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  • 13 Government Assistance and Income
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  • International Agreements and Portability
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International Agreements and Portability

Formal agreements exist between Australia and Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hellenic Republic, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Macedonia, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the USA.

The Agreement with the United Kingdom ended on 1 March 2011. For information on claiming UK Pensions, paying voluntary contributions or other matters relating to UK social security, visit the website of HM Revenue and Customs or Department for Work and Pensions or The Pensions Service.

The agreements allow residents who move from Australia to the country concerned or to Australia from one of these countries to qualify for some pensions in the destination country without meeting the normal residential requirements. International agreements are now found in the Social Security (International Agreements) Act 1999 (Cth).

These agreements do not apply to all social security payments. This is a complex area and any specific queries should be taken to a community legal centre, Tasmanian Legal Aid or a solicitor.

Portability (ss1211-1221)

A pension or allowance may be portable if the person was receiving a payment immediately before they left Australia, or if the payment is granted after they have left Australia. The period a payment may be paid overseas will depend on whether the particular payment has unlimited portability or limited portability, and whether an International Agreement (see above) applies.

Limited portability of up to 13 weeks applies to Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Widow Allowance, Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance (full-time student), Austudy, Partner Allowance and Carer Allowance for a temporary absence. A person is temporarily absent from Australia if they remain an Australian resident while absent. Carer Payment recipients travelling without the caree are restricted to payment for 63 days of respite in a calendar year.

Limited portability also applies to Youth Allowance (not undertaking full-time study), Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance and Special Benefit for a temporary absence from Australia. However, the temporary absence must generally be for one of the following purposes:

  • seeking eligible medical treatment;
  • attending to an acute family crisis; or
  • for humanitarian purposes.

Limited portability is up to 13 weeks.

For temporary absences from Australia, ancillary payments (such as Rent Assistance) are payable for the same length of time as the substantive payment or up to 26 weeks, whichever occurs first. The person must also remain qualified for the ancillary payment.

The portability period can be extended only for the following:

  • a serious accident or illness;
  • hospitalisation of the person or a family member;
  • death of a family member;
  • custody proceedings in which the person is involved;
  • a legal requirement to attend court because of criminal proceedings;
  • a serious crime committed against the person or a family member;
  • a natural disaster;
  • political/social unrest or war; or
  • industrial action.

Unlimited portability applies to the Age Pension, certain terminally ill Disability Support Pensioners, Bereavement Allowance, and certain recipients of Wife Pension and Widow B Pension (Note that Wife Pensions and Widow B Pensions are being phased out). After 26 weeks the rate of payment for these pensions may be affected by the period of the person’s working life residence. “Working life residence” is the person’s period of Australian residence occurring between the age of 16 and age pension age. If a person has spent 25 years or more in Australia they are entitled to the maximum rate of pension.

From 1 July 2012, Disability Support Pension recipients with a permanent disability and with no further work capacity may be eligible to be paid indefinitely if they wish to leave Australia to be with their relatives or family members. To be eligible they need to satisfy a new work capacity assessment before their departure. These assessments need to be completed in Australia and may involve a medical review.

No payments are portable if they are based on a short-term residence of two years or less.

Page last updated 31/01/2020

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