Social Security Agreement between Australia and Germany - 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?
- When did the Supplementary Agreement start?
- What does the Supplementary Agreement do?
- What payments are covered by the Agreement?
- What are the main features of the Agreement?
- Claiming a German pension
- Claims for increased German pensions by Australian citizens
- Claiming an Australian pension
- When does payment start?
- How are Agreement pensions and benefits paid?
- Who handles claims and questions?
- How your German pension will affect your Australian pension
- Exempt income
- 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 this Agreement?
- How do I find out more?
The Agreement commenced on 1 January 2003.
Under the Agreement, Australia and Germany share responsibility for paying pensions to people who would otherwise not be entitled because they do not have enough residencein Australia, or the minimum five years of German periods of coverage. It also helps people who could not otherwise claim an Australian pension because they are living outside Australia; and gives Australian citizens equal treatment with German citizens (see Claims for increased German pensions by Australian citizens).
The Supplementary Agreement came into effect from 1 October 2008. The Social Security Agreement signed by the Governments of Australia and Germany in 2000 is not affected by the Supplementary Agreement.
The Supplementary Agreement contains provisions that avoid the need for contributions into both countries' systems for an employee seconded to work temporarily in the other country. For Australia, this affects the Superannuation Guarantee. The Australian Taxation Office is responsible for the administration of these provisions.
Contact the Australian Taxation Office if you require more information on this aspect of the Agreement.
The social security benefits covered by the Agreement are as follows:
- age pension
- disability support pension
- carer payment (for partners of Australian disability support or age pensioners)
- pensions payable to widowed persons (parenting payment single and bereavement allowance)
- double orphan pension
- old age (retirement) pension
- early age (early retirement) pension
- reduced earning capacity pension (for disabled persons):
(a) partial/complete reduction in earning capacity
(b) miner's pension
- child raising pension
- widow's/widower's pension
- orphan pension
There are some restrictions on qualification for certain payments. For details on how these apply to your individual circumstances you should contact Centrelink International Services.
Australian legislation generally requires a minimum of 10 years' Australian residence before someone can claim an Age Pension or a Disability Support Pension (this rule changes if someone becomes disabled after taking up permanent residence in Australia). It also requires that a person is an Australian resident and in Australia when claiming a pension. The Department of Human Services website has information on residence requirements for payments covered by the Agreement.
Note: Parenting Payment (single) and Bereavement Allowance have different residence requirements to Age Pension and Disability Support Pension.
German legislation generally requires a person to have a minimum of five years of insurance coverage to qualify for retirement, disability and survivor payments. However, sometimes entitlement to a survivor's pension can exist with less than five years' German periods of coverage, ie if the insured person's death is the result of particular circumstances, eg industrial injury.
Under the Agreement, for the purposes of meeting minimum qualifying periods only, periods of Australian Working Life Residence are treated by Germany as German periods of coverage. In the same way, German periods of coverage are treated by Australia as periods of residence in Australia.
These periods are added together to meet the minimum periods required for the pensions offered by each country under the Agreement. Note, however, that these deemed periods do not affect the amount of pension payable.
A person who resides in Germany will be able to claim a pension from Australia without having to return to Australia for that purpose. Without the Agreement, a person would have to be residing in Australia in order to claim an Australian pension.
To use the Agreement to claim an Australian pension while residing in Germany, a person must have actually resided in Australia during their working life (between age 16 and Age Pension age) for a minimum of 12 months (at least six months of which must have been continuous).
To use the Agreement to claim a German pension a person must have at least one contribution to a German insurance fund.
Centrelink is the official liaison agency for the German pension authorities. It accepts claims for German pensions and verifies the personal details of claimants. This involves the use of official, bilingual claim forms and close contact between the Liaison Agencies of the two countries, aimed at streamlining the lodgement, assessment and decision making processes in both countries.
Centrelink also provides additional services, such as certifying and forwarding copies of original customer identity documents (eg passports, birth certificates etc), as well as statements of Australian 'Working Life Residence'. Centrelink is the only organisation in Australia authorised to provide all of these services.
If you are living in Australia you can lodge a claim for a German pension at any Centrelink Customer Service Centre. Bilingual claim forms are available from Centrelink. Details of Centrelink locations can be found on the Department of Human Services website.
The date a German pension claim is lodged with Centrelink will be used as the date of lodgement in Germany and any pension subsequently granted by Germany is generally payable from that date.
Immediately after the Agreement started Centrelink contacted those customers whose Centrelink records indicated that they had resided in Germany but who had no record of claiming a German pension, or who had previously been ineligible for a German pension due to having insufficient German periods of coverage.
If you applied directly to Germany in the past, before the start of the Agreement, but were unsuccessful because you had insufficient German periods of coverage, you can retest your eligibility by requesting a bilingual German pension claim pack from Centrelink.
If you are living in Germany you can lodge a claim for a German pension direct with your German insurance fund.
- Centrelink's services are available to all people, including non-Centrelink customers, who wish to claim a German pension from Australia.
- In addition, German insurance funds have a duty to conduct any necessary research, including in archives, to verify German contributions.
- These services, in both countries, are provided free of charge.
If you have been receiving a part German pension (because you are not a German citizen), you may be entitled to a higher rate of German pension now that the Agreement has come into force (if you are an Australian citizen).
Centrelink has written to its existing customers, asking them to complete a Proforma letter requesting this increase (if they are Australian citizens). When returned to Centrelink these Proformas are forwarded to Germany for assessment.
Australian citizens who are not Centrelink customers can write directly to the relevant German insurance fund, requesting this increase (at the same time providing their full name and German insurance number).
Germany has advised that there could be delays in processing requests for increases in German pensions, due to the high numbers involved. However, the German insurance funds will pay arrears of the increases back to the start date of the Agreement (provided these requests are lodged within four years).
Australian pension claims can be lodged when residing in Australia or Germany or a third country with which Australia has implemented an agreement on social security that includes provision for co-operation in the lodgement and determination of claims for benefits.
If you are living in Germany, claims for Australian pensions can be obtained from and lodged with your German insurance fund.
If you are living in Australia, or a third country, claims for an Australian pension can be obtained from and lodged with your local Centrelink office or Centrelink International Services, respectively.
In Australia's case, payment starts from the date the claim is lodged or, if a claim is lodged early, the date the person qualifies for payment.
German pensions generally will be paid from three to four months prior to the date of lodgement, if entitlement existed.
If you get an Australian pension and are living in Australia, the Department of Human Services will pay this directly into your bank account every 2 weeks. If, however, you are living in Germany, your pension will be paid directly into your nominated German bank account in Euros every 4 weeks.
German pensions and benefits are paid monthly, in arrears, by the German insurance funds into customers' Australian bank accounts.
Many people will, of course, get pensions from both countries and will get two separate payments - one from Australia and one from Germany.
Customers living in Australia, wishing to claim a German or Australian pension, should contact their local Centrelink Customer Service Centre.
Customers living in Germany, wishing to claim an Australian or German pension, should contact their German insurance fund.
Customers living elsewhere, wishing to claim an Australian pension under the Agreement, should contact Centrelink International Services.
Customers with any questions about their payments should contact the relevant country's payment office direct (eg. customers receiving an Australian pension, in Germany, should contact Centrelink International Services, with any questions).
Most people can receive a German pension without losing their entitlement to an Australian pension. The German pension will usually only reduce the Australian pension rate by 40 cents for every dollar received from Germany (even less if the customer has no other income or is receiving a married rate of Australian pension).
People receiving 'Restitution' payments* from Germany have this income exempted in the calculation of their Australian pensions.
If you are in receipt of an Australian benefit, and believe your German pension may be a 'Restitution' payment, you can check with Centrelink to make sure this income is not being counted against your Australian benefit.
* Restitution payments are regular pension payments from Germany (as opposed to one-off lump sum compensation) to victims of National Socialist persecution.
Other exempt income
In addition, most German 'social assistance' payments and payments of a similar character (paid to people living in Germany) will also be treated as exempt income.
When claiming an Australian pension you will need to provide proof of your identity and Australian residence. If you are a resident of Germany, proof of your identity will be established by the German authorities; however, proof of former Australian residence will still be required.
Some of the acceptable documents to prove your identity and Australian residence are:
- Australian birth certificate
- Certificate of Australian citizenship
- Australian or overseas passport that shows your date of arrival in Australia
- Entry visa
- Employment and/or tax records, including group certificates issued by Australian employers
Note: These are only a few of the documents which can be used to prove your identity and your Australian residence. Centrelink can provide more information on other documents acceptable for this purpose.
For all claims, as proof of nationality, customers should provide originals or certified copies of one (or more) of the following:
- naturalisation certificate
- German personal identity card, or
- other documentary proof of citizenship
Persons claiming a survivor's pension should also provide a:
- marriage certificate
- insured person's death certificate, and
- divorce decree absolute (if appropriate)
All claimants for Australian Agreement pensions need to meet other qualifications (eg age limits) required for that pension under Australia's social security laws. Australian pensions are means tested ie, an assets test is applied and then an income test, and whichever test produces the lower rate is used for the assessment. The pension rate is not affected by the income and assets test at the same time. For information about the current income and assets test limits, visit the Department of Human Services website.
The rates of Australian pension payable outside Australia are affected by two things: the length of residence in Australia 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 length of the person’s period of Australian Working Life Residence (AWLR) in Australia. For claims made since 1 July 2014, a person with 35 years AWLR (the years between age 16 and Age Pension age) can be paid a full pension (subject to the means test). With fewer than 35 years, the rate is worked out on a proportional basis, so that someone with 20 years AWLR would receive 20/35ths (or 57 per cent) of an Australian pension rate.
In addition the income and assets tests apply, so that a person with 35 years of AWLR could still receive only a part pension if their income or assets exceed the threshold limits. For information about the current income and assets test, visit the Department of Human Services website.
When an Australian pension is paid outside Australia a concession may apply on the proportion of any German contributory pension received which is counted as income for the income test. This also applies to pensions granted without the assistance of the Agreement.
When a pension is granted in Australia under the Agreement (because of a lack of sufficient residence in Australia), the person receives the normal means tested pension, less the amount of any German pension received. In other words, any German pension received by the person directly reduces the Australian pension rate dollar for dollar.
Note: Some German payments are not counted as income under Australia's income test (see exempt income).
Following are examples of how the Agreement assists people living in Germany.
A person who lived for 20 years in Australia during working life (between age 16 and age pension age) is now living in Germany and is already receiving a German retirement pension. This person left Australia before receiving an Australian pension.
- Without an Agreement
Although this person has more than the 10 years required for an Australian age pension, he/she will not qualify for payment because the person is not an Australian resident and in Australia at the time of lodging the claim.
- With an Agreement
Australian pension can be claimed and paid while the person is in Germany. The Australian pension rate would be proportionalised, that is, the person would receive 20/35ths of the means tested rate.
A 65-year-old man in Germany has the minimum 5 years of German periods of coverage required to qualify for a German retirement pension, but has only ever lived in Australia for 9 months.
- Without an Agreement
This person is entitled to German 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 an Agreement
No change. This person will still receive a German pension but will not 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 woman aged 65 has lived and worked in Australia for 8 years during her working life (between age 16 and Age Pension age). She has 4 years of contributions to the German pension fund. She is now living in Germany.
- Without an Agreement
She will not qualify for an Australian pension because she is not living in Australia and if she were, she would not have the minimum 10 years of residence required to claim an age pension. Also, she would not qualify for a German retirement pension, because she does not have the minimum five years of German periods of coverage.
- With an Agreement
She will be able to claim and qualify for an Australian Age Pension while living in Germany because her 8 years residence in Australia and her 4 years of contributions to an insurance fund in Germany add up to more than 10 years. Her rate of payment would be 8/35ths of the full rate of an Australian Age Pension, subject to the means test. She would also be able to receive a German pension, because she already has the minimum (one) contribution required to a German insurance fund and can use the 8 years she has lived in Australia to make up the minimum five years of German periods of coverage required.
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.