Survivor benefits for noncitizen spouses


Q. Someone with 30 years of federal service under CSRS plans to retire this fall, has been married in the U.S. for approximately five years now. However, the spouse has not yet become a U.S. citizen (he is a permanent resident). After five years, the spouse is eligible to apply for citizenship. The spouse works, has a Social Security number, pays taxes, etc. How are the Office of Personnel Management forms, especially survivor benefits, handled with a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen? What about adult children? What financial opportunity can an only child (18 years old and not disabled) inherit/receive after the death of a parent who worked these 30+ years in the government?

A. Your spouse would be entitled to the survivor annuity you elect, whether he is a U.S. citizen or not. Adult children are only eligible for survivor benefits if they are unmarried dependents under age 18 (age 22 if full-time students) or incapable of self support because of a disability that began before age 18.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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