U.S.-Canada Social Security Totalization Agreement: Will It Impact Your Retirement Benefits?

10 / Feb AUTHOR NAME: Stuart Campbell 2 COMMENTS

Back in 1984, the U.S. and Canada entered into an International Social Security agreement. It was designed to improve Social Security protection for anyone working in both countries.

But qualifying, coordinating, and maximizing the social benefits between these two countries can take long-term planning for many Canadians living in the U.S.

Take U.S. Social Security, for example. You need at least 40 quarters of coverage as a worker in the United States to qualify for benefit protection. With the agreement, a Canadian moving to the U.S. can qualify for a minimal social benefit in as few as 18 months.

In Canada, eligibility for social benefits requires you to meet a minimum contribution dependent on the plan:

  • Canada Pension Plan. You must be employed in Canada for 10 years or more in order to be eligible for this plan. If you exit Canada, you’re still entitled to this benefit.
  • Old Age Security. You must be a resident of Canada for at least 40 years past the age of 18 to be eligible for the plan. Any less than this, and the benefit will be reduced. 
  • Quebec Pension Plan. You must contribute to for at least 1 year to qualify for this benefit. If you no longer live in Quebec, you’re still entitled to this benefit.

Windfall Elimination Provision

Social Security has a reduction clause known as the Windfall Elimination Provision, which reduces a person’s benefit if they’ve earned pensions that didn’t withhold Social Security, such as government agencies or pensions earned outside the United States.

However, that Canada-U.S. Social Security Agreement provides the coordination of benefits for citizens spending time in both countries. The goal was to avoid disadvantaging citizens by any loss of benefits. Part of this agreement includes the WEP.

While it essentially overrides the clause, Social Security administrators are often unaware of the agreement, and they apply WEP, reducing the Social Security benefits of Canadian living in the U.S.

For many Canadians living in the U.S., one of the main objectives in cross-border financial planning is to collect both a C.P.P. and U.S. Social Security. That’s why it’s critical to work with a cross-border advisor to help ensure you’re getting all the benefits entitled to you.

To learn more about this and other wealth management strategies for Canadian-residents U.S. citizens, download our white paper: 7 Keys to Wealth Management for Canadians Living in the U.S. At www.campbellwa.com or contact us by email at: info@campbellwa.com  Or by phone at: (952) 474-1270


Investment Advisory Services offered through Retirement Wealth Advisors, (RWA) a Registered Investment Advisor.  Campbell Wealth Advisors LLC and RWA are not affiliated. Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.

This information is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered, it is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market, or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. Please note that Campbell Wealth Advisors LLC and its affiliates do not give legal or tax advice. You are encouraged to consult your tax advisor or attorney.


  1. This article is very helpful for me. Thank you for sharing this Article. Nice!

  2. Gordon Davis says:

    My wife is a U.S. citizen and living as a Permanent Resident in Canada for the past year. I am a retired Canadian citizen in Canada. My wife turned 62 in 2019 and has well over 30 years of Substantial earnings under Social Security. Their website states that the WEP does not apply due to her 30+ years of contribution. She retired in 2019 and is receiving U.S. Social Security as of July 2019. We wish to split my teacher pension as a way of reducing our household tax burden.
    Her calls to Social Security received the response that any pension income will reduce her Social Security benefit despite her 30+ years of Social Security. contributions.
    Perhaps as you noted above, Social Security administrators are often unaware of the agreement, and they apply WEP, reducing the Social Security benefits of Canadian living in the U.S.

    If my wife receives some of my pension (for tax purposes) will that impact her Social Security benefit?
    I do not want to negatively affect her only true source of personal income if this would have a significant impact on her Social Security benefit.
    If her benefit was to be reduced, how would it be calculated – dollar for dollar, sliding scale, percentage or ???
    Further, would a reduction be permanent or just until the next tax year to see if she continues to receive the split pension income?
    My wife continues to file her US tax return and now her Canadian tax return as well.
    What advice do you have that could help us decide what is going to work best for us and how to protect her Social Security benefit.



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