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Explainer: how French pension can unlock US Social Security benefits

We explain what French residents can do to help qualify for US pension payments

Ten years of contributions are required to qualify for US Social Security benefits Pic: Gil C / Shutterstock

For many Americans, moving to France is a long-standing dream based on the kind of lifestyle on offer. 

Practical details such as the impact on any future state pension can be secondary, but it is important to consider such issues as there are steps you can take to boost retirement benefits from abroad.

French pension credits can be counted in US 

Ten years of contributions are required to qualify for US Social Security benefits, but due to a US/France agreement, those who do not have enough credits might be able to qualify for a partial benefit by including French pension credits.

To be eligible to have your French credits counted, you must usually have worked for at least one-and-a-half years under the US system.

Read more: Can Americans access US Social Security income when living in France?

The more US credits, the smaller the benefit reduction

The Social Security Administration says: “When a US benefit becomes payable as a result of counting both US and French social security credits, we determine an initial benefit based on your US earnings as if you completed your entire career under the US system. 

“The US then reduces this to reflect the fact that French credits helped to make the benefit payable. 

“The amount of the reduction will depend on the number of US credits: the more US credits, the smaller the reduction.”

No voluntary top-up payments

The US does not have a scheme allowing voluntary top-up payments.

Note that you are not required to pay into US Social Security while working for a French employer. 

Find useful links and tools about US Social Security Administration International Programs here.

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