Tell Centrelink about your travel plans

Tell Centrelink about your travel plans

Some things you can’t ‘untell’ Centrelink – Tips and traps for overseas travellers

With international borders finally reopening many older Australians are keen to head overseas. But leaving Australia – particularly where you go and for how long – can have a major impact upon your Age Pension entitlements.

It’s critical that you know what your obligations are, including:

  • which information you need to share, and
  • the timelines of when you need to reveal this information.

If you are in any doubt, you can book an appointment with our customer service team to double check the detail you need to reveal, as you cannot ‘untell’ incorrect or inaccurate information. When you get it wrong, there is often a long process, sometimes including a rejection of your current or expected entitlements.

Mary got caught out when she went on a holiday. She did not need to inform Centrelink, but thought she did.

She  told Centrelink she was moving overseas for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond Mary’s control she was forced to return to Australia 8 months later.

Whilst Mary did not do anything wrong, committing to a permanent move overseas from the outset meant that Mary immediately lost her pension and energy supplements as well as a portion of her pension due to Mary not being an Australian resident for 35 years prior to her departure date.

Had Mary initially treated the move as a holiday and then updated Centrelink on her intent to live there permanently later on, she could have kept her supplements longer (they would eventually have been removed though) and her pension would have stayed as it was for longer before being reduced.

Travelling outside Australia does not necessarily mean losing your Age Pension entitlements, even when you take up residence in another country. But the amount you get is connected with the time you are away – and the country in which you resettle.

If you are undertaking holiday travel, you do not need to advise Centrelink.

If, however, you:

  • are going to live in another country
  • will be away for longer than 6 weeks
  • will receive a welfare payment from another country
  • returned to live in Australia within the past two years and received an Age Pension in this time
  • then you need to advise Centrelink through your online or myGov account.

There are three main categories of Centrelink interest when you travel:

  • If you leave for between 6 and 26 weeks
  • if you leave for more than 26 weeks
  • if you leave to live in another country

If you leave Australia for between 6 and 26 weeks

Your pension supplement drops to the basic rate and your energy supplement stops.

If you leave for more than 26 weeks

There is a sliding scale of the rate by which your pension is affected, depending upon the length of your Australian residency. Those who are residents for 35 years or longer will see no change, but under 35 years the pension is paid at a pro-rata amount, according to your length of residency.

If you leave to live in another country

You will be paid what is termed an ‘outside Australia rate’. Your pension supplement will be reduced to the basic rate and your energy supplement will be removed.

If your travel plans change due to circumstances outside your control, including Covid-19, you may need to contact Centrelink to explain your situation.

Tips and traps

  • Timing when you reveal your plans has a direct impact upon your pension payments as happened with Mary.
  • Choosing to relocate to another country is a big decision. You will need to do your research on availability of medical care, aged care and whether Australia has a social services agreement with that country. It’s not just about entitlements – it’s worth checking out the country’s human rights record and whether Australia has a strong consular presence there. Cost of living will also be of vital interest.
  • Payments for overseas pensions are approximately $2,000 per annum lower than payments to Australian residents
  • Pension are paid every four weeks, not every fortnight – you need to plan for the gap in income if you change from an Australian to an international payment
Rates A$ amount per year single A$ amount per year couple both eligible A$ amount per year couple one eligible partner A$ amount per year couple separated due to ill health
Maximum basic rate $22,937.20 $34,580.00 $17,290.00 $22,937.20
Basic Pension Supplement rat $642.20 $1,060.80 $530.40 $642.20
Total $23,579.40 $35,640.80 $17,820.40 $23,579.40

[Services Australia – these figures are a guide only and are effective from 20 September 2021.]

In summary, short-term travel has little effect on your pension income. Heading overseas for a longer time will need to be more carefully considered. So make sure you thoroughly understand the rules well before you leave.

And if in doubt, or need further information, our expert team are happy to explain all the rules. Book a consultation.

Have you headed away for a long period? If so, did you find it easy to manage your pension payments and concession card access? We’d love to hear your story.