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Thanks in part to this site, I have a pretty good idea of what calculations the Social Security Administration will make (quarters of coverage and all that) when determining whether I'm eligible for Social Security payments. The trouble is....

I worked on and off in the US from age 18 to 28, and then moved to Canada permanently about 25 years ago. I don't have records of my tax returns from that period of work, nor any good way of remembering/recovering my income for those years.

How can I determine my eligibility for Social Security in this situation? Is there a way to query the Social Security Administration and directly get this information about my coverage record from them?

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The social security website has a feature to allow you see the data that they have about your work history and your contributions and the contribution of you employers.

You will need to create an account on the website. The first step is to go to the section used to get your benefits estimate:

Get a benefits estimate

Check your account to see how much you or your family might get in benefits payments.

Sign in to your account

See estimates for various benefits based on your earnings and when you apply. You can also adjust expected future income to see how that impacts your retirement estimate.

If you don't have a login account, you will need to create one.

That site will show you what you earned each year, and what you paid towards social security and medicare.

If there is a mistake, such as missing years or numbers that you think are wrong, you will have to go to the IRS website and get a tax history report to see what all your old W-2 forms said about your contributions.

Transcript Types and Ways to Order Them

Ways to Get Transcripts

You may register to use Get Transcript Online to view, print, or download all transcript types listed below.

If you're unable to register, or you prefer not to use Get Transcript Online, you may order a tax return transcript and/or a tax account transcript through Get Transcript by Mail or by calling 800-908-9946. Please allow 5 to 10 calendar days for delivery.

You may also request any transcript type listed below by submitting Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

It looks like you would want this specific transcript type:

Wage and Income Transcript - shows data from information returns we receive such as Forms W-2, 1098, 1099, and 5498. The transcript is limited to approximately 85 income documents. If you have more documents than that, the transcript will not generate. You’ll receive a notification online stating that your transcript request could not be processed and to complete and submit Form 4506-T. If you see a message of “No Record of return filed” for the current tax year, it means information has not populated to the transcript yet. Check back in late May. This transcript is available for the current and nine prior tax years using Get Transcript Online or Form 4506-T.

As was pointed out in the comments you might want to take a look at the Totalization Agreement with Canada

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    SSA keeps your 'earning history' for life (at least), but as your quote says (and 4506-T also says) IRS 'W&I' transcripts (really IRMF) only go back 10 years, not sufficient for this OP Sep 24, 2023 at 3:24

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