Centrelink Q&A: Steve queries residency rule change

New legislation set to take effect on 1 July.

Will residency rule change hurt you?

Editor's note: As of 4 July 2018, this rule change remains subject to pending legislation.

On 1 July, new residency rule legislation relating to the Age Pension and the Disability Support Pension takes effect. Steve asks if there is provision for appeal.


Q. Steve
My partner has been an Australian resident since the mid-1980s and a citizen since the mid-1990s. Because of work reasons and family issues in the UK, she finds herself in a situation where she will not be eligible for the Age Pension when she retires in seven years because she will not have had 10 consecutive years as a full-time resident. The maximum she has had is eight. She has always worked in Australia and has never collected Centrelink benefits. Is there any way she can appeal this?

A: Under the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Payment Integrity) Bill 2017, a person who qualifies for the Age Pension or Disability Support Pension (DSP) will, from 1 July 2018, be required to have:

  • 10 continuous years of Australian residence including at least five years during their Australian working life, or
  • 10 continuous years of Australian residence and proof they have not received activity-tested income support for cumulative periods of five years or more, or
  • 15 years of continuous Australian residence.

Residence during a person’s working life is the number of years a person has resided (lived permanently) in Australia between the age of 16 and Age Pension age.

Existing exemptions to the residence requirements for Age Pension and DSP stay the same.

Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen says if someone disagrees with the outcome of a decision about their Centrelink payment they can ask for a formal review.

Do you know about the upcoming residency rule changes? Do they affect you?

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

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



    Financial 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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    7th May 2018
    The answer given here is still ambiguous.

    1. Does 10 continuous years of Australian residence mean you are never allowed to leave the country in that time?

    2. Does 10 continuous years of Australian residence mean one cannot travel overseas for extended holidays? say 2-3 months?

    3. Does 10 continuous years of Australian residence mean one cannot travel overseas to assist sick or dying family in another country?

    If so then this country has lost all sense of compassion.
    7th May 2018
    I think it's a given that this country has lose all sense of compassion, regardless of the answers to those questions.
    8th May 2018

    In answer to your questions:

    1 the answer is NO. You are allowed to leave the country just so long as you intend to return to your place of residence and job.

    2 & 3 If you are holidaying or visiting overseas for a trip, or family reasons, you are still a resident for Centrelink purposes, as you are only temporarily outside of Australia.

    IF you took up residence & started working, then that would be a separate matter, and the 10 continuous years would recommence once you returned to Australia on a permanent basis.
    7th May 2018
    There seems to be information missing in this question. If this person has been in Australia as either a resident or citizen since 'mid 1980s' and has 7 years to go to retirement by which time will have only spent 8 years actually living here, how can she 'have always worked in Australia'? There are 30 about years here to be accounted for during which time it would appear the person was not in Australia. If that really is the case, why would they assume they would be able to apply for a pension at all? Something doesn't seem right here.
    7th May 2018
    Yes, KSS, I was confused as well. If someone came here in the mid 80s, they would have been a resident for around 3 decades. Surely they would therefore easily satisfy the residency requirements?
    Fluffy Duck
    7th May 2018
    What will happen to people who already receive the age pension but don't meet those guidelines? Will their pension be cancelled? My mother (almost 89) moved here from NZ in December 2008 when my dad passed away. She receives a NZ pension, supplemented by a part-pension from Australia because of the exchange rate (and I think the NZ pension is lower). If this legislative change is applied retrospectively she would be 6 months short of the 10 years residency - and since she was 79 when she moved here, she's never worked in Australia.
    7th May 2018
    Yes, Fluffy Duck, I too wondered what will happen to people who rely on the pension to survive but don't meet the criteria. Many of them may be very elderly, vulnerable, and confused at legislative changes. It would be extremely cruel to just cut them off.
    8th May 2018
    This piece of legislation starts on 1 July 2018, and only affects applications from that date and doesn't affect anyone on the pension before the legislation commences.
    7th May 2018
    She should be entitled to a pension or part pension from the UK. I have lived here since 1969 and am not entitled to an Australian pension, ( I apparently exceed the assets limit, through hard work and hard saving.) I do however receive a small part pension from the UK, and I only worked there for 5 years.
    7th May 2018
    A sad indictment of our country, isn't it Casey, when someone is punished for working too hard and saving too well? Clearly the UK treats its citizens with much more respect, and also encourages responsible lifestyles and contributions to society rather than penalizing people who do what's good for the nation.
    Fluffy Duck
    8th May 2018
    SuziJ that's good to know. It will make it hard for people who move to Australia, like my mum, because they have close family here and few left in their home country. It was my dad's greatest wish that mum move here to be close to my sister and I when he was gone. Not everyone can afford to support an elderly relative without a pension. Many people in that position would sell property to come here (as mum did) and that money inevitably goes into the Australia economy in some form, so they are contributing what they can.

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