Foreign pensions

Last updated: 
17 January 2020

This page explains what foreign pensions are, the requirement to lodge a claim for any foreign pension to which you may be entitled, how foreign pensions are assessed, and your obligations in relation to foreign pensions.

What is a foreign pension?

A ‘foreign pension’ is a payment that is:

  • available from a foreign country; and
  • similar to a service pension, income support supplement or a social security pension.

If you have lived and worked in another country, or have made contributions to a social security system or superannuation scheme in another country, you may be entitled to receive a foreign pension.

In the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 these pensions are known as ‘comparable foreign pensions’.

Requirement to apply for any foreign pension owing to you

Anyone claiming or in receipt of a service pension or income support supplement is required to also claim any foreign pensions to which they may be entitled. If you have a partner who is eligible for foreign pension, they are also required to claim any foreign pension to which they may be entitled, even if they are not claiming or in receipt of a pension in Australia themselves.

This is to ensure that pensioners maximise their total income by claiming any entitlements they may have from an overseas social security system or superannuation scheme.

Eligibility for any foreign pension depends on the requirements of the particular country, such as length of residency or employment. Although we may be able to advise you in general terms about the eligibility requirements, we cannot decide whether you are eligible.

Agreement countries

The Australian Government has negotiated international social security agreements with the following countries (known as ‘agreement countries’):

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Latvia
  • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • USA

Claim forms for pensions from the agreement countries are available from Centrelink offices. DVA staff can help you complete the forms if necessary, and can also assist you with any enquiries you might have.

Claims for pensions from the agreement countries should be lodged with Centrelink. Centrelink will ensure that you have completed the appropriate forms and provided the necessary documents for the claim, and will lodge the claim with the agreement country on your behalf. The date on which Centrelink receives a claim is accepted by most agreement countries as the official date of lodgement of a claim for a pension from that country.

For more information about these pensions contact Centrelink International Services on 131 673.

Other countries which pay foreign pensions

There are a number of countries that will pay pensions to former residents now living in Australia, although they do not have an international social security agreement with the Australian Government. These are referred to as non-agreement countries.

To claim a pension from a non-agreement country you need to write a letter to the relevant authority in that country. You should include as much information as possible about your working life in that country. DVA can assist you in drafting the letter, however, neither DVA nor Centrelink can lodge the claim on your behalf.

Contact details for the relevant authority in non-agreement countries are available by calling Centrelink International Services on 131 673.

Travelling overseas

If you are travelling to a country where you may have an entitlement to claim a foreign pension, you are required to make a claim for that foreign pension while you are in the paying country. If you have previously applied and been rejected because of location restrictions you are also required to apply while you are in the paying country.

Exemptions from claiming a foreign pension

You are not required to claim a foreign pension if there is a risk of danger to you or your family, for example, if you are a former refugee.

Also, if a country is in a state of civil war, or is politically or economically unstable, you do not have to apply. This is because your claim would have little chance of being processed.

What if you are granted a foreign pension?

The country you are claiming from will advise you directly if you have been granted a pension. They will also advise you of the payment details. If you are granted a foreign pension, and you receive an income support pension from DVA, you would need to tell us within 14 days (28 days if you live overseas or receive remote area allowance) of receiving advice that you have been granted an overseas pension.

Foreign pensions counted as income

Foreign pensions (except foreign war disability pensions) are counted as income in the assessment of your service pension, income support supplement, or social security payment. If you receive a lump sum payment representing a period of retrospective foreign pension entitlement, your Australian pension will be reassessed over that period.

Foreign war disability pensions are not counted as income in the assessment of service pensions. However, they are counted as income in the assessment of income support supplement and pensions and benefits paid under the Social Security Act 1991.

Exchange rates for British income

DVA monitors the market exchange rate for pounds sterling. The exchange rate used during the monitoring period is the ‘On Demand Air Mail Buying Rate’ as supplied by the Commonwealth Bank. This rate has been used to convert pounds sterling to Australian dollars since the passage of the Social Security and Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Act (No.4) in 1989. If the exchange rate varies by plus or minus 2.5%, that new rate will be reflected in your next pension instalment.

This means you don’t have to tell us about exchange rate variations.

Exchange rates for other currencies

The exchange rates used to convert the current gross rate of other foreign currencies into Australian dollars are the ‘telegraphic transfer buying rates’ as supplied by the Commonwealth Bank. For infrequently traded currencies not available from the Commonwealth Bank, an appropriate exchange rate is obtained from foreign currency sites on the internet.

Exchange rates are updated on the Friday prior to the DVA payday for all currencies.

Exchange rates for other currencies, continued

Updated exchange rates are only applied:

  • in March and September each year; and
  • when you ask for a re-assessment; and
  • when you notify a change for any foreign pension; and
  • when you notify a change for any managed investment or share.

The actual foreign currency amount of the pension or annuity is only updated when you notify of a change in the foreign currency amount actually paid to you.

Failure to apply for a foreign pension

If you or your partner do not apply for a foreign pension for which you might be eligible, DVA can reject your claim for service pension or income support supplement. If you are already being paid service pension or income support supplement, you and your partner may be required to apply for a foreign pension. If either of you do not do so within a reasonable time, your service pension or income support supplement may be suspended or cancelled.

If you or your partner are eligible for an overseas pension and refuse it, we may consider it as deprived income and count the amount as income for pension purposes. For more information refer to Giving Away Income or Assets.

Obligations

When you are granted an income support pension, and periodically after that, you will be notified of your obligations. You will be required to tell us within 14 days (28 days if you live overseas or receive remote area allowance) of changes to your circumstances that might affect the rate of income support pension you receive or your eligibility to receive that pension. These obligations apply equally to trustees.

In relation to your foreign pension, you need to tell us within 14 days (28 days if you live overseas or receive remote area allowance) of receiving advice that you have been granted a foreign pension, or if the amount of your payment is varied. You do not need to tell us of changes to the exchange rate.

Usually an overpayment of pension will not occur when you have met your obligations. However, sometimes even if you have met your obligations, an overpayment can occur because we have not been able to process the change before the next payday. We do our best to avoid this occurring, but it is not always possible. To provide you with your exact entitlement we are obliged to recover overpayments of pension where they do occur.