How to claim a pension if you are living abroad

Charles spent most of his working life in Australia but has chosen to retire 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.

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

Are you eligible for an Age Pension? Do you know your rights? The RetirePlanner™ tool has all the information you need.


    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.


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    19th Nov 2018
    Charles I had a friend who left australia for 7 years before he became retirement age. He came back to claim the aged pension. It was granted to him but he had to stay in australia for two years. He did that and now lives in asia and gets his pension. I am not sure if living in certain countries or the length of time you are out of the country has any bearing. You may have to return to australia to claim as consular or embasy staff may not know all about centrelink.
    19th Nov 2018
    You seem like a really decent bloke Good luck in your plight, sincerely..
    19th Nov 2018
    Charles, it is correct that you won't have to return to Australia to make your claim. However, if you continue to live in Canada, the Australian part of your pension will be 20/35 of the rate you would get were you residing in Australia. I have yet to understand why Australia reduces the pension for those who live overseas when such people don't use any Australian services, especially Medicare. Also, you will be paid monthly. You will get indexation but no supplements.
    19th Nov 2018
    I would like to make it very clear one of the rotten things the government is doing to us. If you live overseas and your Australian bank account gets closed for any reason you can not open another account with returning to Australia to live, what they have done is stop you from getting your pension card but even worse they have stopped you from getting your Medicare card until you have lived in Australia for some amount of time(no one knows how long) this stops you from opening a bank account or getting medical treatment if needed this is what they have done regarding opening a bank account you need 100 points that consist of60 points for passport and 40 points for medicare card or 40 points for pension card, also you can not open an account from overseas(Muslims can) I consider this a criminal offence
    19th Nov 2018
    living overseas if for some reason you lose your Australian bank account you can not get super to send you money overseas you have to go to the Australian embassy and get them to stamp, date and sign a copy of your passport, then mail to your super, then they are allowed to send you a cheque. yep not only does the government want you dead as soon as possible they want more than a fair chance of getting your money I worked until 70 but I am going to do whatever I can to live a long time just to nark them

    20th Nov 2018
    If social security agreements work it would be relatively easy to get payments from other countries. My school friend worked in Sydney for 11 years and in the agreement Switzerland and Australia signed, Oz would recognise the time lived and worked in the country and would make up the shortfall of the Swiss pension. However, in the meantime Australia introduced an asset and income test and now Australia denies her the pension for the 11 years. Told me she is $A300 a month short for the rest of her life. Our asset and income test is possibly OK for living here but over there you could never exist on an Aussie pension. So much for agreements - at least the Swiss send me my portion of the pension, Centrelink was helpful for me getting it.
    20th Nov 2018
    Cowboy Jim, If your friend is getting a full Swiss pension (or thereabouts) she will probably fail the Aus income and assets test because the Swiss pension is quite generous. If she receives that pension and has other assets (investments, cash, etc) she will again fail the test. But, I agree, the 11 years work in Australia should be taken into account somehow because of the social security agreement.
    20th Nov 2018
    Cowboy Jim, 'generous' I mean in monetary terms by Aus standards. But keep in mind that the Swiss system is based on your lifetime contributions, whereas the Australian system is based on length of residency, income and assets.

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