I have 39 credits and no longer work in the US. (Gave up resident card after 10 years in the US). Retired in Norway. Is there any way I could buy the last credit point I need?

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    You might look at the relevant tax agreements between the US and Norway. As I understood it (but it's not something I paid that much attention to), when I worked in Europe, the countries' Social Security equivalent was paid into the US Social Security system.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:07
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    There may be some agreement allowing for years worked in Norway counting: ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10180.pdf (mind you you might not receive a lot :)
    – rogerdpack
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:34
  • (@jamesqf) For this case see ssa.gov/international/Agreement_Pamphlets/norway.html#monthly -- if you also have some Norwegian credits, they can be combined with your US SocSec credits for a claim under either system. But you can't effectively get both -- if you get the Norwegian 'supplemental' (earned) benefit it reduces any SocSec benefit you qualify for. Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:35
  • Information on Norway’s international agreements: nav.no/en/Home/Rules+and+regulations/Social+security+agreements
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:58
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    Something to be aware of: If you have some sort of foreign retirement program (and I strongly suspect you do) and less than IIRC 30 years here what you get from Social Security gets reduced. I wouldn't be surprised if you would end up with basically $0 even if you had that 40th credit. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 5:23

3 Answers 3


You cannot buy your way into Social Security benefits. The only way to earn credits is by working in the U.S. and earning pay where Social Security tax is withheld.

If you only need one credit, this could be obtained by working in the U.S. until you’ve earned $1320.


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    Can the OP be self-employed (start a small business...sell on Amazon?) and then pay taxes to the US government including social security (OASDI)? This will cost considerably more than just $1320. The OP is not even a greencard holder and not living in the US so no reason for him to pay taxes (will the government be suspicious or just happy to take his money). Can this be made to work somehow? Just curious! Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:05
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    Probably not @FixedPoint - I dont have any documentation to support it but I highly highly doubt it.
    – JonH
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:59
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    @FixedPoint: There's literally a section on self-employment with a link right on the document linked to here.
    – user541686
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 1:36
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    You can get international credits ssa.gov/planners/retire/international.html
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 3:59

You cannot buy credits, but work outside the US can count. Norway is one of the countries that work qualifies: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/international.html

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    And Norway seems to have been one of countries where it's counted the longest!
    – Peter K.
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 20:47

This answer extends Ben Miller's answer, and is a universal answer for any country that doesn't have a deal like StrongBad discusses.

You may be familiar with the Social Security part of FICA - an employee pays 6.2% on the first $130,500 and the employer matches.

With a small business (assuming you haven't placed yourself on the payroll as an employee), you pay both sides as self-employment tax.

This is mandatory. Of course it's only mandatory for small business income in the United States. The IRS doesn't really have a way to check that your income really happened, but we can't tell you on this forum to break the law*, as discussed over here on law.se.

So the official word must be: the income must be genuine. You'd be best to look at remote work/telecommuting/ "digital nomad" type work, and check yours and US tax laws to determine which activities would actually be taxable in the US. Understandably, IRS is a little bit grabby, which works in your favor.

So this is how you can "buy in" to Social Security.

* Hum de dum, if you really see a need to obfuscate your income, there's an amusing answer for that. Nothing to see here, move along.

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    As I posted on Law.SE, my opinion is that this strategy violates 26 USC 7206, which makes it a felony to intentionally and knowingly make a material false statement on your tax return (remember that "under penalty of perjury" note where you sign it?). It's not relevant whose favor the falsification was in. Will you actually be prosecuted? Different question. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 4:46
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    Thank you @NateEldredge. Then by the letter of the law it would need to be genuine income, preferably something that could be done remotely (within the laws for remote work). There could be bona-fide uncertainty as to whether it was USA income or not. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 8:09
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    @chepner except when you declare the income for SE tax, the government will also expect you to pay regular income tax also. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 16:54
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    @jamesqf: Maybe. I'm not a lawyer, but in general the IRS is not real keen on transactions that achieve one thing by pretending to be "technically" something else. To paraphrase the famous xkcd, "that cool hack you just thought of is called tax fraud and it's illegal". Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 20:16
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    @Harper "Except when you declare the income for SE tax, the government will also expect you to pay regular income tax also." Not if your income is lower than the standard deduction. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 21:50

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