HomeCentrelink – Services AustraliaCentrelink Q&A: Living overseas

Centrelink Q&A: Living overseas

Charles spent most of his working life in Australia but has chosen to retire overseas and wants to know how he will be able to afford living expenses in his Canadian home.


Q. Charles
I was born and worked in England for a few years before moving to the South Pacific; 13 years later, I moved to Australia; 20 years later, I moved to Canada.

I have been living here in Canada for five years, helping care for my now late mother-in-law and supporting my daughter and her seven-year-old son’s battle with leukemia.

I did not pay enough into the national insurance scheme in England to secure a pension. There was no pension scheme in the Solomon Islands to which I could contribute.

I paid into the Australian scheme for 20 years, but because I now live in Canada, I have been told that I am not entitled to an Australian pension (notwithstanding that Canadians residing in Australia are entitled to a Canadian pension).

I will not be eligible for a Canadian pension unless I have been here for at least 10 years, and that will only qualify me for the minimum.

I turned 65 in November and will not be eligible for even the minimum Canadian pension until I am 70.

What advice can you offer regarding the contributions I made towards an Australian pension? How am I going to survive, despite having contributed to the scheme in Australia?

A. Australia and Canada have a social security agreement in place that may help in your situation. Under the Agreement, Australia and Canada share responsibility for paying pensions to people who would otherwise not be entitled because they do not have sufficient periods of contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or residence in Australia or Canada. It also helps people who could not otherwise claim a pension because they are living abroad.

Under the Agreement, periods of working life residence in Australia are treated by Canada as contributions to the CPP or residence in Canada. In the same way, Canadian periods of residence or contributions are treated by Australia as periods of residence in Australia. These periods are added together to meet the minimum periods required for the pensions offered by each country under the Agreement. These deemed periods do not affect the amount of pension.

People living in Canada can lodge claims for Australian and Canadian pensions with their local Service Centre of Employment and Social Development Canada. Details of Service Centre locations can be found on the Employment and Social Development Canada website.

Charles will need to provide proof of identity. Some documents that will help support his claim include a birth certificate or extract, current Australian passport or certificate of Australian citizenship.

The agreement requires that you must live in Australia for at least 10 years to quality and his 20 years working in Australia will comfortably cover that. However he will need to prove it. Some documents he can use to back up his claim include Australian or overseas passport that shows a date of arrival in Australia, entry visa, Australian citizenship papers and employment and/or tax records, including group certificates issued by Australian employees. 

Canada will also require some documentary evidence. According to the Department of Social Security the most helpful documents are:

  • birth certificate and passports (including expired and foreign passports) and naturalisation/citizenship papers
  • marriage certificate and birth certificates for any dependent children
  • death certificates or divorce papers if applicable
  • any documents proving periods of residence in Australia, and
  • any other documents which could be useful, for example, documents proving periods of contributions or residence in Canada, or if claiming DSP, documentation pertaining to your disability

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.

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writershttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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