Will the US pay a military retirement to a non-US citizen?

Was thinking about this the other day. Say you put in your 20 years and decide not only to retire in Canada but to also give up your US citizenship and become a card carrying cannuck. Would the US government still pay you your retirement as if you stayed a US citizen?

There are lots of people in the US armed forces who aren’t citizens, and they’re entitled to the same pension as everyone else.

I question your use of “lots of” here.

Let me take it to an extreme just for arguments sake. Say I do 20 and retire then move to North Korea or China and renounce my us citizenship. Do US tax payer dollars still come to me in this case?

According to a 2009 article in the New York Times,

If that doesn’t qualify as “lots,” then I don’t know what does.

Of course, many of those people will become citizens eventually. But they’re not required to, and they are entitled to their military pensions regardless. I don’t think it matters where they decide to live.

A US citizen renouncing their citizenship might be treated differently; I don’t know.

Why would the USA not send money to China?

Seriously, if you earn a pension you keep receiving it, unless it was earned under false pretences - kind of hard to consider 20 years as false pretences. If you are sued, someone might attach/garnishee your pension… but you are still getting it.

The “dirty cop is fired, no pension” as I understand it usually refers to loss of the option to retire early. Many government pensions might have 25 and out or 30 and out. If you are fired before you reach the magic number, you have to wait to age 65 to collect a much smaller pension; but they can’t take away the pension you earned. If you make the magic number, you start collecting right away. Someone who started at 18 might collect at 48 if they behave, a far cry from 65. A pension entitlement is like wages, you earn it as you go along. It just goes into a big piggy bank in the sky rather than your pocket and you collect later with interest… Unless you are an employee of an airline or other big American corporation, in which case if you are not an executive they simply declare your pension null and void when they go bankrupt.

Not sure what the Social Security requirements and other payables require. I assume you need to be resident in the USA to qualify for medicare, prescription benefit, etc.

Your pension is part of the compensation you earn through the services you render to your employer. Once you’ve rendered the services you have earned the compensation, even if actual payment is deferred until you retire rather than until the end of the current month.

I suppose the US could make it a term of the military pension plan from the outset that your entitlement to pension is conditional on your being a US citizen/residing in the US when payment falls due, but I cannot for the life of me think why they would want to do that. If they don’t want non-citizens to join the military then they shouldn’t admit them. If they do, then they should obviously offer them the same compensation package as citizens get; your compensation package is supposed to reward and incentivize you, not punish and discourage you.

  1. Never underestimate the vindictive nature of the US government.

  2. Well-wishing opinions may put forth that spending 20-30 years or more with the US military “should” allow you a measure of decency and fair-handed treatment, to elect other citizenship elsewhere. However, such notions are apparently trumped by the … vindictive nature of the US government.

  3. Citing specific, traceable US government regulations and administrative decisions, court cases, etc., may be useful in revealing the unambiguously vindictive nature of the US government.

  4. So, I might propose that a glance be spent on DoD Financial Management Regulation Volume 7B, Chapter 6 = "SUMMARY OF MAJOR CHANGES TO DoD 7000.14-R, VOLUME 7B, CHAPTER 6 “FOREIGN CITIZENSHIP AFTER RETIREMENT” which can be found here or discovered at considerable expense by hiring legal counsel:


  1. The vindictive nature of the US government is revealed once again in this regulation and the corresponding history of decisions:

Decision: 37 Comp Gen 207

Text summary: The right of a retired member of Regular Navy to receive retired pay is contingent upon continuation of a status in the Regular Navy and loss of United States citizenship by a member is inconsistent with continuation of military status. Therefore, the right to retired pay terminates if a member of the Regular Navy becomes a citizen of a foreign country.

Decision: 41 Comp Gen 715

a. Retired Reserve officers, receiving retired pay under laws other than 10 U.S.C. 12731, who lose U.S. citizenship by acquiring foreign citizenship are no longer eligible for involuntary recall to active duty in times of war or national emergency, and the acquisition of foreign nationality would be inconsistent with the oath prescribed for Reserve officers to support and defend the Constitution of the United States in section 16 of title 5. Therefore, in the absence of any law authorizing continuation of an officer’s membership in a Reserve organization after the officer becomes a citizen of a foreign country, payment of retired pay may not be approved.

b. A Reserve officer may not terminate retired status through resignation or other means, then acquire foreign citizenship and continue to receive retired pay.

c. Retired enlisted members of the Regular Components remain a part of the Armed Forces, and their right to retired or retirement pay is dependent on continuation of their military status.

Decision: 44 Comp Gen 51


a. A retired enlisted member of a Regular Component of the Armed Forces who loses United States citizenship when he or she acquires citizenship in a foreign country has taken a voluntary action so inconsistent with the oath of allegiance to the United States and status as a member of the Armed Forces to warrant termination of retired pay.

b. United States citizenship is not a prerequisite to receipt of retired pay; however, if a citizen of the United States by birth acquires foreign citizenship, then his or her retired pay may be terminated.

There are many other similar observations in the applicable regulations and statutes, but the foregoing may gave some guidance for further research for anyone truly interested in the vindictive nature of the US government in such matters, and the abysmal manner in which its retired personnel are sometimes treated.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear, how would you describe the nature of the US Government?

I don’t know what he would say, but I’ve heard people say that the U.S. government has a vindictive nature, one that is likely to be underestimated.

Yet if I recall, fredoneverything.net writes about collecting a military disability pension living in Mexico ( but has not iven up US citizenship) I think?

Understand, when there was a draft, you didn’t have to be a US citizen to get drafted. You only had to be a resident. As I understand it, that goes back to the Civil War when immigrants were being drafted soon after they got off the boat.

There is a difference between not being a US citizen and renouncing one’s citizenship. I don’t think that the government wants to pay retirement benefits to defectors.

When you join the US armed forces, you take an oath to protect the US against all enemies, foreign or domestic.

When you change citizenship, you are expected to take an oath to protect the new country against all enemies, potentially including the US.

Governments take oaths and affirmations seriously. When you give your word, they expect you to keep it.

>90% of the foregoing is untrue or irrelevant.

Retired members of the military do not receive a pension, they receive “retired pay.” To receive retired pay, which is something like a retainer, one has to be eligible (at least in theory) to be called back into service. To serve, you have to swear to uphold the Constitution, etc., and you can’t do this if you have renounced your US citizenship. You can serve without US citizenship (although perhaps not as a commissioned officer) and you can serve (even as a commissioned officer) while holding dual citizenship, but certain actions that you take with regard to your citizenship status can make you ineligible to receive retired pay. The law is complicated. I know that even if you maintain your US citizenship and remain in the US after you retire, you cannot take a job with a foreign government unless you get permission, or you risk losing your retired pay.

Wow so many guesses here. Let me add some facts.

I was 18 and a Canandian when I joined the US Army in 1980 at 18 years of age. We moved to the USA when I was 3. I served one enlistment. At that time a non-US citizen could only server 6 years maximum, so therefore no foreign citizens are eligible for retirement.

I acquired my US citizenship through my parents’ naturalization (unknown to me) and received my US passport. I joined the Army reserves. In time I received a TS-SCI clearance, worked in Intelligence and Dept of State, served 3 combat tours, and retires with 33 years 5 months of service. When I hit 60 I will get a pension.

The US does NOT recognize dual citizenship. In the US you are either American or you are not. I have a US passport therefore I am American. Case closed.

Now if I decide to retire in Canada? I can do that. The law says those who give up their US citizenship they have had SINCE BIRTH are inelgible to collect retirement pay. I have researched and found nothing about those of us who have “derived citizenship.” Yes that is the proper term.

What advantages would I have to give up US citizenship? Well I would not pay taxes, that would save a few nickels. But I’d pay where ever I live so I would just assume to retain US citizenship, pay taxes in the US, and live where I want to.

In summary I hold three citizenships yet never took an oath of allegiance to any country in regards to citizenship. I was born with two and received a third (US) through my parents.

I intend to make the most of it.

Let me add a few facts. I became a Canadian citizen and the US knows that (certainly the passport office does), but have not renounced my US citizanship and the US does now recognize dual citizenship. Some years ago, a couple decades I believe, swearing an oath to the queen did cause the loss of US citizenship, but not now. Even so there were exceptions based on your reason for becoming a citizen, but you had to petition to keep it; now it is automatic. It is actually hard (and costly) to renounce.

Why renounce? Well, the US has become so vindictive (not a word I use loosely) about tracking foreign bank accounts that in some countries (not Canada) US citizens simply cannot open a bank account because of all the paperwork demanded of them. I am not sure how this is enforced, but I guess the bank could lose the privilege of dealing with Americans in some way.

Also the US is one of the two countries in the world that insists that US citizens abroad file tax returns. People living in Canada (at least ordinary zhlubs like me) pay no US taxes because the Canadian taxes paid give tax credits that way more than compensate for the US taxes owed. And the tax form isn’t even that hard. The hard part is a special torture called FATCA that took me the better part of a day, filling in the same information over and over again, once for each account (I have probably around 15, for special situtations). Nothing ever happens with all that information, but there is a serious fine for not filling it out. I do my own but a friend just told me he pays someone $1000 a year to do his US tax return despite not owing any tax. But that is why a foreign resident might just want to renounce his citizenship.

Another reason is that the FATCA doesn’t just apply to your own personal accounts, but to any account on which you have signing authority, for example a business or a non-profit or a charity that you volunteer for.

That means that that business or non-profit or charity has to file its banking info with the US, through the US citizen here in Canada. That could be career-limiting, if you want to work for a business and rise through the management ranks. A business might decide that they’d rather not file their banking info with a foreign gov’t, thanks, so they won’t hire you for a position with signing authority.

Yes, it is pretty mucha tax issue. If a person decided to go to an Embassy and formally give up their US citizenship then yould lose retired pay.

But I was not a US citizen since birth and was not naturalized. Don’t worry, I do not plan to be a test case.

I found this:
“Intent can be shown by the person’s statements or conduct. The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. nationals may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist nationals abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.”

If you have a US Passport you must show that when leaving and returning to the US. Now Hari, since you became Canadian I take it you were naturalized? Someone may argue as to why you dod that when you were American. It’s not like you became Syrian so I doubt it’ll be an international issue. I have the ability to say hey I was never naturalized, I am now what I was when I joined the Army.

Even if I officially gave up my US citizenship it would be hard to get a US Government retirement and try to claim it all without paying any taxes on it.