Residency rules

Last updated: 
17 January 2020

This page explains the residency requirements for claiming service pension, income support supplement or veteran payment.

What is Residency?

Residency means living or dwelling in a place permanently, or for a long time. One of the basic eligibility requirements for payment of service pension, income support supplement (ISS) or veteran payment is that you are an Australian resident and are in Australia when you lodge your claim. Commonwealth and Allied veterans need to fulfil additional residency requirements before pension can be paid.

For information on the other eligibility requirements for service pension, ISS and the veteran payment, refer to Age and invalidity Service Pension and Income Support Supplement and Veteran Payment Overview.

Who is an Australian resident?

The Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) defines an Australian resident as a person who:

  • resides in Australia; and
  • is an Australian citizen; or
  • the holder of a permanent visa; or
  • the holder of a special category visa and likely to remain permanently in Australia; or
  • the holder of a special purpose visa and likely to remain permanently in Australia.

When deciding if a person resides in Australia, we look at:

  • their legal residency status, and the history of their residence
  • the reason for their stay in Australia and how long they expect to be here
  • if they are a frequent traveller overseas, the reasons for the travel as well as the regularity and length of overseas visits
  • the person’s accommodation arrangements in Australia, and whether provision has been made for a long stay
  • their family relationships in Australia
  • the type of employment, business or financial ties they have with Australia; and
  • any other relevant matters.

Australia includes the islands of Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Macquarie Island and Lord Howe Island.

For service pension, ISS and veteran payment purposes, Australia also includes the external territories.

External Territories of Australia

Norfolk Island is the only external territory of Australia. For service pension, ISS and veteran payment purposes it is considered to be part of Australia and its residents are therefore Australian residents.

Papua and New Guinea (PNG) were external territories of Australia until 16 September 1975. Non-indigenous people residing there immediately before that date are considered to be Australian residents until such time as they cease residing in PNG. If they then move to Australia, they of course continue to be Australian residents.

The island of Nauru was an external territory of Australia from 17 December 1920 until 31 August 1968. People who were domiciled or resident in Nauru during that time are considered to be Australian residents only for the specific period they resided in Nauru. The exceptions are people who would normally be considered Australian residents.

Basic residency requirements for claiming service pension, ISS and veteran payment

Veterans, mariners, partners, widows and widowers may claim service pension if they are:

  • an Australian resident; and
  • in Australia on the day on which the claim is lodged.

War widows and widowers may claim ISS if they are:

  • an Australian resident; and
  • in Australia on the day on which the claim is lodged.

Veterans (and their partners) may claim veteran payment if they are:

  • an Australian resident; and
  • in Australia on the day on which the claim is lodged.

The basic residency requirements do not apply to war widows and widowers whose service pension is changed automatically to ISS on the death of their veteran partner. This is because they do not have to lodge a claim for payment of ISS.

The basic residency requirements also do not apply to some people who are physically outside Australia and who already receive a service pension or Centrelink pension (see the section titled ‘Making claims from outside Australia’).

Additional residency requirements for Commonwealth veterans, allied veterans and allied mariners

Commonwealth veterans, allied veterans and allied mariners may claim service pension if, in addition to meeting the basic residency requirements outlined above:

  • they have, at any time, been an Australian resident for a continuous period of at least 10 years.

Documentary proof of 10 years’ residency must be provided.

The 10 year residency requirement is modified if a Commonwealth veteran, allied veteran or allied mariner has been an Australian resident during more than one period. You should contact DVA for more information.

Exceptions to the 10 year residency rule for Commonwealth and allied veterans, allied mariners

Commonwealth veterans, allied veterans and allied mariners may not need to satisfy the 10 year residency requirement if they are permanently incapacitated for work, and:

  • they became permanently incapacitated while an Australian resident, in Australia or during a temporary absence; and
  • the permanent incapacity was not brought about with a view to obtaining a service pension or a pension from Centrelink; and
  • there is no enforceable claim against any person, under any law or contract, for adequate compensation.

In cases like this, we establish the state of the person’s health at the time of arrival in Australia before making any decision.

Exceptions to the 10 year residency rule for refugees

People who are refugees and also either Commonwealth veterans, allied veterans or allied mariners do not need to meet the 10 year residency requirement. However we need to be satisfied that the person is a refugee or former refugee before service pension is granted. To do this we check with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

Making claims from outside Australia

There are some exceptions to the basic requirement of actually being in Australia when a claim is lodged.

These exceptions are for people who are physically outside Australia and who receive:

  • age, invalidity or partner service pension; or
  • any of the following Centrelink pensions or allowances:
    • age pension;
    • disability support pension;
    • wife pension;
    • carer payment;
    • parenting payment (single);
    • bereavement allowance;
    • widow B pension;
    • mature age partner allowance; or
    • special needs pension.

Such people may, provided they meet the eligibility criteria, transfer to a service pension, ISS or veteran payment as if they were Australian residents, and residing in Australia.

Payment of pensions, payments and allowances to people living overseas

Pensions paid to people who live overseas are administered by the Hobart Office. Generally, service pension, ISS and veteran payment can be paid to people who live overseas. Payments are made to your nominated bank account.

If you nominate an Australian bank account, payments will be made every second Thursday. The account must be in your name, including as a joint account with another person.

If you nominate a non-Australian bank account, your DVA payments will be made every four weeks. Each four-weekly deposit is the total of the amounts you are entitled to for the previous two fortnights. The account you nominate must be:

  • in your name, including as a joint account with another person; and
  • capable of receiving payments from overseas by direct deposit or international wire.

If you are a former resident of Australia and:

  • return to Australia; and
  • make a claim for service pension or ISS within 12 months of your return; and
  • leave Australia before the end of that period of 12 months;

your pension will not normally be paid while you are overseas.

Your pension may remain payable if reasons for returning overseas, before 12 months have elapsed, could not have reasonably been foreseen.

The following payments are not made if you are permanently residing overseas:

  • pension supplement (except for the pension supplement basic amount);
  • energy supplement;
  • veterans supplement;
  • rent assistance; and
  • remote area allowance.

Pensioner concession cards are not issued to people living overseas.