Many Australians dream of retirement so they can zip off around the world, free at last to visit exotic countries and far off places while they can. If you’re one of those people and you receive an age pension, your payment may be affected, depending on your income and how long you stay overseas. So, before you book your cruise or plane tickets and see travel doctor for all vaccinations, it’s a good idea to check out the age pension rules.
What About Travel In Australia?
As a pensioner you can circumnavigate this wide brown land as many times as you wish and for as long as you want, that’s no problem, and your payments will continue. You don’t need vaccinations to travel in Australia, either. And if you’ve got a fat savings account, even after you might have spent a lot of your Super on either much-needed renovations or a knock-down and rebuild of the family home, you’re free to hitch up the caravan for your dream trip. You can follow the trails taken by other ‘grey nomads’ and visit Uluru, Kakadu, the Daintree, or whizz down to Tasmania and see the great Huon River, for instance, or go wherever you want. Your pension payments won’t change and you don’t have to tell the Department of Human Services.
What About Travelling Overseas?
Generally, as an age pensioner, you will receive your regular pension payments while overseas and even if you go and live in another country(1). But, and there is a big BUT, the amount you receive may change, depending on how long you stay out of Australia, and whether your income or assets change. Another consideration is if your Australian pension is paid in accord with an agreement with another country.
The Importance of the Six-Week Period
If you travel for no more than 42 days – a six week period – your pension rate will remain the same. However, after six weeks of travelling overseas, your pension supplement will be reduced to the basic level and you won’t receive the energy supplement. And should you decide to move overseas to live, your pension supplement will be reduced to the basic level and the energy supplement will cease as soon as you have left Australia.
What About Longer Travelling Times and Migrant Pensioners?
After you’ve been out of Australia for 26 weeks, your age pension payment rate will be dependent on the amount of time you have lived in Australia. If you’ve been a resident of this country between ages 16 and any pension age, for 35 years or more, your payment rate usually won’t change any further than it has at the six-week marker. If you’ve been a resident of Australia for less than 35 years, you’ll get a proportional, lower pension rate. Also, any extra payments, like rent assistance e.g., will stop after you’ve been outside Australia for 26 weeks.
Tell the Government About Your Travel Plans
If you plan to travel overseas as a pensioner, you need to let the Department of Human Services know if you’re going for longer than six weeks and if you plan to live in another country. You can do this easily online through your myGov Centrelink account. If you’ve told the Department about your travel plans, including, of course, how long you’ll be away from Australia, you need to check on your payments to ensure you’re getting what you expected. You can usually still receive your Age Pension for the entire period you’re outside of Australia, and that includes living in another country for a time.
Your pension payment amount could change, depending on:
- how long you’ll be away
- If you assets and income changes
- You receive your pension via a government agreement with another country
When to Tell the Government About Your Travel plans
You need to tell us as soon as possible that you’re leaving Australia if you:\
- Plan to live in another country
- Plan to be away for more than six weeks
- If you receive payments under a social security agreement with some other countries
- If you returned to live in Australia within the past two years and began receiving an age pension
Otherwise, you don’t need to tell the government about your travel plans because the Department of Immigration will inform Centrelink of when you leave and return.
New Zealand is ‘Overseas’
Yes, we’re very close neighbours, but New Zealand is still an overseas country. If you’re a pensioner you still need to inform the government of your plans to visit NZ for longer than six weeks or if you plan to live there. But you should be careful, there have been instances where pensioners have been caught out by misinformation, because government departments can make mistakes, and you need to follow them up. If you think you’ve been given wrong information, it’s worth checking it out. However, Australia has a social security agreement with NZ, but your payments could change from the day you land there if:
- you go there to live
- you plan to be in NZ for over 12 months
Otherwise your payments could change after you’ve been in NZ for 26 weeks, but how much that changes depends on Australia’s agreement with NZ.
What About the Disability Pension?
If you’re on a disability support pension (DSP), the rules around overseas travel are different. If you go overseas on a DSP, in any 12-month span, you’ll only receive payments for up to four weeks. This also means that if you make one trip, or many – you can’t exceed the a total of 28 days overseas or your DSP will stop. Before 2015, people on DSPs could stay overseas for six weeks, as with aged pensions, before their payments were affected. But there are some exceptions to this rule: if you’re going overseas for medical treatment that can’t be accessed in Australia, you will still get paid.
What May be Different After October, 1, 2018
NOTE: From October 1, 2018, if you’re a pensioner living or travelling outside of Australia you should be aware that your supplement could change due to the passage of Legislation. According to the possible changes, if you return to live in Australia from another country and start receiving an age pension, your payment will stop if you travel overseas during the next two years. This is also the law if you received payments under any agreement with regard to social security Australia might have had with another country during the time you were living outside Australia. It could also mean that if you leave Australia on a temporary basis, but remain a resident, this will usually be counted as part of the two-year period.
For more information on pensions and overseas travel, the Department of Human Services website, humanservices.gov.au, is the place to go.
Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Travel Vax.