Social Security Agreement between 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?
- What does the Agreement do?
- What payments are covered by the Agreement?
- What are the main features of the Agreement?
- How do seconded workers benefit under the Agreement?
- Where and how can people lodge claims for pensions under the Agreement?
- When do payments start?
- How are agreement pensions paid?
- Who handles claims and questions?
- What documents do I need to make a claim?
- What are the important things to know about the Australian social security system?
- How much pension will I get if I am paid under the Agreement?
- How do I find out more?
The Agreement started on 1 July 2005.
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.
The social security pensions covered by the Agreement are as follows:
- Age Pension (for grant in Australia or Belgium)
- Disability Support Pension for the severely disabled (essentially, for grant in Australia only)
- 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.
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.
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.
People living in Australia can lodge claims for Australian and Belgian pensions with any Centrelink Customer Service Centre.
People living in Belgium can lodge claims for Belgian and Australian pensions at the following offices:
- Salaried workers: National Pension Office (RVP-ONP);
- Self-employed persons: National Institute for the Social Insurance of Self-Employed Persons (RSVZ-INASTI)
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).
If you get an Australian pension in Australia, he Department of Human Services will pay it directly into your bank account every 2 weeks.
If you get an Australian pension and you reside permanently in Belgium, the Department of Human Services will pay it into your nominated Belgian bank account every 4 weeks. Payments to customers in Belgium are in Euros.
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.
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 (call charges apply)
Salaried workers: National Pension Office
Self-employed persons: National Institute for the Social Insurance of Self-Employed Persons
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. For claims since 1 July 2014, a person with 35 years Australian working life residence (i.e. the number of years spent in Australia between age 16 and 'Age Pension' age) can be paid a full pension (subject to the means test). People with fewer than 35 years have their rate worked out on a proportional basis. For example, a person with 15 years Australian working life residence would receive 15/35ths (43 per cent) of an Australian pension.
The income and assets tests also apply, so that a person with 35 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'). Department of Human Services 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.
Following are examples of how the Agreement assists people living in Belgium:
A person who lived in Australia for 20 years during working life (between age 16 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.
- 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 20/35ths of the means-tested rate.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 6/35ths of the means-tested rate.
For more information on claim procedures and payments:
- Contact Centrelink International Services.
- Visit your local Centrelink Customer Service Centre.
- Department of Human Services Publications - Australia's International Social Security Agreements Factsheets
For more information on how the Agreement will assist seconded workers, contact the Australian Taxation Office.