Australia and Austria - Frequently Asked Questions 

Note: The following information is provided as a guide only. People should contact Centrelink International Services on 131 673 for specific information relating to their circumstances.



When did the Agreement start?

The Agreement started on 1 December 1992.

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What does the Agreement say?

The agreement is a treaty, and is written in typical treaty style language:

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What does the Agreement do?

Under the Agreement the two countries share responsibility for paying benefits to people who would otherwise not be entitled because they do not have enough residence in Australia or enough periods of contributions to the Austrian contributory social insurance scheme. It also helps people who could not otherwise claim a benefit because they are living abroad.

This means that because of the Agreement, many people will get two benefits, one from each country.

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What payments does the Agreement cover?

The social security payments covered by the Agreement are as follows:
 

Australia

  • age pension
  • disability support pension (DSP)
  • wife pension
  • carer pension, and
  • benefits for widowed persons

Austria

  • retirement pension
  • early retirement pension
  • disability pension
  • surviving spouse's pension
  • orphan's pension
  • additional amounts for dependent children
  • 'hiflosenzuschuss' (helpless person allowance)
  • 'pflegegeld' (personal care benefit), and
  • 'ausgleichszulage' (supplementary payment)

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What are the main features of the Agreement?

Australian legislation requires minimum residence periods in Australia for age, disability support and widow pensions. It also requires you to be living in Australia to claim a benefit. Under the Agreement, Austrian periods of contributions can be treated by Australia as periods of residence in Australia.

Austrian legislation requires minimum periods of social insurance to qualify for benefits. Under the Agreement, periods of working life residence in Australia can be treated by Austria as periods of social insurance.

These periods are added together to meet the minimum periods required for the benefits offered by each country under the Agreement. These deemed periods do not affect the amount of benefit.

In addition, a person who resides in Austria can claim a benefit from Australia without having to return to Australia to live.

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Where and how are claims made?

People living in Australia can lodge claims for Austrian and Australian benefits with any Regional Office of Centrelink (formerly Social Security). Centrelink will supply all the necessary claim forms.

People living in Austria can lodge claims for Australian and Austrian benefits with one of Austria's Pension Insurance Funds.

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When does payment start?

In Australia's case, this is the first payday after lodgement of the claim for which the person was qualified. Age pension claims can be lodged up to 3 months in advance of qualification.

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How are Agreement pensions and benefits paid?

When you live in Australia

Australian pensions are paid by Centrelink. Payments are usually made into a person's nominated bank account every two weeks.

Austria pays its own pensions and benefits through one of their Austrian Pension Insurance Funds.

People who get a pension from both countries, will get two separate payments – one from Australia and one from Austria.
 

Temporarily absent from Australia

People who get an Australian pension, and travel to Austria, or another country (other than New Zealand), for less than 12 months, will continue to have their pension paid into their nominated bank account in Australia every two weeks subject to ongoing qualification.
 

Permanently absent from Australia

People who get an Australian pension, and leave Australia for a country other than New Zealand permanently or for more than 12 months, will be paid their pension by cheque every 4 weeks to their overseas address. Cheques paid to customers in Austria are in US dollars.

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What documents do I need to make a claim?

To make a claim a person needs to complete a claim form and provide documents to show identity, date of birth, marriage etc. The most helpful documents are:

  • birth certificates and passports (including expired and foreign passports) and naturalisation/citizenship papers
  • marriage certificate(s)
  • birth certificates for any dependent children
  • death certificates or divorce papers if applicable
  • any documents proving periods of residence in Australia
  • any documents proving periods of contribution and/or residence in Austria
  • any documents which could be useful, for example, bank statements, proof of rent or home ownership, Taxation Notice of Assessment

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What are the important things to know about the Australian Social Security System?

All claimants for Australian Agreement pensions need to meet the other conditions (eg age limits, income and assets tests) required for that pension under Australia's social security laws.

Australian pensions are means-tested. For information about the current income and assets test limits, visit the Centrelink website.

The Age Pension age for men is 65. The Age Pension age for women is gradually being increased to 65 – see Centrelink - Age Pension benefit information for details of Age Pension ages for women.

Australian working life residence is the period of Australian residence between age 16 and Age Pension age.

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How much Australian pension will I get if I am paid under this Agreement?

Australian pensions for people who are outside Australia are calculated differently to pensions for those who are inside Australia.
 

Australian pension for a person living in Australia

When a person living in Australia is granted a pension under the Agreement (because of lack of qualifying residence), the person receives the normal means-tested pension less the amount of any Austrian benefit they also receive.

The Austrian benefit is 'topped up' to the rate of Australian pension they would get if they did not receive any Austrian benefit.

Once a person qualifies for an Australian pension in his or her own right (without needing the Agreement) any Austrian benefit is treated as income in the normal way.
 

Australian pension for a person not living in Australia

The rate of Australian pension payable outside Australia is affected by two things:

  • length of Australian residence during working life; and
  • the amount of income or assets in excess of specified limits.

Australian pensions paid overseas are paid at a proportional rate reflecting the person's working life residence in Australia. A person with 25 years residence during 'working life' (between 16 and Age Pension age) can be paid a full basic means-tested pension. A person with less than 25 years Australian working life residence, has his or her rate worked out on a proportional basis.

For example, a person with 20 years working life residence would receive 20/25ths (or 80 per cent) of the basic means-tested pension rate; a person with 12 years working life residence would receive 12/25ths (or 48 per cent).

The income and assets test also apply, so that a person with 25 years of working life residence in Australia could still receive only a part pension if their income or assets exceeded the threshold limits. For more information about the current income and assets limits, visit the Centrelink website.

Under the Agreement, when a pension is paid overseas at a proportional rate, only the same proportion of any contributory Austrian pension received is counted as income for the income test. This also applies to pensions granted without the assistance of the Agreement.

Also, when any Australian benefit is paid to a person in Austria, any means-tested Austrian benefit that the person also receives (like Ausgleichszulage) are not counted as income for Australian benefit.

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Examples

Residents of Australia

Following are some examples of how the Agreement assists people living in Australia:
 

Example 1

Situation
Mr Schmidt is 65 and has lived in Australia for 20 years. Before moving to Australia he already had 13 years of insurance in Austria.

Entitlement
  • Without the Agreement
    Mr Schmidt would continue to get an Australian pension, but no Austrian pension.
  • With the Agreement
    Mr Schmidt can add his 20 years of Australian residence to his 13 years of insurance in Austria to meet Austrian qualification requirements for retirement pension. The amount of Austrian pension payable would reflect the 13 years of insurance. Mr Schmidt would continue to get an Australian pension but the rate might be reduced depending on how much Austrian pension is paid.


Example 2

Situation
Mr Braun is 65 and has lived in Australia for 7 years. Before moving to Australia he lived in Austria and he had 20 years of insurance in Austria.

Entitlement
  • Without the Agreement
    Mr Braun cannot get an Australian age pension because he has not lived in Australia for more than 10 years.
  • With the Agreement
    Mr Braun can add his 7 years of Australian residence to his 20 years of insurance in Austria so that he meets the minimum 10 years Australian residence required to qualify for an Austalian age pension.

    Also, Centrelink would assist him in claiming any Austrian pension he may be entitled to.


Residents of Austria

Following are some examples of how the Agreement assists people living in Austria.
 

Example 1

Situation
Mr Koch, who lived for 20 years in Australia during his working life is now living in Austria and is already receiving an Austrian benefit. He left Australia before reaching age pension age and therefore would not get an Australian benefit without the Agreement.

Entitlement
  • Without an Agreement
    Although Mr Koch has more than the 10 years required for Australian age pension, a proper claim cannot be made as the person is not an Australian resident and in Australia.
  • With the Agreement
    Australian age pension could be claimed and paid in Austria. The Australian benefit rate would be proportionalised; 20/25 of the means-tested rate would be paid. The same proportion of Austrian benefit (but not any 'Ausgleichszulage') would be counted as income.


Example 2

Situation
Mr Weber is 65 and he has 19 years of contribution in Austria but has also lived in Australia for 10 months

Entitlement
  • Without an Agreement
    Mr Weber would be entitled to an Austrian pension only. No Australian pension could be paid because of insufficient Australian residence and also because Mr Weber is not an Australian resident and in Australia.
  • With the Agreement
    No change. Mr Weber will still receive an Austrian pension but would not be entitled to an Australian age pension because the minimum period of Australian residence required for the grant of Australian benefit to a person living outside Australia is 1 year (of which at least 6 months must be continuous.


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How do I find out more?

This information is a general guide only. For more information:


Current as at April 2000
Prepared by International Branch, Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services

Last updated: