How long can you stay overseas and claim the Age Pension?

Greg is worried he will lose the pension for spending too much time out of Australia.

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Q. Greg
I am a 72-year-old Australian on the Age Pension, which I claimed in 2014 even though I was entitled to claim it in 2011. I migrated to Australia from Singapore in 1976 and went to work in Thailand in 1996, returning to Australia in 2014. I have a 19/35 AWLR (Australian Working Life Residence).

I receive rental assistance because I do not own a home in Australia.

Am I at risk of losing my pension if I spend less than 50 per cent of my time in Australia? Since I retired and went on the pension, I have spent between four and six months each year with my family in Singapore and former work mates in Thailand. The balance has been spent in Australia. I returned to Australia last November, so if I spend six months in Australia, I feel I will not be able to go overseas again until May this year. But some Australian ex-navy colleagues are having a large reunion in Singapore in April and I would like to attend but do not want to risk losing my pension.

Can you advise me what the situation is regarding the risk of losing my Australian residency status if I left Australia in April after only five months since my previous trip abroad? I can ill afford to lose any of my pension.

Arethere restrictions on how long I could remain abroad in these circumstances?

A. Assuming that you have spent the first two years since claiming the Age Pension in Australia, which is a requirement for keeping the pension, your pension should now be portable and there should be no restrictions on your travel.

You do, however, need to advise Centrelink if you will be out of Australia for more than six weeks. Once you have been out of Australia for six weeks, the rate of your Age Pension will change to an outside of Australia payment rate; your pension supplement will reduce to the basic rate and your energy supplement will cease.

If you will be absent for more than 26 weeks, then your Age Pension payment will be subject to the working life residence rule. Under this rule, your Age Pension will be paid at a pro rata rate that depends on how many years you have lived in Australia as a resident between the age of 16 and age pension age. As you have stated, you have an AWLR of 19/35, so you can expect a reduction in your payment.

For further information you should confirm your individual circumstances with Centrelink.

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.

Written by Ben

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