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.

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