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When it comes to accessing the Age Pension, reaching a certain age is, as they say, necessary but not sufficient. You also need to pass specific residency rules be eligible to receive a full or part Age Pension from the Australian government.
What are the Age Pension residency rules?
First, you must be an Australian resident to qualify for the Age Pension. The Department of Human Services classifies you as being an Australian resident if:
- You are an Australian citizen
- You hold a permanent resident visa, or
- You hold a protected special category visa (this is a visa that was granted to New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia prior to 2001)
As well as being an Australian resident, you must meet at least one of the following criteria to qualify for the Age Pension:
- You have been an Australian resident for at least ten years (and at least five of those years must have been consecutive)
- You have been a female Australian resident for the past two years and you are the widow of an Australian resident
- You were receiving an Australian widow’s pension or allowance (or a partner allowance) immediately before you reached your pension eligibility age. If you are in this situation, you can simply apply to transfer to the age pension once you reach the eligibility age.
Are there any exceptions?
The short answer is yes.
If you have lived in countries that Australia has an international social security agreement with, then this may count towards the ten-year Australian residency requirement. For example, Australia has an arrangement with New Zealand that their citizens who are Australian residents can receive an Australian Age Pension, provided they also meet the age eligibility requirement and they pass both the income and assets tests.
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Refugees, former refugees and their family members are also exempt from the residency requirements for the Age Pension if they meet all the other eligibility requirements.
Can you claim the Australian Age Pension if you live overseas?
Yes, potentially. However, the amount you’ll receive depends on:
- How long you’re away from Australia
- Whether your income and asset levels change while you’re away
- Whether you receive your pension through an international social security agreement that Australia has with another country (e.g. New Zealand). Depending on the details of the specific agreement, the pension amount you receive could vary.
There will be no change to your Age Pension payment if you’re just overseas temporarily, on a short holiday for example.
However, if you are planning on going overseas for longer than six weeks, perhaps for an extended holiday or moving overseas permanently, then you must contact the Department of Human Services (via Centrelink) to inform them.
If you leave Australia for more than 26 weeks, the amount of Age Pension you receive will depend on how long you were an Australian resident between the ages of 16 and the date you reached your Age Pension age. The amount generally won’t change if you were an Australian resident for 35 years or more, regardless of whether you worked or paid tax during that time. If you were an Australian resident for a shorter period, your Age Pension payment will be reduced proportionally.
This 35-year Australian residency period was increased from 25 years on 1 July 2014, except if you were living in Greece or New Zealand (where special age pension arrangements apply). However, if you were living in another country prior to 1 July 2014 and have continued to do so, you still qualify for the 25-year Australian residency rule.
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It should be noted that if you return to Australia for longer than 26 weeks and leave again, the current 35-year residency period will apply.
Have there been any recent changes to the residency rules?
Yes. From 20 December 2019, Age Pension recipients living overseas and aged over 80 must complete a ‘proof of life’ certificate every two years to continue receiving their pension. Those affected will be notified in writing by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and have 13 weeks to respond before their pension is suspended. If they don’t provide a certificate within a further 13 weeks, their pension will be cancelled.
Residency requirements are just one of the criteria you must meet to be eligible for an Australian Age Pension. The others are age eligibility and the passing of both income and assets tests. You can still be eligible to claim an Australian Age Pension if you move overseas, provided you satisfy certain conditions. You must inform the Department of Human Services via Centrelink if you’re receiving the Age Pension and you go overseas for longer than six weeks, as this could have an impact on your entitlements.
The information contained in this article is general in nature.