Social Security Agreement between Australia and Ireland - 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 say?
- 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 are claims made?
- When does payment start?
- How are Agreement pensions and benefits paid?
- Who handles claims and questions?
- What documents do I need to make a claim?
- What are the most important things to know about the Australian social security system?
- How much Australian pension will I get if I am paid under the Agreement?
- Examples for residents of Ireland
- How do I find out more?
The Agreement started on 1 April 1992. This Agreement has been updated and replaced with a new agreement, which commenced on 1 January 2006.
The Agreement is a treaty, and is written in typical treaty style language.
Under the Agreement the two countries share responsibility for paying pensions to people who would otherwise not be entitled because they do not have enough residence in Australia or enough periods of insurance to the Irish contributory social insurance scheme (PRSI). It also helps people who could not otherwise claim a pension because they are living abroad.
This means that because of the Agreement, many people will get two pensions, one from each country.
The social security payments covered by the Agreement are as follows:
- Age Pension
- Disability Support Pension (DSP) for severely disabled persons.
- pensions payable to widowed persons.
- old age (contributory) pension
- retirement pension
- invalidity pension
- widow's and widower's (contributory)pension
- orphan's (contributory)allowance, and
- bereavement grant; and
- the liability for the payment of employment and self-employment insurance.
NB. Irish social assistance (non-contributory) payments are not covered under the Agreement. Whether or not you will qualify depends entirely upon Ireland's welfare legislation.
Australian legislation requires minimum residence periods in Australia for age and disability support pensions and benefits for widowed persons. It also requires a person to be living in Australia to claim a pension. Under the Agreement, Irish periods of insurance are treated by Australia as periods of residence in Australia.
Irish legislation requires minimum periods of insurance to qualify for benefits. Under the Agreement, periods of working life residence in Australia are treated by Ireland as periods of insurance.
These periods are added together to meet the minimum periods required for the pensions offered by each country under the Agreement. These deemed periods do not affect the amount of pension.
In addition, a person who resides in Ireland can claim a pension from Australia without having to return to Australia to live.
The Agreement contains provisions, which mean that contributions/periods of insurance 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 the administration of 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 Irish and Australian pensions with their local Centrelink Customer Service Centre.
People living in Ireland can lodge claims for Australian and Irish benefits with their local office of the Irish Department of Social and Family Affairs.
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.
If you get an Australian pension in Australia, the 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 Ireland, the Department of Human Services will pay it into your nominated Irish bank account every 4 weeks. Payments to customers in Ireland are in Euros.
Ireland will pay its own pensions and benefits through the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
Some people might get pensions from both countries so they will get two separate payments - one from Australia and one from Ireland.
Claims and questions about the Agreement are handled:
- for Australia: by Centrelink International Services
- for Ireland: by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
You will need to complete a claim form and provide documents to show identity, date of birth, marriage, etc. The most helpful documents are:
- birth certificate and passports (including expired and foreign passports)and naturalisation/citizenship papers;
- marriage certificate and birth certificates for any dependent children;
- death certificates or divorce papers if applicable;
- any documents proving periods of residence in Australia; and
- any other documents which could be useful, for example, documents proving periods of insurance in Ireland.
All claimants for Australian Agreement pensions need to meet the other conditions (eg age limits, income or assets tests) required for that pension under Australia's social security laws. Australian pensions are means tested: an assets test is applied, and then an income test, and whichever test produces the lower rate is used for the assessment. For information about the current income and assets test limits, visit the Department of Human Services website.
If you wish to count your Australian residence as Irish periods of insurance, so that you can qualify for Irish pension, only residence between age 16 and age pension age can be used. The Age Pension age for men and women is 65. The Age Pension age is gradually being increased to 67 beginning in July 2017 – see the Department of Human Services website - Age Pension for details of Age Pension ages.
Australian pensions for people who are outside Australia are calculated differently to pensions for those who are inside Australia.
Australian pension for a person not living in Australia
The rates of Australian pension payable outside of Australia are affected by two things: 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 residence in Australia. For claims since 1 July 2014, a person with 35 years' residence during 'working life' (between age 16 and Age Pension age) can be paid a full pension (subject to the means test). With less than the 35 years, the rate is worked out on a proportional basis, so that someone with 20 years' working life residence would receive 20/35ths (or 57%) of the pension rate.
The income and assets tests also apply, so that a person with 35 years of working life residence in Australia could still receive only a part pension if their income or assets exceeded the threshold limits. For information about the current income and assets test limits, visit the Department of Human Services website.
When pension is paid outside Australia, a concession may apply on the proportion of any contributory Irish pension received which is counted as income for the income test. This also applies to pensions granted without the assistance of the Agreement.
Also, when any Australian pension is paid to a person in Ireland, any means-tested Irish payments that the person also receives (like non-contributory old age pension or supplementary welfare allowance) are not counted as income for Australian pension.
Australian pension for a person living in Australia
When a pension is granted in Australia under the Agreement (because of lack of residence), the person receives the normal means-tested pension less the amount of any Irish benefit they also receive. The Irish benefit is 'topped up' to the rate of Australian pension they would get if there were no Irish benefit. If the person qualifies for Australian pension without the Agreement, any Irish benefit is treated as income in the normal way.
Following are some examples of how the Agreement assists people living in Ireland
A person who lived for 20 years in Australia during working life is now living in Ireland and is already receiving an Irish pension. This person left Australia before reaching age pension age and therefore would not get an Australian pension without the Agreement.
- Without an Agreement
Although this person has more than the 10 years required for Australian Age Pension, a claim cannot be made as the person is not an Australian resident and in Australia.
- With the Agreement
Australian pension could be claimed and paid in Ireland. The Australian pension rate would be proportionalised; 20/35ths of the means-tested rate would be paid.
A 65 year old man in Ireland has 16 years of insurance in Ireland but has lived in Australia for only 9 months.
- Without an Agreement
This person would be entitled to an Irish pension only. No Australian pension could be paid because of lack of Australian residence and also because he is not living in Australia.
- With the Agreement
No change. This person will still receive Irish pension but would not be entitled to Australian pension because the minimum period of Australian residence required for the grant of Australian pension to a person living outside Australia is 1 year (of which at least 6 months must be continuous).
A woman aged 62 has lived in Australia for 8 years during working life (between age 16 and Age Pension age). She has 15 years of insurance in Ireland. She is now living in Ireland.
- Without an Agreement
She would not be able to claim an Australian pension but she would be eligible to claim an Irish benefit.
- With the Agreement
She would be able to claim an Australian Age Pension in Ireland because her 8 years' residence plus total periods of Irish periods of insurance add up to more than 10 years. Her rate of payment would be 8/35ths of the full rate, subject to the means test. She would still receive an Irish pension. If she was receiving an Irish welfare payment, there might be a reduction in that when Australian pension is granted.
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.