How long to process applications?

How long does it take to process Age Pension applications?
You would be surprised by how often we get this question and, unfortunately, there is no fixed answer. We have certainly heard cases where people have waited eight months or more before they have had their pension processed. There have also been cases at the other end of the spectrum where people have had their application assessed within weeks.

The Department of Human Services says that the median time to process an Age Pension application is usually 49 days.

We asked the Department of Human Services for a guide on what it believed to be acceptable for successfully concluded applications and queries.

A spokesperson said: “The Department of Human Services processes millions of claims every year and we work hard to do these as quickly as we can.

“The nature of Age Pension claims has changed over time and are increasingly more complex. Nearly 60 per cent of rejected claims are because an applicant failed to respond to requests for additional information or documentation.

“People experiencing severe financial hardship should let the department know as soon as possible so we can prioritise their claim.”

There are some things that you can do to try and make the process as quick as possible, however. First, you should make sure that you meet the basic eligibility criteria. To be eligible for the Age Pension you must be at least 65 years old, meet the income and asset tests, be living in Australia, normally, for a minimum of 10 years.

Case study
Colin and Theresa have both reached retirement age. They provide their tax returns and bank and financial statements to Centrelink for assessment. Their combined assets are worth $200,000 and their joint income is $45,000 a year. Their assets are modest, so these don’t affect their pension. However, as their joint income exceeds the minimum threshold, they will only receive a part pension.

When can I first apply for the Age Pension?
Importantly, if you would like your application processed quickly, you can register your intent to apply for the Age Pension 13 weeks before you reach eligibility age. You don’t need all the required documentation to get the application process started. You can register your intent to apply just by providing some very basic details.

How do I apply?
You can apply via the Centrelink website, over the phone (call 132 300) or in person at your local Centrelink office. Once your application is in the system you can track its progress online.

You can complete your Age Pension claim online here or by using self-service terminals at your local Centrelink service centre.

If you do not receive any Centrelink payments and never have, you can submit your claim up to 13 weeks before reaching Age Pension age. How long it takes to assess your claim depends on its complexity and the availability of supporting documents.

If you are receiving an income support payment, you can expect to get a letter from Centrelink nine weeks before you reach eligibility age, inviting you to transfer to the Age Pension. You can do this online.

You can start your claim without having all necessary documents. However, to reduce delays you should ensure you submit all required documents within 14 days of starting your claim. This includes submitting the online claim, and any other documents requested. It’s easy to know what documents are required – a checklist is provided after the questions are answered online.

Retrospective payment of the Age Pension is limited to the date when the application is accepted as complete. It is no longer assessed as the date when notification of intent is lodged for the first time. The legislation relating to this changed on 31 July 2018.

Age Pension Application Process

What if this is your first time dealing with Centrelink?
If you haven’t been a Centrelink customer before, you’ll need to apply for a Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN) and an online account before you can start your claim. You will need to visit a Centrelink customer service centre to prove your identity and be issued with a CRN. Once you have a CRN, you can create a Centrelink online account.

You will need to link your Centrelink account to your myGov account, which you should have already if you have submitted a tax return online or have had dealings with Medicare. If you don’t have a myGov account, you can create one by visiting the mygov site.

The online claim system means you can claim at a time and place that suits you. It also features a claim tracker, which enables you to track the progress of your claim through your Centrelink online account or Express Plus mobile app.

Anyone who has difficulty with the online claim form can ask for help. Staff are available in service centres and over the phone on the Older Australians line – 13 2300 – to guide claimants through the process.

It’s also important to note the ongoing changes to the pension eligibility age.

People who were born on or after 1 July, 1952, will need to be aged 65 years and six months before being eligible, and the pension age will then go up by six months every two years until 1 July, 2023, when the Age Pension eligibility age will be 67.

Date of Birth

Qualifying age at

1 July 1952 to 31 December 1953

65 years and 6 months

1 January 1954 to 30 June 1955

66 years

1 July 1955 to 31 December 1956

66 years and 6 months

From 1 January 1957

67 years

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Centrelink misleading recipients?
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Written by Ben


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