Since the late 1970s, the United States has established a network of bilateral social security agreements that coordinate the U.S. social security program with similar programs in other countries. This article provides a brief overview of the agreements and should be of particular interest to multinationals and people who work abroad during their careers. Totalization agreements tolerate derogations from the above rules to determine the social security system that should apply to a particular worker. If both countries accept an exception for a single worker, the country that has agreed to cover the worker in question will cover that worker accordingly. An exceptional example would be the renewal of a few months of a short stay in a country beyond the five-year limit for the application of the single-family house rule. An agreement could be reached between the two countries to ignore the worker`s additional three months abroad. This would prevent the worker concerned from being taxed by the country in which he or she works. Instead, this worker would remain subject to the social security system of his country of origin.  The partner country will also consider periods of coverage in the United States to qualify for a worker benefit in similar circumstances. Most countries require a worker to receive at least one year of national insurance coverage in order to qualify for totalization benefits. In addition, a worker`s combined insurance periods in the United States and national territory must be equal to or above the legal minimum in that country.
The minimum duration of the combined coverage a worker must earn for totalization varies from country to country. For example, Switzerland takes 1 year, Hungary 20 years and Japan 25 years (SSA 2016, 2017). Upon entering into a totalization agreement, the United States and a partner country agree to coordinate social security and performance bonus rules for people who have worked in both countries during their working lives. Totalization agreements have three main objectives. First, double taxation of social security is abolished when a worker and his employer are required to pay social security contributions to two countries with the same income. Second, they help fill the gaps in coverage records for people who have divided their careers between two countries by combining or spending the coverage periods earned in each country. Finally, the totalization agreements allow benefits to be paid in full to residents of both countries. Although these three objectives do not constitute all totalization agreements, they are by far the most visible and have the most impact on businesses and workers.