Getting Social Security in Thailand

October 10, 2010

My website has some information on how to apply for U.S. Social Security from abroad (different from how to apply while in the States).  A gentile reader recently sent me an update with lots of good info which I will post on the website but wanted to include here also.

BTW, if any reader from another country has info on how to get your government pension while living abroad please drop me a line and I can share it here.

Thanks to my gentile reader for the following info.  Since we just went though all this I can confirm that the info below is correct (as of this writing)

Latest info on applying for Social Security

The SSA Manila has been implementing a new procedure concerning application. They now do telephone interviews where the SSA representative will take your information by phone and put it directly in the SSA system. There is no need for filing out an application form. They would only give the paper application if the claimant does not speak English. The new steps are:

1. Contact the US Embassy/Consulate and they will get your basic information (name, SSN, date of birth, address and telephone number). The US Embassy will then send this to Manila by e-mail or mail.
2. Once SSA Manila determines that you may be qualified (based on age and your record in their system), they will contact you by phone. So it is important to give an accurate telephone number or alternative numbers (cellphone, work phone, etc). If they could not contact you, they will mail out a letter indicating you need to call them or email them.
3. If they were able to contact you, they will schedule you for a telephone appointment within that week or the next week. Depending on how much their pending work is. Some claims examiners  can do the interview the same day, provided you have all your information.
4. After the interview, they will tell you what documents you would need to send to them to complete the application. The documents will depend on the information you provide. SSA Manila can receive the original documents (via courier) or you can certify copies (for free) at the American Embassy. While you are doing that, the SSA representative will send you the summary of the application you just did over the phone so you can check if everything is accurate.
5. Once SSA Manila receives your document, they electronically sends this to the central office in Baltimore, Maryland together with your claim.
6. You will have to wait until SSA Baltimore sends you a notice if the claim is approved and when you will receive the payment.

Some shortcuts you can do:

– Instead of contacting the American Embassy/Consulate to start your application, you can actually contact SSA Manila directly. It takes a lot of patience because there are only 13 claims examiner handling the whole of Asia and the Pacific claims. But once you do get through and speak to the representative, they can immediately give you the date and time for the interview. Do not leave a message on the voice mail because you might get overlooked. Persist in calling until you get someone over the phone.

Call this number 632- 3012000 Press 5 for Social Security. The best time to call is 730-8am and from 1-3pm Mondays – Fridays. The reason for the gap is that the claims examiners usually schedule their telephone interviews from 8am-12nn.

– Have all your information ready. Nothing slows down the interview like not having your personal information on hand. The interview usually takes 10-15 minutes.

– Be there when when they call you at your scheduled time. When the representative say 8am Manila time, they will call at 8am Manila time. If you are not there, they will try 2 or 3 more times and then go to the next interview. If its already 815am and you have not received the call, call the representative directly. Each of the 13 representative have a direct line and they are open in giving this to you. Ask for the name and direct line of the representative when they contact you for the schedule.

– Be honest when you do not have your documents with you. Some of the representatives will need to look up their policy to see if they can excuse you if you do not have certain documents (for example, birth documents from certain countries is really not available – they won’t push you to get this). For US citizens born in the US, they sometimes won’t request for the birth records.

– Have an email account. Most of the representative would prefer communication via email rather than you calling them.

– Have your information ready. If the representative feels like you are not the same person as that on their record (giving out incorrect answers, hesitating, getting coached by someone else), they will terminate the interview immediately. This results in longer processing time since they will probably ask you to identify yourself personally at the Embassy or do the paper application.

Additional Info:

* Contact the US Embassy/Consulate or SSA Manila 3 months before your 62nd birthday
* Mails usually arrive 10-14 days from your country to Manila. If you are sending your documents by mail and want to make certain that the representative received it, call or email them after 15 days from the date you sent it.
* Be polite. Complaining to the supervisors will not endear you to the representative. Cases are divided by alpha (first letter of your surnames) so even if you complain, your case will not be transferred to another unit.
* The office email is
* Fax number is (632) 5221514 (available 24 hours)


Note on spousal benefits

My wife just applied for Social Security (I have been receiving it for 2 years now) and there are a couple of things we have found out. If a spouse is eligible to receive SS on her own then he/she can apply as stated above. If his/her benefits would be less than half of what the spouse receives then they can apply as a spouse. If he/she has never worked but the spouse is receiving SS then they can apply as a spouse.  A spouse usually receives approximately 1/2 the benefits of their partner.  One thing to remember though, spouses can receive benefits (including window’s benefits) only if they have lived in the United States for a period of 5 years.  If not, they are out of luck.


16 Responses to “Getting Social Security in Thailand”

  1. Ernie Geefay said

    Another consideration is when to start taking your Social security benefits. You can start getting SS at 62 all the way up to 70. The payout increases the longer you wait. (but stops increasing at 70)
    Here’s an interesting article and chart which describes when the “break even” points occur at 62,66 and 70

  2. ken said

    If I am already drawing my Social Security can I draw it if I move to Thailand?

    • Yes you can. The only question is how will you get your payments. If it is automatically deposited into an American account then you won’t have to change anything. If you are getting sent a check then you would have to change addresses. I myself would not get an SS check sent to Thailand. Get it automatically deposited.

      • ken said

        If I am already drawing my Social Security can I draw it if I move to Thailand?My check goes into my bank here in Orego each month along with my pension check.

      • You would have to transfer money from your U.S. account to Thailand. There are many ways to do that: Wire transfers, write a check on the U.S. account and depositing it here. Ask your bank what they would suggest.

    • Daniel Tam said

      I receive Social Security Disability benefit in NYS. Can I continue to receive Social Security Disability benefit if I move to Thailand? If yes, if I automatically deposit into an American account, how do I access the money in Thailand? Thank you!

      • Ken,

        I don’t give specific advice but I can talk in generalities and tell you what I do. Best for you to check with the SS Administration.

        But if you are already getting your check auto deposited in a U.S. bank then if you continue to do so who knows where you are physically, and who cares? I get my check deposited in my U.S. bank with no problems. For all anyone knows I’m still sitting in rainy Seattle instead of sunny Chiang Mai.

        Not advising this but…Here is how I get my money here. I have a Bangkok Bank account. There is a Bangkok Bank branch in New York (look up the routing number). I just do a bank transfer from my U.S. bank to my Bangkok Bank account in the New York branch of the Bangkok Bank – that’s why you need the routing number. Takes about 6 days. Money appears in my Bangkok Bank account here. Easiest way I have found.

        Good luck.

      • Ken,

        Note: I forgot to add that most banks’ websites will have a menu selection that will allow you to transfer money from one bank to another. Check your bank’s website for this.

  3. ken said

    I live in Lincoln City Oregon by the sea.Its a town of about 10.000 very slow and very rural.Would I be happy living in Chiang Mai? My family and friends are all gone now and the cost of living here makes it very hard.I have about 1300.00 a month to live on.What would a one bedroom apartment run in your city? I guess I would just sell everythng before I came.I just got my passport about a year ago.Do you help Americans like myself who are looking to live in your country? It sounds beautiful and I like the low stress part.My last job before I retired was in Ketchikan Alaska where for 4 years I ran a homeless shelter working 80 hours a week,7 days a week.It almost killed me.Thats how I ended up in Oregon.I just turned 66 and am really looking for a wonderful place to live out my golden years.

    • I would not move here permanently until I had experienced life here first. Come in the winter. If you like it then come in the hot season. If that hasn’t driven you crazy then maybe come here for 3 – 4 months. If after that you still enjoy it here and you feel that you could afford the lifestyle you want here then come for a year. I would not burn all my bridges right away. One should always do a trial retirement first.

      Good luck.

      • Please note: I write this blog free of all commercial constraints. I do not do this for money and do not have a business helping people adapt here. Others do. Google them if you want. I’m retired and have “enough” to live comfortably. That’s all I need or want. I do not make any specific suggestions about where to live or what to buy. I do give out information when I can and hope to help all who decide to live here live happy lives. Good luck to all.

  4. JC said

    I personally think that retirement in Thailand or another Southeast Asian country is the way to go. I have created a whole set of videos to help people make the decision to live off their Social Security where it goes so much further. You can check them out at
    Keep up the good work!
    PS: I like your book.

  5. Jim Haas said

    Why not open an acccount at Bangkok bank in Los Angles. Deposit your Social Securitiy check into this account and withdraw in Thailand.

  6. preston beck said

    I am 65 and retiring from a University in a couple of years. I have 2 Engineering degrees and have been a researcher for over 20 years. I am currently starting a Master’s in ESL. I would be interested in teaching science in Thailand. I know this will not make me rich but is will have a retirement income as well. Does this seem like a reasonable plan?

    • Preston

      I don’t give this kind of advice. But what I can tell you is that the older you are the less chance you will have getting a job here. You are in competition with lots and lots of younger people from the U.S. and Europe – people who chose to come here for work since they have trouble finding work at home. Also, and this is quite different from what is going on in the U.S., people here choose to “retire early” if they can get a pension at that time, sometimes at 55. They step out of the way so that the younger generation can get their chance at finding work. You might find work with an NGO with your background. You can research that from back home. The only other possibility is an international school since the government schools probably have an upper age limit.

      Good luck.

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