Australia and Belgium - 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 July 2005.

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What does the Agreement do?

Under the Agreement, Australia and Belgium share the responsibility for paying pensions to people who would not otherwise be entitled to a pension from one or both countries. Under Australia's residence based system, this could be because they do not have enough (permanent) residence here and/or are not living in Australia. Under Belgium's pension system, this could be because of a combination of their country of residence and/or their citizenship. In summary, the agreement helps people who could not otherwise claim a pension because of where they are living; it does this by overcoming restrictions in each country's domestic legislation.

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What payments are covered by the Agreement?

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

Australia

  • age pension (for grant in Australia or Belgium)
  • disability support pension for the severely disabled (essentially, for grant in Australia only)

Belgium

  • old-age pension (for grant in Belgium or Australia)
  • survivor's pension (for grant in Belgium or Australia)
  • invalidity pension (essentially, for grant in Belgium only)

Note: civil service pensions are not covered under the Agreement.

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What are the main features of the Agreement?

Australian legislation requires a person to have a minimum of 10 years of Australian residence before he/she can claim an Age pension. It also requires a person to be an Australian resident and in Australia on the day the claim for pension is lodged.

The Agreement allows people to use insurance periods in Belgium to add to their residence in Australian, in order to make up the 10 years Australian residence required to qualify for Australian Age pension.

The Agreement also allows a person to claim an Australian Age pension while residing in Belgium.

Note: To use the Agreement to claim an Australian Age pension while residing in Belgium, a person must have actually resided in Australia during their working life (Australian working life residence is between age 16 and 'Age pension' age), for a minimum of 12 months.

Belgian pensions, in general, are not payable outside Belgium unless the insured person is/was a citizen of: Belgium, another European Economic Area (EEA) member country, or one of Belgium's Agreement countries. Pensions for work as a miner are payable anywhere in the world, irrespective of citizenship, but at a reduced rate (80 per cent of entitlement). The Agreement will enable people to claim the full entitlement of their Belgian pensions.

Centrelink can assist anyone in claiming any Belgian pension to which they may be entitled, including non-Centrelink customers.

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How do seconded workers benefit under the Agreement?

The Agreement contains provisions which mean that superannuation/pension contributions do not have to be made into both countries' systems for an employee seconded to work temporarily in the other country. The Australian Taxation office is responsible for administering these provisions. Contact the Australian Taxation Office if you require more information on this aspect of the Agreement.

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Where and how can people lodge claims for pensions under the Agreement?

In Australia

People living in Australia can lodge claims for Australian and Belgian pensions with any Centrelink office.
 

In Belgium

People living in Belgium can lodge claims for Belgian and Australian pensions at the following offices:

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When do payments start?

In Australia's case, payment starts from the date the claim is lodged, or if lodged early, the date the person qualifies for payment.

Note: claims for a pension from one country may, in certain circumstances, be considered as a claim for a pension from the other country (lodged on the same date as the original claim).

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How are agreement pensions paid?

If you get an Australian pension in Australia, Centrelink will pay it directly into your bank account every 2 weeks.

If you get an Australian pension and you reside permanently in Belgium, Centrelink will pay it into your Belgian bank account every 4 weeks.

If you get a pension from Belgium, it will be paid to you by the National Pension Office (for salaried workers) or the National Institute for the Social Insurance of Self-Employed Persons. Payments are made monthly, by cheque.

Some people might get pensions from both countries so they will get two separate payments - one from Australia and one from Belgium.

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Who handles claims and questions?

For Australian pensions you can telephone Centrelink International Services:

  • if residing in Australia on 13 1673
  • if residing in Belgium or a third (agreement) country on +61 3 6222 3455 (reverse charges)

For Belgian pensions you can contact:


 

Salaried workers: National Pension Office

Dutch (RVP)
Rijksdienst voor Pensioenen
Zuidertoren
B-1060 BRUSSEL
BELGIUM
Phone: +32 2 529 3002
Email: Info (info@rvponp.fgov.be)

French (ONP)
Office National des Pensions
Tour du Midi
B-1060 BRUXELLES
BELGIUM
Phone: +32 2 529 3001
Email: Info (info@rvponp.fgov.be)

Self-employed persons: National Institute for the Social Insurance of Self-Employed Persons

Dutch (RSVZ)
Rijksinstituut voor de Sociale
Verzekeringen der Zelfstandigen
Jan Jacobsplein 6
1000 BRUSSEL
BELGIUM
Phone: +32 2 546 4522
Email: Mailcnh (mailcnh@rsvz-inasti.fgov.be)

French (INASTI)
Institut National d'Assurances Sociales
pour les Travailleurs Indépendants
Place Jan Jacobs 6
1000 BRUXELLES
BELGIUM
Phone: +32 2 546 4521
Email: Mailcnh (mailcnh@rsvz-inasti.fgov.be)

Civil service employees are not covered by the Agreement. If you worked in the civil service in Belgium you will need to contact the authorities below.

Dutch (AP)
Administratie der Pensioenen
Victor Hortaplein 40 - bus 30
1060 BRUSSEL
Phone: +32 2 558 6000
Email: Info (info@ap.fgov.be)

French (AP)
Administration des Pensions
Place Victor Horta 40 - boîte 30
1060 BRUXELLES
Phone: +32 2 558 6000
Email: Info (info@ap.fgov.be)

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What documents do I need to make a claim?

Australian Pensions

When you claim an Australian pension you will need to complete a claim form and provide documents to prove your identity and periods of residence in Australia.
 

Proof of identity

Some of the acceptable documents to prove your identity are:

  • birth certificate or extract
  • current Australian passport
  • certificate of Australian citizenship

Proof of Australian residence

Helpful documents that can assist you to prove your current or previous Australian residence include:

  • Australian or overseas passport that shows your date of arrival in Australia
  • Entry visa
  • Australian citizenship papers
  • Employment and/or tax records, including group certificates issued by Australian employers

Note: These are only a few of the documents that can be used to prove your identity and your Australian residence. Centrelink is able to provide more information about other acceptable documents which can be used to prove your identity and Australian residence.

If you are claiming an Australian pension while you are living in Belgium, you will still have to provide proof of identity and proof of previous Australian residence to the Belgian authorities (who will assist in the verification process).

Note: bi-lingual instructions in English/Dutch and English/French are available to assist you in lodging Australian Age pension claims while you are resident in Belgium.
 

Belgian Pensions

The Belgian authorities can advise you on the documentation you need to provide.

Note: claim forms (with bi-lingual instructions in English/Dutch and English/French) are available to assist you in lodging claims while you are resident in Australia.

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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 other qualifications (eg age limits, income and assets tests) required for that pension under Australia's social security laws. Australian pensions are means tested, that is, an assets test is applied and then an income test is applied, and whichever produces the lower rate is used for the assessment. Centrelink has information about the current income and assets test limits.

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

Australian pension for a person living in Belgium or a third (agreement) country

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

  • the length of a person's Australian working life residence, and
  • the amount of income and assets in excess of specified limits (ie the means test).

Australian pensions paid overseas are paid at a proportional rate reflecting the length of Australian working life residence. A person with 25 years Australian working life residence (ie the number of years spent in Australia between age 16 and 'Age pension' age) could be paid a full pension (subject to the means test). People with fewer than 25 years have their rate worked out on a proportional basis. For example, a person with 15 years Australian working life residence would receive 15/25th (60 per cent) of an Australian pension.

The income and assets tests also apply, so that a person with 25 years Australian working life residence can still receive a part pension if his or her income and assets exceed allowable limits (so-called 'free areas'). Centrelink has information about the current income and assets test limits.
 

Australian pension for a person living in Australia

When a pension is granted in Australia under the Agreement (because the person does not meet the minimum residence requirements), the person receives the normal means-tested pension less the amount of any Belgian pension he or she also receives. The Belgian pension is 'topped up' to the rate of Australian pension the person would get if all they received was an Australian pension.

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

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Examples

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

Example 1

A person who lived in Australia for 20 years during working life (between age 16 years and 'Age pension' age) is now living in Belgium and is already receiving a Belgian old-age pension. The person left Australia before receiving an Australian Age pension.

Entitlement

  • Without the Agreement
    Although this person has more than the 10 years Australian residence required to qualify for Australian Age pension, he/she does not qualify for payment because the person is not an Australian resident and in Australia at the time of lodging the claim.
  • With the Agreement
    Australian Age pension can be claimed while the person is in Belgium. The pension rate will be proportionalised, that is, the person will receive 20/25th of the means-tested rate. The same proportion of Belgian pension will be counted as income.


Example 2

A 65 year old woman in Belgium is already receiving a Belgian old-age pension. She lived in Australia during her working life (between age 16 and 'Age pension' age), but only for 9 months.

Entitlement

  • Without the Agreement
    This woman is entitled to Belgian pension only. No Australian pension can be paid because she is not an Australian resident and also because she is not living in Australia.
  • With the Agreement
    No change. This woman will still receive a Belgian pension but won't be entitled to an Australian pension because the minimum period of Australian working life residence required for the grant of Australian pension under the Agreement to a person living outside Australia is 12 months.


Example 3

A 65 year old man in Belgium has also lived in Australia, as a permanent resident, for 6 years. Apart from that he has a total period of insurance in Belgium of 35 years.

Entitlement

  • Without the Agreement
    The man is entitled to Belgian pension only. No Australian pension can be paid because of lack of Australian residence and also because the person is not living in Australia.
  • With the Agreement
    The man can add his 6 years as an Australian resident to the 35 years of insurance in Belgium so that he meets the minimum 10 years Australian residence required to qualify for Australian 'Age pension'. His Australian pension rate will be proportionalised, that is, he will receive 6/25th of the means-tested rate. The same proportion of Belgian pension will be counted as income.

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How do I find out more?

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