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Federal Benefits

The amount of the Monthly Premium Payments for 2013 is $104.90. USD 

The Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) in San Jose, with over 5,000 beneficiaries in pay status, accepts claims for many different types of benefits related to several U.S. Government agencies. At our office, you may file your application for retirement, spousal, widow/er, or children's benefits, among others. Beneficiaries receive their money from the Social Security Administration (SSA), Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or Railroad Retirement Board.

How to Contact Us:

Most of our business can be conducted over the phone, so please call us and, if needed, you will be given an appointment. Starting April 1st 2013, you need to set up an appointment to visit our office.

To set up an appointment, please call the Federal Benefit Unit at (506) 2519-2228 between 8:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday except for the first and the third wednesday of every month. Please be aware that the Federal Benefits Unit is closed  the first and the third Wednesday of every month. It is very important to remember that for the protection of your confidential information we can only discuss your case with You and you must have your Social Security number in hand when you call.

Almost all post-entitlement issues, for those already receiving payments, can be solved over the telephone. Please remember that we can only discuss the case with the beneficiary or a representative appointed by SSA and no one else.

In case you cannot reach us by telephone, you can get in contact with the FBU Unit at any time, at the following email address:

Foreign Enforcement Questionnaire (FEQ)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) contacts beneficiaries with foreign addresses on their SSA record residing outside the United States annually to verify their current status.

This year we 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 with an envelope to the SSA facility in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

In October, SSA mailed a follow-up notice to selected beneficiaries that did not respond to the original questionnaire sent in July 2013. If you received the questionnaire, please return it to the address on the envelope SSA provided.

SSA will suspend the benefits if they do not receive a completed and signed Foreign Enforcement Questionnaire (form SSA-7162 or SSA-7161) by December 30, 2013. 

If your benefits are interrupted for failure to return the questionnaire, it may take SSA 45-days or longer to resume your payments.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the questionnaire, we ask you to contact  When you e-mail, please include your full name, last four digits of the social security number receive benefits on, and two telephone numbers where we can reach you and a brief description of your inquiry. We will respond to your inquiry within the next 2 business days.

If you do not have the form, we mailed to you.  You can download the forms here: SSA-7161 (PDF -175kb) or SSA-7162 (PDF - 164kb), print it double sided,  and return it to the FEQ drop box at the U.S. Embassy or you can mail it directly to Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Where to mail your questionnaire:

Form SSA-7161 mail to:                                                           Form SSA-7162 mail to:

Social Security Administration                                             Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 7161                                                                      P.O. Box 7162
Wilkes Barre, PA 18767-7161                                               Wilkes Barre, PA 18767-7162

Services Provided

The Federal Benefits Unit can assist you with the following issues:

  • Applications for retirement, disability or survivor benefits.
  • Applications for new, replacement of Social Security cards.
  • Applications for enrollment or cancellation of Medicare (please note that Medicare does not cover outside the USA). Applications for selection of a representative payee (i.e., when the beneficiary is not capable of managing his/her own benefits)  
  • Changes/corrections to the record for beneficiaries already receiving SSA payments.  
  • Information about the Direct Deposit (DD) program.  
  • Missing or delayed payments.
    Important Note for Department of Defense Retirees: Department of Defense retirees must deal directly with their Defense Finance and Accounting Service Center office in the United States.
  • For Veterans issues FBU acts as the liaison between the veteran and the Veterans Affairs Office. 

Emergency cases at the Window

In an effort to improve our service the Federal Benefits Unit started to work with “appointment only system” since April 2012.
The Federal Benefits Unit San José accepts walk-ins only when the beneficiary meets one of the exceptions below:

Disabled beneficiaries:

  • Beneficiaries in wheelchair or carrying oxygen tanks unable to walk.
  • Nonagenarian /Centenarian claimants.
  • Stolen documents as a result of robbery. Claimants need to provide proof of police report.

Direct Deposit (DD) Program:

Monthly payments can be directly deposited into the beneficiaries' designated Costa Rican bank accounts. This system increases the speed with which you can receive your benefits (almost always by the fifth day of the month) and is significantly more secure than the mailing of paper checks, which are subject to theft and loss. The local banks available for Direct Deposit are Banco Nacional de Costa Rica and Banco de Costa Rica.

Reporting Responsibilites:

Change of citizenship; change of address; work outside the U.S.; a disabled person who returns to work or if disability improves; marriage; divorce or annulment; adoption of a child; child leaves the care of representative payee; child nearing age 18 is a full-time student or is disabled; death; inability to manage funds; deportation or removal from the U.S.; changes in parental circumstances; eligibility for a pension from work not covered by Social Security, changes must be reported to the Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) within 10 days of when the change occurred.

It is very important that you tell us if your address changes so your payments will not be delayed. Even if your payments are being sent to a bank, you must report any of the changes described above.

Individuals who do not keep their records current may run the risk of having their benefits suspended.

The following links to specific U.S. Government benefits-granting agencies are provided for your assistance. Please note that these sites are designed primarily for use within the United States; however, the SSA and VA sites have special pages devoted to international issues.

Social Security Number

Applying for a Social Security Number:

If you are a U.S. citizen residing in Costa Rica and need to apply for a Social Security number, you must complete “Application for a Social Security card” form SS-5 and then submit it in person at the Federal Benefits Unit window, at the time of appointment. In addition to the application form, you must also include a copy of your U.S. passport and a certified copy of a birth certificate recorded before age 5. There is no fee for this service.

First-time applicants born in the United States age 12 or older must apply in person and complete an additional statement explaining the delay, in applying so late for the Social Security Number. In addition, must submit school records, employment records, travel documents (e.g. passports), etc., to prove that he/she has been living outside the U.S.

The Social Security Administration is required by law to verify birth certificates presented as evidence in such cases with the registrar of vital statistics in the claimed U.S. place of birth. In such cases, the process of obtaining a Social Security card could take up to one or two months since the verification is done by another agency. However, SSA/FBU always tries to process them immediately to expedite the process.

U.S. Citizen Children Born in Costa Rica:

Many (though not all) children born in Costa Rica to U.S. citizen parents may be documented as U.S. citizens through the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) process. Parents can file an application for a child's Social Security number by presenting the CRBA and U.S. passport; they are also required to provide their own Social Security number, if they have one. The parent signing the application must also provide photo identification.

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 (PDF-270Kb) with the Internal Revenue Service.

For any information about taxes you have to contact directly the Internal Revenue Service thru their web page.

Non-SSA Uses of a Social Security Number

  • Foreign Students: Some U.S. educational institutions use Social Security numbers for record-keeping purposes. Aliens not otherwise entitled to a Social Security number and planning on attending school in the United States should ask the school to assign them its own internal number. The Social Security Administration will not grant you a Social Security number for this purpose.
  • Financial Transactions: If a Social Security number is required to conduct business with a U.S. bank or financial institution and Federal law does not otherwise allow the issuance of a number, ask the Internal Revenue Service for a Form W-8, Certificate of Foreign Status. 
  • State Issues: Some U.S. states may require a Social Security number for record-keeping purposes. Aliens may not be granted a Social Security number issued for these purposes unless required by Federal law.

Other Services:

Medicare Enrollment

The San Jose’s Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) can accept applications from eligible U.S. citizens wishing to sign up for Medicare. However, Medicare does not cover medical treatment outside the United States.

Medicare and Coverage Outside the U.S.A.

Medicare pays only for services in the 50 States: D.C.; and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico. An exception is that Medicare will provide coverage in Canada and Mexico when an emergency occurs in the U.S. and the nearest hospital is over the border and is a matter of life or death. Finally, there are specific situations in which Medicare will cover medically necessary health care services if you are on a cruise ship near the border of Mexico or Canada, certain regulations apply. In any other situations or any other country Medicare will NOT pay for health services - even in emergency situations.

For official information on Medicare coverage outside the U.S., please review the pamphlet Medicare Coverage outside the U.S (PDF-60KB) or call 1-800- MEDICARE (633-4227).

The amount of the Monthly Premium Payments for 2013 is $104.90. USD.

Medicare Supplemental Insurance:

Please refer to the Medicare Website to learn more. You may write to:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244-1850 Or visit Phone: Information 1-800-633-4227.

To Report Medicare Fraud:

How to Report Fraud and Abuse-1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477)

Telephone access is available for the deaf and hard of hearing at 1-800-325-0778, as well as a website for Spanish speakers.

Report praises or deficiencies to Customer Service at:

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