German Social Security number rather than your U.S. Social Security number.
Certificates For Self-Employed People
If you are self-employed and would normally have to pay Social Security taxes to both the U.S. and German systems, you can establish your exemption from one of the taxes by writing to:
• If you will be covered by the United States (see table above), the U.S. Social Security Administration at the address in “Certificates for employees” section above.
• If you will be covered by Germany (see table above), the local German Sickness Fund that collects your German Social Security taxes.
Be sure to provide the following information in your letter:
• Full name;
• Date and place of birth;
• Country of permanent residence;
• U.S. and/or German Social Security number;
• Nature of self-employment activity;
• Dates the activity was or will be performed; and
• Name and address of your trade or business in both countries.
Effective Date Of Coverage Exemption
The certificate of coverage you receive from one country will show the effective date of your exemption from paying Social Security taxes in the other country. Generally, this will be the date you began working in the other country.
Certificates of coverage issued by Germany should be retained by the employer in the United States in case of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). No copy should be sent to IRS unless specifically requested by IRS. However, a self-employed person must attach a photocopy of the certificate to his or her income tax return each year as proof of the U.S. exemption.
Copies of certificates of coverage issued by the United States will be provided for both the employee and employer. It will be their responsibility to present the certificate to the German authorities when requested to do so. To avoid any difficulties, your employer (or you, if you are self-employed) should request a certificate as early as possible, preferably before your work in the other country begins.
If you or your employer request a certificate of coverage, you should read the Privacy Act and Paperwork Reduction Act statements below.
Voluntary contributions under German systems
The agreement allows U.S. nationals, stateless persons and refugees to make voluntary Social Security contributions to the German system if they meet certain conditions. These contributions may help a person qualify for a regular German benefit or increase the benefit amount.
You can get more information on making voluntary contributions by writing to either the Bundesversicherungsanstalt fuer Angestellte or the Landesversicherungsanstalt Freie und Hansestadt- Hamburg at the addresses shown in “For more information” section of this document.
Authority to collect information for a certificate of coverage
The Privacy Act requires us to notify you that we are authorized to collect this information by section 233 of the Social Security Act. While it is not mandatory for you to furnish the information to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a certificate of coverage cannot be issued unless a request has been received. The information is needed to enable SSA to determine if work should be covered only under the U.S. Social Security system in accordance with an international agreement. Without the certificate, work may be subject to taxation under both the U.S. and the foreign Social Security systems.
Paperwork Reduction Act Notice
This information collection meets the clearance requirements of 44 U.S.C. section 3507, as amended by section 2 of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. You are not required to answer these questions unless we display a valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number. We estimate that it will take you about 30 minutes to read the instructions, gather the necessary facts, and write down the information to request a certificate of coverage.
The following table shows the various types of Social Security benefits payable under the U.S. and German Social Security systems and briefly describes the eligibility requirements for each. If you do not meet the requirements for these benefits, the agreement may help you to qualify (see “How benefits can be paid” section below).
This table is only a general guide. You can get more specific information about U.S. benefits here on our web site or at any U.S. Social Security office or by calling our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. You can get more detailed information about the German system by writing to the German system to which you pay German Social Security taxes or by visiting the German system’s web site. Postal and web site addresses are shown in “For more information” section of this document.
Under U.S. Social Security, you may earn up to four credits each year depending on the amount of your covered earnings. For example, in 2005, you get one credit for each $920 of your covered annual earnings up to a maximum of four credits for the year.
Under the German system, credits are measured in months. To simplify the information in the table, requirements are shown in years of credits.
Monthly Benefits And Eligibility Requirements
How Benefits Can Be Paid
If you have Social Security credits in both the United States and Germany, 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.
• Benefits from the U.S If you do not have enough work credits under the U.S. system to qualify for regular benefits, you may be able to qualify for a partial benefit from the United States based on both U.S. and German credits. However, to be eligible to have your German credits counted, you must have earned at least six credits (generally one and one-half years of work) under the U.S. system. Since the U.S. Social Security program did not begin until 1937, any German coverage earned before that year cannot be counted. If you already have enough credits under the U.S. system to qualify for a benefit, the United States cannot count your German credits.
• Benefits from Germany Social Security credits from both countries can also be counted, when necessary, to meet the eligibility requirements for German benefits. To be eligible to have your U.S. and German credits counted, you must have at least 18 months of coverage credited under the German system.
How Credits Get Counted
You don’t have to do anything to have your credits in one country counted by the other country. If we need to count your credits under the German system to help you qualify for a U.S. benefit, we will get a copy of your German record directly from Germany when you apply for benefits. If German officials need to count your U.S. credits to help you qualify for a German benefit, they will get a copy of your U.S. record directly from the Social Security Administration when you apply for the German benefit.
Although each country may count your credits in the other country, your credits are not actually transferred from one country to the other. They remain on your record in the country where you earned them and also can be used to qualify for benefits there.
Computation Of U.S. Benefit Under The Agreement
When a U.S. benefit becomes payable as a result of counting both U.S. and German Social Security credits, an initial benefit is determined based on your U.S. earnings as if your entire career had been completed under the U.S. system. This initial benefit is then reduced to reflect the fact that German credits helped to make the benefit payable. The amount of the reduction will depend on the number of U.S. credits: the more U.S. credits, the smaller the reduction; and the fewer U.S. credits, the larger the reduction.
A German pension may affect your U.S. benefit
If you qualify for Social Security benefits from both the United States and Germany and you didn’t need the agreement to qualify for either benefit, the amount of your U.S. benefit may be reduced. This is a result of a provision in U.S. law that can affect the way your benefit is figured if you also receive a pension based on work that was not covered by U.S. Social Security. For more information, call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, and get the publication, Windfall Elimination Provision (Publication No. 05- 10045). If you are outside the United States, you may write to us at the address in “For more information” section.
What you need to know about Medicare
Medicare is the U.S. national health insurance system for people age 65 or older or who are disabled. Medicare has two parts: hospital insurance (also called “Part A” Medicare) and medical insurance (called “Part B” Medicare). You are eligible for free hospital insurance at age 65 if you have worked long enough under U.S. Social Security to qualify for a retirement benefit. People born in 1929 or later need 40 credits (about 10 years of covered work) to qualify for retirement benefits.
Although the agreement between the United States and Germany allows the Social Security Administration to count your German credits to help you qualify for U.S. retirement, disability or survivor benefits, the agreement doesn’t cover Medicare benefits. As a result, we cannot count your credits in Germany to establish entitlement to free Medicare hospital insurance.
For more information about Medicare, call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, and get the publication, Medicare (Publication No. 05-10043) or visit Medicare’s website at www.medicare.gov.
Claims for benefits
If you live in the United States and wish to apply for U.S. or German benefits:
• Visit or write any U.S. Social Security office; or
• Phone our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. any business day. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
You can apply for German benefits at any U.S. Social Security office by completing application form SSA-2490.
If you live in Germany and wish to apply for benefits, contact:
• The Federal Benefits Unit at the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt (phone 69-7535-2496) to file for U.S. benefits; or
• Any German Social Security office to file for German benefits.
You can apply with one country and ask to have your application considered as a claim for benefits from the other country. In that case, your application will be sent to the other country. Each country will process the claim under its own lawscounting credits from the other country when appropriateand notify you of its decision.
If you haven’t applied for benefits before, you may need to provide certain information and documents when you apply. These include the worker’s U.S. and German Social Security numbers, proof of age for all claimants, evidence of the worker’s U.S. earnings in the past 24 months and information about the worker’s coverage under the German system. You may wish to call the Social Security office before you go there to see if any other information is needed.
Payment Of Benefits
Each country pays its own benefits. U.S. payments are made by the U.S. Department of Treasury each month and cover benefits for the preceding month. German benefits are paid monthly, in advance, through the German Postal System.
Absence From U.S. Territory
Normally, persons who are not U.S. citizens may receive U.S. Social Security benefits while outside the U.S. only if they meet certain requirements. Under the agreement, however, if you are a U.S. or German citizen, a refugee, a stateless person, or a person who is eligible for dependents or survivors benefits based on the Social Security record of one of these persons, you may receive benefits as long as you reside in Germany. If you are not a U.S. or German citizen and live in another country, you may not be able to receive benefits. The restrictions on U.S. benefits are explained in the publication, Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States (Publication No. 05-10137).
If you disagree with the decision made on your claim for benefits under the agreement, contact any U.S. or German Social Security office. The people there can tell you what you need to do to appeal the decision.
The German Social Security authorities will review your appeal if it affects your rights under the German system, while U.S. Social Security authorities will review your appeal if it affects your rights under the U.S. system. Since each country’s decisions are made independently of the other, a decision by one country on a particular issue may not always conform with the decision made by the other country on the same issue.
For more information
To file a claim for U.S. or German benefits under the agreement, follow the instructions in “Claims for benefits” section. To find out more about U.S. Social Security benefits or for information about a claim for benefits, contact any U.S. Social Security office. If you live outside the United States, write to:
Social Security Administration OIO-Totalization
P.O. Box 17769
Baltimore, Maryland 21235-7769
For more information about the German Social Security program, contact any branch office of a German insurance agency or a German diplomatic post, or:
Don’t worry if you are not sure which German insurance agency to contact. If you don’t write to the proper one, the agency will forward your inquiry or application to the correct one.
If you don’t wish to file a claim for benefits, but would like more information about the agreement, write to:
Social Security Administration OIO-Totalization
P.O. Box 17741
Baltimore, Maryland 21235-7741