I'm a U.S citizen and have been working in the United States for about 5 years now. I'm planning on moving to Switzerland soon for a regular job (not self-employed).

If I understand this properly, in the U.S you need a minimum of 40 credits (10 work years) in order to qualify for retirement benefits through Social Security. If I move to Switzerland now and stay there until retirement, will I lose all the money I paid into U.S Social Security for this 5 years because I didn't meet the minimum of 40 credits?

  • 1
    I'm sure you know this already, but you should remember that you will have to continue filing US tax returns after moving to Switzerland. Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:25
  • To get technical, you would lose benefits, not money. Technically that isn't your money until you retire. It doesn't go into an account with your name on it. It works more like an old age insurance policy.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 17:32
  • @JohnFx That's what I meant. Though according to the answer I would not lose benefits either. I will just get less benefits than most people because I paid less into the system. That sounds fair and square to me. What I was concerned about is that I wouldn't get anything at all and the payroll taxes I paid all these years would have been for nothing.
    – user19035
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 19:52

1 Answer 1


No. Switzerland is one of the few countries the United States has "totalizaton" agreements with (not to confuse with tax treaties) to work around this kind of thing. You can find the list of the agreements here.

You can use the years you work in Switzerland to make up for the remaining credits you need to qualify for benefits in the U.S.

When it's time to retire, you'll receive a partial U.S. benefit that is proportional to the number of credits you earned in the U.S.

You can learn more about all this here.

For other countries, for which the US doesn't have totalization agreements, in this scenario you would get no benefits back for the money. So yes, it would be lost.

  • It appears that quite a few people of working age today will not get anything back in any case.
    – zxq9
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 16:47
  • 2
    @zxq9: You may be right. OTOH, I started hearing that when I was in my teens and my mother was in her 30's. I'm now in my 50's and she's in her 70's. She's getting SS, and I've become more optimistic that I will too.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 18:23

You must log in to answer this question.