The United States and Canada have long been friendly neighbors that are willing to work together, and that includes matters of retirement benefits. In 1984, the U.S. and Canada made an agreement, aptly named the US-Canada agreement, which allows citizens who have lived and worked in both countries to receive qualifications and/or retirement and disability benefits that they would otherwise not qualify for in just one of the countries because of split residency.
Both the United States and Canada have provisions for Social Security retirement. In the U.S., citizens ages 62-67, based on their date of birth, are eligible for Social Security benefits. In Canada, retirement benefits are similar but split up into two different programs. Canadian residents over age 65 can receive Old Age Security (OAS) benefits – a set amount based on at least 10 years of residency in the country after the age of 18. Residents can also receive retirement benefits through the nation’s CPP, Canadian Pension Plan, or the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP), which calculate benefits based on the amount and number of years contributed.
Just as Social Security retirement benefits in the U.S. and Canada differ slightly from each other, so do the disability programs. In the U.S., a person may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance if they are under 65, have worked 1-10 years depending on their age requirements, and can prove that they are unable to secure income because of a physical or mental illness or injury that affects exertional capacity. Some of the work credits need to be recent unless the person is blind.
Canada’s rules for qualifying for disability are more complicated under their CPP program. For one thing, the required physical condition is more severe than that required to qualify for SSDI in the U.S. Under SSDI, an applicant only has to prove that their condition disables them from working for at least a year. Under CPP, disability benefits are only awarded if the applicant’s condition is expected to continue indefinitely or result in death. In addition, the number and sequence of work credits are stricter, requiring citizens to have contributed to the CPP program 4 out of the last 6 years.
Because of the US-Canada agreement, work credits earned in both countries can count toward retirement or disability benefits in each country. The United States and Canada differ in the specific requirements regarding the minimum number of work credits needed from each country in order to meet the total number of necessary work credits, but both will honor time worked in either country.
Because of this agreement, people who have worked or resided in both countries may be eligible for Social Security retirement or Disability benefits, as well as the Canadian OAS and CPP. If you are looking to learn more about how this issue relates to your specific situation, detailed information on the differences between the retirement, SSDI, and SSI programs operated by the United States Social Security Administration and Canada’s retirement and disability programs can be accessed on the Social Security Administration’s website.