How long can pensioners stay OS?

How long can you go overseas on the Age Pension?
It is possible to get the Age Pension for the whole time you’re overseas, whether you have left Australia on a temporary or permanent basis. There are, however, a number of factors relating to your working life residence in Australia and your residency status before you first applied for the pension that can have an effect on it.

If you come back to live in Australia from another country and start getting the Age Pension, you must remain in Australia for two years or your pension payment will stop altogether. This is also the rule if you received payments under a social security agreement with another country while you lived outside of Australia.

If you leave Australia temporarily but stay an Australian resident, this normally count as part of the two years. If you go to a country that has a social security agreement with Australia, you may still get the Age Pension during the two years.

Do you have to tell Centrelink about your travel plans?
You definitely need to inform Centrelink if you plan on leaving Australia to live in another country.

You also need to inform Centrelink if you are leaving Australia and will be away for more than six weeks, if you receive payments under a social security agreement with another country or if you came back to live in Australia within the past two years and started getting the Age Pension since then.

If your travel doesn’t fall into any of those categories, you do not need to inform Centrelink about your travel plans. Instead, the immigration department will report to Centrelink when you leave the country and when you return.

How do you tell Centrelink about your travel plans?
The easiest way to tell Centrelink about your travel plans is using your Centrelink online account through the myGov portal.

If you are uncomfortable using the online portal, you can visit a Centrelink service centre or call the older Australians line on 132 300.

When does travel affect pension payment rates?
If you leave Australia for less than six weeks, your Age Pension payment rate normally won’t change.

If you leave Australia for more than six weeks, your pension payment will drop to the basic rate and your energy supplement payment will cease.

If you remain outside Australia for longer than 26 weeks, your pension will be reduced to a proportional rate based on your ‘Australian working life residence’ (AWLR). This is the number of years you have resided in Australia since age 16 to Age Pension age.

If you have lived in Australia for 35 years (420 months), then you are paid the full rate of Age Pension to which you are entitled. If, for example, you have only resided in Australia for 20 years, then you will be paid 241/420 of the Age Pension (20 x12 plus an extra month).

If you leave Australia permanently, the rate of Pension Supplement you receive will reduce on departure or, if leaving on a temporary basis, it will be reduced six weeks after departure. The Energy Supplement will cease when you leave Australia to live in another country.

For those who were granted an Age Pension and left Australia prior to 1 July 2014, the 25-year Australian working life residence will be applied. Should you return to Australia and then depart (after 1 July 2014), the new 35-year rule will be applied.

As long as you remain eligible, your Age Pension will continue to be paid fortnightly. If you are moving long term (over 12 months) or permanently, your Age Pension will be paid every four weeks.

Case study
Sarah has been living in Australia for 42 years. Sarah is 72 and started receiving the Age Pension in Australia when she was 65.

Sarah has decided to travel overseas to Finland to live with her family for a few years. Because Sarah has an AWLR of more than 35 years, after 26 weeks overseas she will continue to receive the full amount of Age Pension, for which she is eligible, while living in Finland.

What things should I do before travelling overseas?
If you haven’t already, register for an online account through myGov before you leave Australia. This will allow you to access your letters and other services online while you are away.

If the date you need to report you or your partner’s earnings falls on or after you leave Australia, report on the business day before you leave, otherwise Centrelink may delay your payment.

It’s important to advise Centrelink about any change to your circumstances that would normally affect your payment or concession card.

If you are being paid as a single person because your partner is overseas, and you’re leaving Australia to visit your partner, contact Centrelink before you leave as they may need to review your payment.

If you are considering going overseas permanently, you should contact Centrelink International Services on 131 673 to find out about your entitlements overseas and what you need to do to continue receiving your payments.

What happens to concession cards when I travel?
Your Pensioner Concession Card will remain current for up to six weeks. After that it will cease to be current, but will be restored when you return to Australia and you will continue to be able to access the concessions available. If your card does not restore automatically, you will need to contact Centrelink.

The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) will also be cancelled if a person is outside of Australia for more than 19 weeks. However, this can be restored over the phone if you update your income amounts before travelling overseas and contact Centrelink as soon as possible.

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Disclaimer: 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 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.