If the Age Pension is an important part of your overseas retirement plan…you’re probably confused. And you’re not alone.
I’ve researched the question of whether you can take your Age Pension overseas—and if so, how—for a couple of years now. And I’ve discovered that you can’t get all the facts in one place. Sure, there’s a lot of information online. Just try googling “Can I take my Age Pension overseas?” and you’ll see what I mean. The other problem is that not only are many websites out of date, they’re also incomplete.
Even Centrelink’s own website only tells part of the story. Adding to our confusion is that the rules change. In January 2017 we saw a change in the thresholds for the assets test. And they threatened to change the rules for overseas portability of the Age Pension too (fortunately, this change didn’t pass legislation).
No doubt further changes are in the wind. And as more baby boomers apply for the Age Pension, it’s inevitable that eligibility will tighten up.
So, to the question, “Can I take my Age Pension overseas?” Yes, you can. But before you pack up and head off, there are things you must know. Because there’s a smart way to do it…and a not-so-smart way.
If you’re currently receiving the Australian Age Pension, taking that pension with you on your overseas escape is pretty simple, but if you’re not yet at pension age and you don’t want to wait to experience life overseas, it’s a little trickier. It’s doable, but you need to understand the whole picture…
For example, did you know that if you live overseas prior to pension eligibility age—either part-time or full-time—your Australian residency may change? If you plan to set off overseas again, this is very important. It will be up to Centrelink to determine if you’re still an Australian resident or a former resident and that decision can have a big impact on your travel plans.
The frustrating thing about that process is you won’t find information on this anywhere online; not even on the Department of Human Services website. That’s because there are no black and white rules—the decision is arbitrary and in the hands of the Centrelink officer handling your application.
Even the Centrelink website is unclear on what determines your residency status—it simply states that if you’ve been outside Australia (no timeframe given), you have to wait two years after successfully applying for the pension before you head off overseas again.
However, if that Centrelink officer has any doubt whatsoever that your absence from Australia was more than just a holiday, they’ll refer your application to Centrelink’s International Services Board. Your application is now in the “complex” basket. So, as you can see, it’s very important to understand how Centrelink makes their decision about your residency.
There’s also a lot of other factors you need to consider, things like the Australian Working Life Residency and how it may impact your claim. Likewise, Social Security Agreements between Australia and other countries, there’s currently 31 on the list. Then there’s your pension supplement, the Seniors Card and the Disability Support Pension too.
Little wonder there’s so much confusion on the subject! So, l thought I’d do my best to clear the confusion up by putting all the facts together in one place. The result is a comprehensive four-page report which you can find in the April issue of International Living Australia magazine.
The bottom line is, when it comes to your Age Pension and retire overseas plans, the worst thing you can do is adopt a “she’ll be right mate” attitude. You need to understand your current situation inside and out and work out what you need to do if you intend taking the Age Pension overseas—whether that’s next year or in 10 years’ time. So, arm yourself with the facts…then get packing!