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Federal Benefits

Social Security Frequently Asked Questions


Social Security number/card questions

Q: I would like to apply for a Social Security number for my child who is a U.S. citizen. What documents are required, and what do I need to do?

A: Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo for assistance on how to apply. We will need you and your child's passports and the child's birth certificate (if born in the U.S.) or Consular Report of Birth Abroad (if born outside the U.S.) - originals only, no photocopies please. If your child is over 12 years old, he/she must apply in person.

If your child was born in the U.S. and moved overseas when he/she was an infant, you will also need to supply documentary evidence demonstrating that he/she has been living overseas since infancy. Typical evidence includes school records, old passports, etc.

Q: I applied for a Social Security number six months ago but have not yet received it. Can you please update me on the status?

A: Social Security information is never released via phone. In order to determine the current status, please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo. We will research your request and then contact you by phone, asking you to come down to your nearest Embassy/Consulate before releasing this information.

Benefits eligibility and application questions

Q: I worked in the U.S. for less than 10 years and believe that I am eligible for benefits under the U.S.-Japan Social Security Agreement. Please tell me how to apply.

A: Please contact the nearest Japan Pension Service (Nihon Nenkin Kikou) office. The Japanese Pension Service will forward your application for processing. Information on the U.S.-Japan Social Security Agreement in Japanese or in English.

Q: As part of the U.S.-Japan Social Security Agreement, I have been instructed to obtain a "Mandatory Interview Certificate" in order to obtain a social security number. What specifically do I need to do?

A: Please contact theFederal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo. We will explain what documents are needed and when it is possible to come in for the interview. Check here for information on office hours and how to schedule an appointment.

Q: I have applied for Social Security benefits under the U.S.-Japan Totalization agreement, and I just received a letter from SSA Baltimore stating that I "do not qualify for benefits." What do I do?

A: No action is necessary. Many of our customers have received letters from SSA Baltimore indicating that they "do not qualify for benefits ... based only on credits under the U.S. Social Security program." The next section in the letter typically indicates "We are asking Japan to furnish us information about your coverage under its social insurance program." See a sample letter here (PDF 121KB).

If you have received such a letter, do not be concerned - all this means is that the U.S. Social Security Administration is contacting the Japan Pension Service (Nihon Nenkin Kikou) to see if your combined work credits between the U.S. and Japan will qualify you for social security eligibility. You can expect a follow-up letter from SSA Baltimore within three months from the time you received the current letter. There is no need to take any further action.

Q: I received a letter from SSA Baltimore stating that I have "... an incorrect address," however this letter was sent to my correct address. What does this mean?

A: Many of our customers have received letters from SSA Baltimore indicating there is incorrect information regarding their address, when in reality there is a problem with their Direct Deposit. Most often, there is either a mistake in the spelling of the account name or an input error of the account number. Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo directly to resolve this matter. We will view your account information and confirm its validity.

Q: I worked in the United States for more than 10 years, and I believe I am eligible for social security benefits. When and where can I apply for these benefits? If I am currently working, can I receive benefits?

A: Social Security eligibility is dependent upon Social Security "quarters of coverage" in the U.S. and the age of the applicant. (For information on eligibility, please visit the SSA website.) Generally speaking, if you earned more than 40 credits, which is roughly equivalent to 10 years of work, you are eligible for benefits. Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo.

Individuals are eligible for retirement benefits as early as age 62 (reduced benefit). Full benefits accrue upon reaching the "full retirement age." (For information on how to determine your "full retirement age," please view this page.

If you fall below the full retirement age and are currently working, it is advisable not to apply for benefits at this time, because your benefits will not only be permanently reduced but will also remain suspended. It is more advantageous to apply at full retirement age or when you stop working. For more information or if you have questions about your work and how it affects your benefits, please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo directly.

Please note: If you worked in the U.S. for less than 10 years (aka, less than 40 work credits), you may still be eligible for benefits, in accordance with the U.S.-Japan Social Security Agreement. Please contact the nearest Japan Pension Service (Nihon Nenkin Kikou) office for details on how to apply.

Q: My husband recently passed away, and I know he paid SSA/FICA taxes for several years. I am now 50 years old. Can I apply for widow's benefits?

A: Before age 60, you can apply for a lump-sum death benefit of up to $255. The application for lump-sum death benefits must be received within 2 years from the date of your spouse's death. Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo for further details on how to apply.

The age of eligibility for widow's benefits is 60. If your husband worked in the U.S. for less than 10 years (aka less than 40 work credits), please contact the Japan Pension Service (Nihon Nenkin Kikou) to pursue benefits. If he worked in the U.S. more than 10 years (more than 40 credits), you can contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo to schedule an appointment and pursue benefits.

Q: I am divorced. Am I entitled to my former spouse's social security benefits?

A: If you were married for more than 10 years, you are eligible to receive divorced spouse benefits. Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo for further details on how to apply.

Q: I received various forms from the Social Security Administration, but do not know how to fill them out. What should I do?

A: Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo for assistance.

Q: What is a "Claim Number," and how is it different from my Social Security Number?

A: The "Claim Number" is a number assigned to social security beneficiaries and their families. For the worker, the Social Security Number and Claim Number are the same. Family members claim benefits under the primary beneficiary's Claim Number, but still have their own individual social security number.

Q: I am a Japanese citizen and have heard that I need a birth certificate in order to apply for SSA benefits. Unfortunately, I don't have a birth certificate. What should I do?

A: Japanese nationals should supply a Japanese family register (either "Koseki Tohon" or "Koseki Shohon") in place of a U.S. style birth certificate.

Post-entitlement services questions

Q: My benefits check has not arrived. What should I do?

A: For direct deposit customers, Social Security payments are usually dated on the third day of the month following the month for which the payment is due. For example, your June monthly benefit payment would be dated July 3. For direct deposit customers experiencing non-receipt, please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo.

For customers receiving paper checks, Social Security payments are usually dated on the third day of the month following the month for which the payment is due. For example, your June monthly benefit payment would be dated and delivered on July 3. If you don't receive your payment on time, please wait until the beginning of the next month, and if it still hasn't arrived, you can contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo.

Q: My husband, who had been receiving SSA benefits, recently passed away and I found some checks issued to him. Can I, as his wife, cash them?

A: No, you cannot. Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit, Embassy Tokyo for further instructions and assistance.

Q: What is a "Claim Number," and how is it different from my Social Security Number?

A: The "Claim Number" is a number assigned to social security beneficiaries and their families. For the worker, the Social Security Number and Claim Number are the same. Family members claim benefits under the primary beneficiary's Claim Number, but still have their own individual social security number.