What is the Mission of the Federal Benefits Unit (FBU)?
The Regional Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) of the American Embassy in San Jose is responsible for providing services to all the Central American countries (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama) as well as Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela in South America. We assist U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who have inquiries or receive benefits from the Social Security Administration, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. We have staff located in three U.S. Embassies: Santo Domingo, San Jose, and Buenos Aires.
The Federal Benefits Unit operates on an appointments-only system. To schedule an appointment or to obtain information, the best way to contact the Federal Benefits Unit is by using our online form. Please ensure to complete all your contact information. We normally respond to e-mail inquiries within 15-working days.
We are closed to the public every Friday of the month.
Fax Number: 506-2291-1032
Holiday closures:Please access the schedule of the days on which the Embassy will be closed.
What Social Security Services do we provide?
Below, please find a list of some of the services we provide on behalf of the Social Security Administration.
Costa Rica Local Mailing Address
U.S. Mailing Address
|Attn: Federal Benefits Unit
Embajada de los EE.UU.
Pavas, San José,
|Attn: Federal Benefits Unit
U.S. Embassy, San Jose
3440 San Jose Place
Washington, DC 20521-3470
Request a proof of income or benefits verification letter
You can receive a “proof of income” letter (also known “budget letter,” a “benefits letter,” a “proof of income letter,” or a “proof of award letter) –free of charge– by contacting the Regional Federal Benefits Unit via our online inquiry form.
Applying for Social Security Card
You may apply for an original or replacement Social Security Card through the Regional Federal Benefits Unit.
U.S. citizens, non-citizens eligible for Social Security Benefits, and non-citizens who have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security can apply for a Social Security number.
- What documents will you need at the time of application?
- Read more about Non-Citizen requirements (Pdf- 128Kb)
You can request an appointment for this service by contacting the Regional Federal Benefits Unit via our online inquiry form.
Non-Resident Aliens / Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
Several classes of non-resident aliens are required to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in order to file U.S. taxes. To obtain an ITIN, you must file IRS Form W-7 with the Internal Revenue Service. You may obtain a W-7 form via the Internet (Pdf- 94Kb)
Social Security Earnings Statements
The Social Security Administration has suspended the field office issuance of Social Security Earnings Statement. However, an individual can download and complete the Form SSA-7004, Request for Social Security Statement, then print, sign, and mail it to request a statement. The form SSA-7004 can be printed from the following link: form SSA – 7004
Sample Social Security Statement (PFD – 441KB)
To learn how to earn Social Security Credits please (PDF 306 KB)reading.
If you have a U.S. address, you can download your statement immediately by visiting: www.ssa.gov/myaccount/
My Social Security
Enrollment in the Direct Deposit Program
Receiving U.S. federal benefits via direct deposit is mandated by U.S. law. Social Security Beneficiaries in Costa Rica have several options for receiving benefits via direct deposit:
- Direct Deposit to a U.S. Bank Account – You will need to supply the U.S. account information to the Federal Benefits Unit. The best way to provide your U.S. Bank information to the Federal Benefits Unit is by fax (hyperlink to Fax #) or using our online form.
- Corresponding direct deposit in U.S. dollars to a Costa Rican savings account through the Bank of New York Mellon by providing one of the following banking institutions with your completed enrollment form:
BCR –Direct Deposit Sign-up form (Pdf – 121Kb)
Banco Nacional – Direct Deposit Sign-up form (Pdf – 34Kb)
ScotiaBank -Direct Deposit Sign-up form (Pdf – 121Kb)
- International Direct Deposit through any Costa Rican Bank. You will need to complete form SSA-1199-OP-51(Pdf- 1mb) with your bank and return it to the Federal Benefits Unit via fax and/or mail. Note: If you fax or mail documents to our unit please make sure to include your name, claim number, e-mail address, and two telephone numbers where we can reach you.
- Direct Express – https://www.usdirectexpress.com/
Changes of Address
If you receive Social Security benefits and moved outside of the United States, you should report your new mailing address to the Regional Federal Benefits Unit.
Please note that the mailing address you provide should be a foreign address. You should not provide the Social Security Administration with the Miami address provided to you by your private mail courier, since this could cause temporary suspension of your benefits when the SSA learns that you are living outside of the United States.
The best way to notify the Regional Federal Benefits Unit of your new address is by using our online form.
Disenrollment from Medicare Parts B
You can remove Medicare Part B by completing form CMS-2690(Pdf – 206Kb) and returning it via fax or mail to the Federal Benefits Unit. Note: If you fax or mail documents to our unit please make sure to include your name, claim number, e-mail address, and two telephone numbers where we can reach you.
Applying for Social Security Benefits
For an overview of the information the Social Security Administration Requests on the internet application, please visit the following link.
You may view a short demo video on how to apply for benefits online HERE
If you do not meet the above category of beneficiary, you can request an appointment via our online form.
Please click on the following links for additional information.
- Retirement benefits (Pdf-369Kb)
- Residency requirements if you are applying for spouse or widow(er) benefits (Pdf-429Kb)
- Wife/Husband benefits (Pdf-369Kb)
- Widow(er) Benefits/Surviving Divorced Spouse (Pdf- 533Kb)
- Children Benefits (Pdf- 116Kb)
- Lump Sum death benefits
- Disability benefits (Pdf- 379Kb)The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. Check HERE for the rules that apply.
Enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B (Medical and Hospital Insurance)
Please note that Medicare does not provide any coverage for medical or hospital services outside of the United States.
You can apply for Medicare Only online at the following link: How To Apply Online For Just Medicare
For official information on Medicare coverage outside the U.S., please review the pamphlet Medicare Coverage Outside the U.S. at: Medicare Coverage Outside the United States (PDF 206 KB)
For additional information on Medicare, please visit the following link: Social Security Medicare (PDF 488 KB)
If you already receive Social Security benefits and want to enroll in Medicare Part B, you can do so by completing form CMS-40 (Pdf – 71Kb) and returning it to the regional Federal Benefits Unit via mail or fax.
Foreign Enforcement Questionnaire (FEQ) – SSA-7161 and SSA-7162
In addition to relying on beneficiaries (a retired person or family member) to report events that may affect their benefits, SSA contacts beneficiaries outside the United States annually or biennially (every two years) to verify their current status if they have a foreign address on record.
In 2019, SSA mailed the questionnaire to beneficiaries receiving their own benefits whose social security number ended in 50-99, beneficiaries over the age of 90, or to beneficiaries who have representative payees (person receiving benefits on behalf of a minor or disabled person). Selected beneficiaries receive the form in the mail with an envelope to the SSA facility in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
SSA will send a follow-up notice in October 2019. Failure to provide the required completed questionnaire by December 2018 will result in suspension of benefits effective the payment due on February 3, 2020.
If you did not receive your questionnaire in the mail, we encourage you to contact the Regional Federal Benefits Unit via our online inquiry form.
If you do not have the form we mailed to you, then you can download the forms here: SSA-7161 (PDF -175kb) or SSA-7162 (PDF – 164kb), print it double sided, email a copy to FBU.CostaRica@ssa.gov and mail the original directly to Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Where to mail your questionnaire:
Form SSA-7161 mail to:
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 7161
Wilkes Barre, PA 18767-7161
Form SSA-7162 mail to:
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 7162
Wilkes Barre, PA 18767-7162
Reporting Full Calendar Month Reports
Certain non-U.S. Citizens can receive Social Security regular monthly benefit payments after residing lawfully in the United States of America for one full calendar month. They are required to live in the U.S. for one month each time they are outside of the U.S. for six full consecutive months and wish to receive payments.
This requirement applies to beneficiaries eligible to receive a payment but who:
Are not a U.S. citizen, or
- Were not initially eligible for monthly benefits before January 1, 1985, or
- Have not resided in the U.S. for at least five years with the worker (number holder).
You must report completing your full-calendar month to receive payment.
Where do you report your visit?
We strongly encourage you to report your visit at a local Social Security Office while in the U.S (almost towards the end of your visit) to avoid interruption of your benefit payments. To locate your nearest social security office call 800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
Visit here to learn what you must include in your report:
Note: Make sure to keep a copy of the documents you provided for your own records.
Things you need to know before you Travel
- What is a full calendar month? (Pdf-155Kb)
Report the Death of a Beneficiary
The Federal Benefits Unit should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies. You can report the death of a beneficiary by using our online form: Certification of the death of a social security beneficiary.
How to Earn Social Security Credits and How many do I need to qualify for benefits?
We use your total yearly earnings to figure your Social Security credits. The amount needed to earn one credit increases automatically each year when average wages increase.
You must earn a certain number of credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. The number of credits you need depends on your age when you apply and the type of benefit application. No one needs more than 40 credits for any Social Security benefit. During your lifetime, you probably will earn more credits than the minimum number you need to be eligible for benefits. These extra credits do not increase your benefit amount. Your average earnings over your working years determine how much your monthly payment will be.
For more information, you can read the ”How you earn credits.” (Pdf- 302Kb)
How do I pay Social Security taxes if I am living overseas?
U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad may need to file and pay taxes to earn Social Security Credits from their work. If you are not a U.S. Citizen or Resident Alien then you do not qualify to pay Social Security credits while living abroad. To check the filing requirement to earn Social Security credits as a .S. Citizens or US Resident Alien abroad please visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) webpage to complete the proper IRS Tax Form depending on your situation.
Important information on where, when and how to file if you are living abroad may be found at the IRS web page.
For detailed information on Foreign Electronic Payments to the IRS.
Further Inquiries or concerns regarding U.S. Taxes should be directed to the IRS or a private U.S. tax preparation agent.
Others Federal Benefits Services
How to contact the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM)?
OPM Publications of Interest
How to contact the Department of Labor (DOL)?
The Department of Labor website offers information on benefits programs such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and workers’ compensation programs, (Black Lung, FECA, Longshore).
The Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation adjudicates new claims for benefits and manages ongoing cases; pays medical expenses and compensation benefits to injured workers and survivors; and helps injured employees return to work when they are medically able to do so
How to contact the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)?
The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) administers comprehensive retirement-survivor and unemployment-sickness benefit programs for the nation’s railroad workers and their families. The RRB also administers certain Social Security benefit payments and railroad workers’ Medicare coverage.