If you live in a foreign country when you turn 65 and first qualify for Medicare, you can enroll in Medicare by requesting enrollment forms from the United States Embassy or Consulate in the country where you currently live or work. The Social Security Administration should also mail you a letter notifying you that your Initial Enrollment Period has begun, along with a form to request an enrollment packet. Be sure to keep copies of any forms that you complete and to mail them with the ability to track their delivery.

Remember, think carefully about enrolling in Part B when you first qualify. Be sure to do your research before deciding not to enroll. If you fail to enroll into Medicare Part B when you first qualify, you may go months without health coverage if you move back to the United States or travel there frequently. You may have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (January 1 – March 31 of every year) to enroll and wait until July 1 for your Part B coverage to start again. Also, if you are disenrolled from Part B you may face lifelong premium penalties which will make your Medicare coverage more expensive. Keep in mind, however, that you can delay enrollment in Part B without penalties or gaps in coverage under certain circumstances.

Note the rules for enrolling in Medicare when you live outside the United States can vary depending upon your circumstances. For example, if you do not qualify for Part A without needing to pay a premium, you may only be able to enroll in Medicare if you live in the United States. If you will qualify for Medicare while living abroad, think ahead and contact Social Security or the United States Consulate or Embassy to find out the steps you must take to enroll in Medicare.