Age Pension while travelling outside Australia

Nearly one-fifth of age pensioners travelled abroad last year and the numbers are increasing.

As we move into colder temperatures and experience the increased desire to escape to warmer locations, it’s a good time to know whether and how your trip affects your Age Pension benefits.

Generally speaking, if your overseas holiday is less than six weeks, your pension rates remain unchanged. However, if you prolong to more than six weeks, meaning that you’re away for almost two months, the government will reduce your Pension Supplement to the basic rate and your Energy Supplement will stop.

In all cases, you’ll want to speak to your JVA Financial Advisor or the Department of Human Services before you leave, so that you’ll know what you’re up against.

If you travel abroad for more than 26 weeks (i.e. more than six months), your pension depends on how long you’ve lived in Australia from age 16 to your pension age. More specifically, if you’ve lived in Australia for at least 35 years, you get a full Age Pension. If you’ve lived here for less than 35 years, you get a proportional rate. For example, if you’ve lived here 10 years between the age of 16 and pension age, you will generally receive 10/35ths of the full means tested rate.


Countries with international social security agreements.

Australia has an international social security agreement with 30 countries, and each of these have their own rules.

So, if your payment has stopped while visiting one of these countries, it may be possible to have your supplements resumed as long as you’re given at least one of the following payments:

  • Disability Support Pension
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Parenting Payment single, and you are widowed
  • Carer Payment, and you are caring for a pensioner partner

The situation becomes more complex if you have been living elsewhere and have recently returned to Australia.  If you have been back in Australia for less than two years and have commenced receiving the pension, a two-year waiting period applies before you can receive payments outside Australia.


What happens to your stopped pension payments if your vacation was unplanned?

Say you intend to vacation for a week, but while at your destination a natural disaster grounds planes and transport and your stay is extended for over six months.

If an unforeseen event, such as sickness or a disaster, forces you to delay your “vacation”, contact International Services as soon as possible to ask if they can resume your payment. In most cases, the Government accedes your request. (Our Financial Advisors are there, too, to help you).


What happens after you return to Australia?

You only need to contact the authorities in the following situations:

  • Your payment or concession card stopped while you were away and it wasn’t automatically restored when you returned
  • You’re returning to live in Australia after having lived outside Australia – If you’ve been away for more than five years you must supply proof of residency in Australia to re-enrol for Medicare
  • You’re paid under an international social security agreement, or
  • You’ve been asked to provide evidence for your reason for travel


Bottom Line

Are you planning a vacation or some necessary trip?

There’s no need to worry about your pension and concessions if you travel for six weeks or less. Conversely, if you’re considering more than six weeks and certainly more than six months, contact the Department of Human Services and share your plans, particularly if you rely on concessions that are critical to your or your family.

Generally, you’re covered in the countries that Australia has international social security agreements with. Upon your return, contact International Services to resume your payment.

Should you have any queries regarding your pension and concessions, planning for retirement or planning for your future medical care, as always, you can talk to your JVA Perth Financial Advisor to assist you at every step of the way.

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