Am I eligible for the Australian age pension?
In order to be eligible for the Age Pension, you must:
- Be at least 65 years old (in 2015)
- Meet an income and assets test
- Be living in Australia (the residence test)
Considering other account based pension options? Compare what’s available below.
How long can you go overseas on an aged pension?
You can travel overseas for a long time before your Age Pension from Australia will be cut off. Payments can take up to a week to arrive in a foreign bank account after being sent from Australia, so make sure that you have a healthy budgeting plan while you’re away.
If you are travelling for less than 12 months, you will be paid every 2 weeks as normal into your Australian bank account, and you must:
- Set up an online myGov account. Then you can access your Centrelink information, do your reporting, and advise of any changes, without making an international phone call every time.
- Let Centrelink know that you’ll be travelling.
- Report your earnings (if required) before you hop on the plane.
If you are travelling for more than 12 months, you will be paid every 4 weeks, and the money will either go into your Australian bank account, or your overseas bank account. If you choose to use an overseas bank account, your payment will be converted by the Reserve Bank of Australia using the current exchange rate, and it will arrive in your account in either the local currency or US dollars.
Before you pack your bags, you should also read the information on the Human Services: Australians Overseas page. This page talks about the countries where you can and can’t use your Medicare card to get healthcare services, and the laws you must follow when travelling with PBS medicines.
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If you can’t return to Australia when planned
If you reach the end of the period you can receive an Australian pension payment overseas, and your payment is stopped, you will have to return to Australia to get your payment started again.
It may be possible to get your payment started again if you get in touch with International Services in these cases:
- You are reaching the end of the period and you can’t get home to Australia when you planned because of unforeseen circumstances such as a serious illness or a natural disaster.
- You are in a country with which Australia has an international social security agreement, and you are getting a social security payment from that country.
How long until pension rates are affected?
If you’re overseas for less than 6 weeks, generally, your pension rate won’t change.
As it stands (at the time of writing), if you’re outside of Australia for longer than 6 weeks, your pension will switch to an outside Australia rate. Also, your pension supplement will reduce to the basic rate and your energy supplement will stop. If you’re leaving to live in another country, these supplements stop on your departure.
Also depends how long you’ve lived in Australia
If you’re overseas for over 26 weeks, your rate could also be reduced based on the number of years lived in Australia during your working life. But new rules from 1 January 2017 mean this rate reduction could happen after only six weeks of being overseas (subject to the passage of legislation).
The Federal Government announced the change as part of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill in Joe Hockey’s 2015 Federal Budget. It’s estimated that this reduced time limit from 26 weeks to 6 weeks will save the federal budget $168 million over four years.
Those who’ve lived in Australia for 35 years or more between the age of 16 and pension age won’t be affected by this rule. But for those who’ve lived in Australia less, after six weeks overseas their part pension will be determined by a sliding scale (the shorter you’ve lived in Australia, the less you’ll get paid).
Living here, or moving overseas?
If you want to receive the Age Pension, you must be either an Australian resident or be physically present in Australia. You must also have been an Australian resident for:
- At least 10 years continuously (10 years in a row), or
- 10 years split up into blocks, with one block being at least 5 years.
This means that you can receive the Age Pension if you reach qualifying age (65 years old in 2015) while you are a resident or physically present in Australia, and you have spent long enough living in Australia before then.
There is an exception to the residence test for people who have lived or worked in both Australia and a country that has an international social security agreement with Australia. This means that if you lived or worked in an agreement country before, or you live in an agreement country now, you can receive a part pension from that country and also a part pension from Australia.
People who have lived in Australia but now live in an agreement country can still claim an Australian pension. Equally, people who used to live or work in an agreement country, but have since moved to Australia, can claim Australian pension even if they haven’t lived here long enough to qualify under Australian laws. (Centrelink: International Services)
There are also other exceptions to this residence test for refugees, widows already on a Partner or Widow Allowance, and widows who have lived in Australia for at least 2 years before reaching qualifying age. These people may be eligible for the Age Pension even if they haven’t lived in Australia for 10 years yet.
Countries with social security agreements with Australia
When a country agrees to share the responsibility for providing social security benefits to Australian citizens, the arrangement usually works in the following ways:
- The foreign country will usually pay you a part pension. How much you receive from this foreign pension will depend on how long you have spent living in that country.
- You will usually also receive a part pension from Australia. This part pension is a “top up” to match the normal Age Pension, so how much you receive from the Age Pension will depend on how much you receive from your foreign pension.
- The foreign country will usually let you add together your periods of social insurance or residence in their country and your periods of Australian residence, in order to meet the minimum requirements for both the foreign pension and an Australian pension.
- The foreign country will not require you to become a citizen of their country, even though you are receiving social security benefits from them.
- As you move between countries, the foreign country may let you lodge a claim for a social security payment, no matter whether you are in the foreign country or Australia at the time.
- Some countries have an agreement that your foreign pension is exempt from income testing in Australia, and your Australian Age Pension is exempt from income testing in the foreign country.
At the time of writing, these are the countries with a social security agreement with Australia:
- Czech Republic
- The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- Slovak Republic
How to claim an Australian pension while living overseas
You can claim an Australian pension while you are living overseas in an agreement country in three ways:
- Visit an office for the social security authority in the agreement country.
- Call International Services for free on the international number for the country you are in.
- Download the international claim forms for the country you are in.
In order to be eligible for the Australian Age Pension, you must first also be claiming a part pension or full pension from the foreign country you are living in. This requirement helps make sure that the Australian government does not pay Age Pensions to people who already have enough income and assets in another country to pay for their retirement.
Before you move, you must let Centrelink know that you’re moving, and give them your foreign bank account details for receiving Australian Age Pension payments. You can do this online through your myGov account.
You should also read the information on the Human Services: Australians Overseas page before you pack your bags. This page talks about the countries where you can and can’t use your Medicare card to get healthcare services, and the laws you must follow when travelling with PBS medicines.
How to claim a foreign pension while living in Australia
If you are already receiving an Australian Age Pension, you (and your partner if you have one) must take steps to claim a pension from the foreign country you lived in as well. If you believe a claim for a foreign pension would be unsuccessful, you must provide these reasons to the Department of Human Services. This requirement helps to make sure that the Australian government is only paying the Age Pension to Australians who genuinely need it because they cannot get a pension from any other country.
You can get a claim form for a foreign pension posted to you in Australia by calling International Services on 131 673, or by visiting your local Department of Human Services Service Centre.
If you want to claim a foreign pension from a country that does not have an international social security agreement with Australia, you will have to contact the social security authority in that country. You can get the contact details for many countries by calling International Services on 131 673, or by visiting your local Department of Human Services Service Centre.
Income in foreign currencies: What are the exchange rates?
International Services uses current exchange rates to work out how much your non-Australian income and assets are worth in Australian dollars. This affects how much you receive from the Australian Age Pension.
To find out the most recent exchange rates, call the International Services 24-hour hotline on Freecall 1800 050 041. Their Customer Service Officers can help if you want to speak in a different language or find out about the exchange rates for non-agreement countries. The hotline is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday to Friday.
For more information
The Age Pension residence test can be difficult to understand. You can speak to a Financial Information Service (FIS) officer from the Department of Human Services for free, who can help you understand how the Age Pension relates to your situation. Call 132 300 to speak to an FIS officer.
Transferring money home
If you’re living overseas and sending money back to family and friends in Australia, you’ll need a great value way to transfer money internationally. We’ve compared the options on offer for sending money to and from Australia, so you can choose the option that will give you and your family the best value for money.
Here’s a snapshot of International Money Transfer products currently on the market for persons transferring $5,000 to USA. This has been sorted by our Star Ratings (Highest – Lowest).