Issues Concerning Social Security Benefits Paid to Aliens

HRD-83-32: Published: Mar 24, 1983. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the circumstances under which social security benefits are paid to alien retirees and their dependents living abroad and discussed the characteristics of this beneficiary group. GAO also presented information concerning aliens who, while working in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, can earn social security credits.

GAO found that alien retirees abroad generally have worked a shorter time in covered employment, have paid less to social security, and have more dependents than the average retiree. These dependents are frequently added after retirement. Although legislation enacted in 1954 was designed to curtail benefits to aliens abroad, it had little effect and the problems remain. GAO identified several payment methods Congress could consider as alternatives to the present system of payments. GAO also identified an inconsistency between the Social Security Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act which allows aliens to earn social security credits under the first act while violating the second. GAO concluded that Congress may wish to consider whether aliens who work illegally in the United States should be allowed to earn entitlement to social security benefits.

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