Centrelink Q&A: working life residence rules explained

Marcy is confused about how living overseas affects her Age Pension.

Working life residence explained

Marcy is confused about how living overseas affects her Age Pension, particularly the working life residence rules. So today, we explain how it works.

Q. Marcy
I have heard different versions on this topic so I am hoping you can clarify this for me. I am currently on an Age Pension, and I am spending a lot of time in Indonesia. Am I only allowed to stay out of Australia for six months at one time?

Will it affect my pension if I stay out of Australia for longer than six months at a time? If so, how will this affect my pension?

Thank you for any information you can give me.

A. You can remain outside of Australia for longer than six months; however, your payment rate may change.

Your payment will be subject to the working life residence rules. This will depend on:

  • how long you’re away
  • whether your income and assets change
  • whether your pension is through a social security agreement with another country.

Once you’ve been overseas for six weeks, your payment rate will change depending on the number of years you lived and worked in Australia beforehand.

Under this rule, your Age Pension is paid at a pro rata rate that depends on how many years you have lived in Australia as a resident between the age of 16 and pension age. If this is 35 years or more, then you will be paid the full rate of Age Pension, subject to the outside of Australia payment rules. If you have been resident for less than 35 years, for example, 30 years, then you will be paid 30/35ths of the rate applicable to your circumstances.

If you left Australia before 1 January 2017, you can remain absent for 26 weeks before your pension rate is adjusted. If you left Australia after 1 January 2017, this period will decrease to six weeks. The changes to your payments will take effect on the day you left the country. You should advise Centrelink of any plans you have to leave Australia for more than six weeks, or if you wish to leave permanently.

Also, from 1 January 2018, the Pension Supplement will stop if you have been outside of Australia for more than six weeks.

Find out more about the working life residence rules at www.humanservices.gov.au as well as details about the Age Pension rates payable to people outside Australia.


All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a Centrelink Financial Information Services officer, financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances. 



    To make a comment, please register or login
    27th Nov 2017
    We were away for 3 months earlier this year and the Pension supplement went after 6 weeks, also they stop the Carer allowance as if you are not caring for the person while you are away. We dropped $41.40 each and we have lived here since 1960.
    27th Nov 2017
    Really Redhead? The supplement was granted to cover excess costs of utilities and while you were overseas it's a fair bet that your utilities cost much less than the previous bills. As regards a carer's allowance being removed, if the work is not being carried out, why should there be an expectation that the payment will continue.

    27th Nov 2017
    Only on a part pension, when staying out of the country for more than 6 weeks we lose the
    supplement but after we return we get a higher amount in the ordinary payments because
    there is obviously less money in the bank. Rather expensive being away - so really it is swings and roundabouts: loss of supplement and increase in the pension! Of course that does
    not apply when you are already on a full pension.

    27th Nov 2017
    Just wonder how many pensioners with overseas connections have not applied for the pension of overseas countries they have previously lived in. I am getting $100 a month for
    my 2 years working in Europe. Centrelink will help people filling in the forms required
    and all we have to do is getting the local council to stamp a yearly statement that the pensioner is still alive. I know people who just could not be bothered but they are complaining of not having enough funds.
    27th Nov 2017
    Iam entitled to 10 yrs of pension from the U.K i can back pay another 6yrs i can pay for 3yrs till i retire, will get 19yrs worth where ever i am in the world
    In Outer Orbit
    28th Nov 2017
    Depending where you report yourself resident, including Australia, the value can be fixed in sterling on the date you leave the UK - ie the value of the uk pension in Australia is not index linked to inflation. ie it's not worth much after a few years of inflation. Do the sums and think where you'll be resident before you make back payments.
    27th Nov 2017
    Pensioners BEWARE of this government's iniquitous treatment of aged pensioners. When you have been overseas for 6 weeks, besides adjusting your pension, Centrelink cancels your concession card. It then classifies you as an INVALID PENSIONER, even though you may be still receiving a reduced pension. If any other organisation (eg Council, power companies etc) ask Centrelink to check your concession entitlement at this point Centrelink will tell the organisation that you are no longer a valid pensioner. This is an infringement of one's rights but no-one at Centrelink cares about your rights. The concession card may be reinstated when you return. However, you may be forced to re-apply for the rates concessions etc.
    Thanks to Mr Turnbull and his government.
    27th Nov 2017
    Beware of working too hard and saving and investing like crazy too because then they don't give you anything and charge full costs for everything as if you are still working full time. No concessions for hard working savers. None at all here or overseas.

    They lied about the benefits for the full 45 years of working and cut them off in the 2015 budget.
    28th Nov 2017
    RIGHTS ????? What Rights do we have NONE NONE NONE We are at the mercy of our dear seat warmers politicians that never help us in any way they just take and take from us ..... All this is F... Bulshit as far as I am concern.

    The only way we are going to have Rights is when we introduce the Bill of Rights and/or became a REPUBLIC then we can say that we have Rights .....
    27th Nov 2017
    Old Man, if you re-read the comment, Redhead mentions he is still doing the work, how can one not?
    27th Nov 2017
    So if I go a cruise or an overseas holiday for longer than 6 weeks, how does Centrelink know? Don't they just keep paying the pension into my Australian bank account?
    28th Nov 2017
    Well bad news .... They know just after you cross the gates .... Immigrations and Centrelink are link together so they will know immediately ....Sorry
    28th Nov 2017
    Yes they will still deposit but only what you are entitle to get like a reduced amounts
    27th Nov 2017
    The carer supplement has nothing to do with the utility supplement it is for sorting managing pills, Insulin and making sure that they are taken at the correct time.Regardless of being overseas this is being done on a daily basis. If I stop my husband would probably have a heart attack or a Hypo. Also my electricity bill was not much lower as you are still paying for the daily service charge you cannot disconnect and then reconnect. They did cancel the concession card but it was reinstated within a few days of returning. I was under the impression that when you have worked/lived overseas they ensure that you at least fill in a claim for for some pension in our case we had not accrued enough years and managed to send some more Tax money to the UK to qualify for 28% of the pension which is very handy indeed.
    27th Nov 2017
    Crowboy they know that you have gone as you have used your passport whether you have told them or not, they also know when you come back in.

    27th Nov 2017
    I just go to the office and tell the nice lady with the tablet that I am away for more than 6 weeks and give her the dates about going and coming back and everything went well. Just
    wonder why they have to cancel your card and re-issue it the day of your return. Useless overseas anyway. Maybe some people might give it to their family as it has no photo on it. Something to think about!
    27th Nov 2017
    Yes I had wondered why they had to go and cancel it it was handy as an ID that we were pensioners overseas. Centrelink know how to spend money anyway. I just told them on line. Don't have to queue that way.

    27th Nov 2017
    Good to see pensioners enjoying long and short term overseas stays , cruises , holidays etc .
    Just proves what a great pension system we have for those who are eligible

    Such a shame its not a universal pension though.
    27th Nov 2017
    This is not correct. Currently the basic pension rate is based on working life residence only after 26 weeks, NOT 6 weeks. Proposals have been put to make it 6 weeks but they have not passed (yet). The pension supplement reduces after 6 weeks. The article on "claiming pension overseas" is right about this.
    27th Nov 2017
    Centrelink should study why so many pensioners are departing Australia to live overseas. It is essentially because of house prices and living costs. We purchased a house late in life and had no hope of paying off the mortgage. We could not afford to purchase shelter outright in Australia or in either of our countries of heritage, so opted for a fourth country the language of which we already spoke fluently. Our pension reduced after 26 weeks, based on the /35 formula. It is paid monthly. The country we live in is much cheaper than Australia for medical coverage, phone/internet, insurance, electricity, but we have to budget for winter domestic fuel bills. Yes, Centrelink knows when you depart Australia. If you live in NSW and have an Opal Gold Card, be aware that the Opal admin talks to Centrelink and will write to you after about a year for you to return the card. I believe more and more people of pension age will depart Australia due to cost in the next two decades.
    28th Nov 2017
    Yes I agree. Especially those who have immigrated here for opportunity but know costs are so much cheaper in their home countries.

    Regardless of government and business fixation on wage controls it is price controls that really need attending to in my opinion.

    Everything is expensive in Australia and it obviously isn't wage increases causing the price gouging we are seeing.
    28th Nov 2017
    About cost of living differences in the world cities have a look any of this sites just for fun ....



    We are on an average about 50 to 60% more expensive ..... That is why pensioners are living Australia

    I have been doing a research for over 6 month and i found that even on some of the popular retirement places like Thailand you will find that is Now more expensive that some cities in South America for example Lime in Peru is about 21% cheaper than Bangkok wowowowowo The world is changing quick
    28th Nov 2017
    2nd Apr 2018
    If you could help me on this issue I would be very much obliged. I'm 65 in June and currently live full time in Thailand with my wife a Thai national. I emigrated to Aus in 1990 and finished work in March 2017 (in Aus) I know that to apply for my pension I have to be in Aus but how long do I have to remain there. I have no family, friends or anyone that I can live with, this leaves me very few options, plus I've not got a lot of cash.
    2nd Apr 2018
    posibilities, my situation is reverse, contact email, [email protected], no promises.
    2nd Apr 2018
    Hi mate ... where in Thai ru ????
    2nd Apr 2018
    You will be eligible at 65 + 6 months this is if you born between 1 July 1952 to 31 December 1953.

    You arrive as Resident ???? (I guess) in 1990 till 2017 then you left and live in the land of smiles correct ????

    If this is correct that will give you only 27 years of Australian residency which means you will get only partial pension based on the number of years you been permanently in Australia (https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/age-rules-age-pension)

    Note: (https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/age-pension-if-you-travel-outside-australia)

    You need to be in Australia for 2 consecutive years before apply for a pension - The question is if you return to AU do you have your home address ??? TO FILL IN THE PENSION REQUEST FORMS ??? because you still a resident even if you are O/S for a while in holidays in Phuket or Bali or anywhere.

    If you leave Australia temporarily but stay an Australian resident, this normally counts as part of the 2 years.

    Thailand has a free phone with Centrelink have a look here https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/contact-us/international-phone-numbers

    If you get the pension you will get a reduced amount based only on 27 years of Australian residency Have a look at this https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/pension-rates-payable-people-outside-australia

    In your case will be less than the basic pension because you only been in AU for 27 years and there is a formula to calculate the reduced pension for you

    This is the general site for your investigations:

    Streets & Streams
    17th Mar 2019
    My question is slightly different and I would ask here for anyones experience before heading to the authorities. I am a NZer with duel citizenship in Australia. I understand the 35 yr rule applies however there is a reciprical agreement with NZ and I am wondering how that would apply. My Work life here totals 21 years and in NZ 19 years total with 15 0f those since turning 20, which I understand may be a factor. While I am well withing the 10yr rule in NZ I fall short of 5 years since turning 50.

    Anyone have experience in this scenario?
    17th Mar 2019
    Hi mate I suggest you talk to the international area in Centrelink they do know about all this ...... The people in the desks in the CL branches do not have a clue about this stuff ,,,,,contact the international area ...


    All the info here and I suggest you call them is a free call

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