Centrelink Q&A: A cry for help

In this Centrelink Q&A, Don says that when his business failed, he headed overseas to live and work. He is keen to return to Australia but doesn’t know if he will qualify for an Age Pension.


Q. Don
I’m going on 67 and I have been stuck living in Asia for the past decade. I shifted here after my business in Australia failed due to a range of reasons after a very successful 15 years. I ended up totally broke with no assets, savings, superannuation, home or car. I survive here on a small family inheritance and the small salary I am able to eke out working in slave-like conditions to pay a high rent and keep a roof over my head.

Is it possible for me to receive an Australian Age Pension as – for the 20 years my business operated, I paid significant taxes to the government while never making any claims on social welfare, medical costs or anything that involved any payout of taxpayer monies?

The reality is that I cannot afford to pay for a return ticket to Australia, and even if I could get there, I would have no place of abode and no ability to enjoy any semblance of a real life. What are my options?

Read: How would share housing affect the Age Pension? 

A: Don hasn’t explained where he lives but, sadly for him, on the circumstances he has described, you usually need to be an Australian resident and in Australia to claim Age Pension. However, social security agreements may help you claim if you’re living or have lived and worked in certain countries.

If you get or are eligible for the Age Pension, you may need to take steps to claim a pension from another country. This is if you have lived or worked in a country other than Australia.

Services Australia has an International Services site that can do both of the following:

  • help you claim a pension from any country with a social security agreement with Australia
  • advise on how to claim a pension from a country without an agreement.

If you live in a country with a social security agreement, Services Australia will support your claim for a pension by sending claim forms, explaining how the claim process works in that country, list which documents you’ll need and help you give all the details you need to make your claim go through as quickly as possible.

Read: Can I get the Age Pension if I am in a de facto relationship?

The Asian countries with which Australia has social security agreements are Korea, Japan and India.

You will still have to pass the assets and income tests before you will be eligible for the Age Pension overseas.

You may get a reduced rate of pension based on how long you were an Australian resident.

You will still be eligible for the Work Bonus scheme.

If you have qualified for the pension overseas, if you return to Australia, you will have to notify Centrelink of the change in your circumstances and you may have to reapply for the pension,

If you have a Centrelink question, please send it to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it for you.

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.

Janelle Ward
Janelle Wardhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/janellewa
Energetic and skilled editor and writer with expert knowledge of retirement, retirement income, superannuation and retirement planning.


  1. Unfortunately , if he’s not living in Korea, Japan or India , he would need to return to Australia to apply for the Pension. Provided he’s had 35 years since age 16 in Australia , he would get a full Age pension.

    But in most cases, would need to wait in Australia for two years before the pension becomes portable to resume overseas.
    Centrelink do allow short periods of travel outside Australia during that 2 years , 12 weeks a year I’ve heard . Depends on circumstances,,,,but the pension Stops while outside Australia for that time away,,then resumes when you’re back.

    The pension rate outside Australia reduces also….energy supplement etc & PBS card & also Medicare drop off the radar…..along with other Pension benefits.

    It’s actually cheaper for the Govt to have pensioners live elsewhere, eases pressure on the health system & housing crises . No rent assistance either while they’re away.

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