Social Security Agreement between Australia and New Zealand - Frequently Asked Questions
Note: The following information is provided as a guide only. People should contact the Department of Human Services - International Services on 131 673 for specific information relating to their circumstances.
General arrangements for New Zealanders’ access to Australian income support payments
Access to most Australian social security payments changed from 26 February 2001. After that date, only New Zealanders moving to Australia who hold a permanent resident visa or have Australian citizenship, and reside in Australia are able to apply for the full range of social security payments. New Zealanders who were in Australia on 26 February 2001 were not affected by the changed arrangements and there were some other limited exceptions. The Department of Human Services - International Services is able to provide information on these exceptions.
New Zealanders who travel to Australia without obtaining a permanent resident visa, ie on a Special Category Visa can access certain social security payments covered by the Social Security Agreement between Australia and New Zealand. More information on the Agreement is below.
- When did the Agreement start?
- What does the Agreement do?
- What payments does the Agreement cover?
- What are the main features of the Agreement?
- What are the most important things to know about the Australian social security system?
- Where and how do I claim a pension?
- What age will I need to be to qualify for an Australian Age Pension or New Zealand Superannuation/Veterans Benefit?
- When can I claim a pension?
- What documents do I need to make a claim?
- How much pension will I receive under the Agreement?
- How are Agreement pensions paid?
- How does moving between Australia and New Zealand affect my pension?
- How do I find out more?
Australia has a long history of Social Security Agreements with New Zealand starting in 1944. Revised Agreements have been implemented in 1949, 1987, 1989 and 1995.
The current Social Security Agreement with New Zealand began operating on 1 July 2002. This Agreement replaced the 1995 Agreement.
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The Agreement allows people who enter Australia on a Special Category Visa (SCV) using a New Zealand passport to access certain social security income support payments.
Under the Agreement, Australia and New Zealand share responsibility for paying certain benefits, broadly according to the period people have lived in Australia and New Zealand (from 20 until 65 years of age).
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For Australia, the Agreement covers:
- Age Pension;
- Disability Support Pension (for the severely disabled); and
- Carer Payment (for partners of recipients of Disability Support Pension).
For New Zealand, the Agreement covers:
- New Zealand Superannuation;
- Veterans Pension; and
- Invalid’s Benefit (for the severely disabled), including married rates of Invalid’s Benefit.
Note: The Agreement does not cover workforce age payments such as Parenting Payment (single or partnered), Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance or Special Benefit. People moving from New Zealand to Australia who wish to obtain these payments must be:
- an Australian citizen;
- the holder of a permanent visa; or
- a protected SCV holder (generally this applies to SCV holders who were in Australia on 26 February 2001. Some other exceptions also apply).
A two-year newly arrived resident waiting period also applies to most social security payments.
New Zealanders living in Australia who do not fall into any of the above categories and are not covered by the Agreement may however qualify for some other payments, such as family payments. Further information is available on the Department of Human Services website.
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The Agreement helps people living in Australia and New Zealand, who have spent part of their working life in the other country, to claim a (part) pension from both countries.
Australian legislation generally requires a person to have a minimum of 10 years Australian residence before they can claim an age pension or disability support pension (this rule changes if the person becomes disabled after they take up permanent residence in Australia). It also requires the person to be an Australian resident and in Australia on the day the claim for pension is lodged.
The Agreement helps people access the Australian payments specified above by:
- allowing Special Category Visa (SCV) holders to claim an Australian pension;
- counting periods of working age residence in New Zealand (from 20 until 65) towards Australia's residence requirements for Age Pension
- counting any periods of residence in New Zealand towards Australia’s residence requirements for Disability Support Pension;
- allowing continued payment (subject to ongoing qualification) of these benefits in New Zealand; and
- allowing former Australian residents now living in New Zealand to claim an Australian pension.
Note: To use the Agreement to claim an Australian pension while residing in New Zealand, a person must have actually resided in Australia from the age of 20 until 65 for a minimum of 12 months. The Department of Human Services website has information on residence requirements for payments covered by the Agreement.
New Zealand legislation currently requires a person to have a minimum of 10 years residence in New Zealand, (5 of which must be after the age of 50 and continuous), to be eligible for New Zealand Superannuation. If, for example, a person has only 3 years of residence in New Zealand he/she would be able to count any periods of working age residence in Australia as periods of residence in New Zealand to meet the minimum qualifying period.
The Agreement helps people access the New Zealand payments specified above by:
- allowing Australians who move to New Zealand to claim a New Zealand pension;
- counting periods of working age residence in Australia (from 20 until 65) towards New Zealand's residency requirements for New Zealand Superannuation and Veterans pension and counting any residence in Australia for Invalids benefit residency requirements;
- allowing continued payment (subject to ongoing qualification) of New Zealand benefits in Australia; and
- allowing former residents of New Zealand living in Australia to claim a New Zealand pension.
Note: To use the Agreement to claim a New Zealand pension while residing in Australia, a person must have actually been a New Zealand resident for a continuous period of at least one year since attaining the age of 20.
The amount of pension a person can receive will be calculated under the terms of the Agreement. Under the Agreement a person will generally be entitled to two pensions - one from New Zealand and one from Australia. Generally the two pensions, when added together, would equal the amount of pension you would have received had you lived all your life in one country.
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All claimants for Australian pension, including those under the New Zealand Agreement, need to meet other requirements, for example, an income and assets test. Australian pensions are means tested, that is, an income test is applied and then an asset test is applied, and whichever produces the lower rate is used. The Department of Human Services website has information about the income and assets tests.
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People living in Australia can obtain:
- a claim for Australian pension from any Centrelink Customer Service Centre
- a claim for New Zealand pension by contacting Centrelink International Services
People living in New Zealand can obtain:
- a claim for New Zealand pension from offices of Work and Income and
- a claim for Australian pension from offices of Work and Income
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What age will I need to be to qualify for an Australian Age Pension or New Zealand Superannuation/Veterans Benefit.
Under the terms of the Agreement, a person must be at least 65 to qualify for either an Australian Age Pension or New Zealand Superannuation. This applies to both men and women.
Note, Australian Age Pension age will begin increasing, first to 65.5, from July 2017.
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You can lodge a claim for Australian Age Pension under the Agreement up to 13 weeks before you reach pension age. Normally you can only be paid from the date you lodge your claim or the date you become eligible, whichever is later.
Generally, claims for New Zealand Superannuation should be lodged 2 weeks before the person qualifies for payment. Claims under the Agreement, however, can be lodged up to 13 weeks in advance. More information on lodging claims for New Zealand benefits is available from Work and Income.
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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.
Some of the acceptable documents to prove your identity are:
- birth certificate or extract
- current Australian passport
- certificate of Australian citizenship
Helpful documents that can assist you to do this 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: The above are only a few of the documents that can be used to prove your identity and your Australian residence. The Department of Human Services is able to provide more information on other acceptable documents to prove your identity and Australian residence.
Note: Claimants for Australian pension who receive a New Zealand pension generally have had their identity verified by Work and Income New Zealand. Australian residence will still have to be verified.
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Under the Agreement a person will generally be entitled to two pensions - one from New Zealand and one from Australia. Generally the two pensions, when added together, will equal the amount of pension you would have received had you lived all your life in one country.
If you live in Australia, the proportion of your New Zealand pension will normally be based on your periods of residence in New Zealand from age 20 until 65. It may then be 'topped up' by Australia to the amount of Australian pension you would be entitled to had you only ever lived in Australia. However, the amount of New Zealand pension payable in Australia is also limited to no more than the amount of Australian pension which would otherwise be payable under the income or assets tests. This can mean that only a reduced New Zealand pension is payable or, if no Australian pension is payable under the income or assets tests, then no New Zealand pension is paid.
If you live in New Zealand, the proportion of your Australian pension will normally be based on your periods of residence in Australia from age 20 until 65, and your income and assets. It may then be 'topped up' by New Zealand to the amount of New Zealand pension you would be entitled to had you only ever lived in New Zealand.
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If you are residing in Australia, your Australian pension will be paid into your nominated bank account every 2 weeks. You will need to advise the Department of Human Services of the details. Any New Zealand pension you receive will be paid into your nominated bank account monthly.
If you are residing in New Zealand, any New Zealand pension will be paid into your nominated bank account every 2 weeks. You will need to advise Work and Income of the details. If you receive an Australian pension while residing in New Zealand, you should notify the Department of Human Services of which bank account you wish to have your pension paid into. Your Australian pension will be paid into this account every 4 weeks in New Zealand Dollars.
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If you receive an Australian pension and you move to New Zealand, you must notify The Department of Human Services. However, you will not need to lodge another claim for Australian pension. The Department of Human Services will advise you how moving to New Zealand will affect your pension.
If you receive a New Zealand pension you must reclaim that pension when you move permanently between Australia and New Zealand.
If you live permanently in New Zealand your New Zealand payment may be affected if you travel to Australia.
You should contact Work and Income for more information about this.
New Zealand residents in receipt of an Invalid's Benefit who move to Australia will not automatically receive Australian DSP when they arrive in Australia. These people will have to undergo assessment under Australia's legislation to determine whether they qualify for Australian DSP. The Department of Human Services has more information on this process.
Australian Carer Payment will only be granted to former New Zealand residents whose partner receives Australian DSP. Former New Zealand residents who wish to claim Carer Payment will have to undergo assessment under Australia's domestic legislation to determine whether they qualify for this payment. The Department of Human Services has more information on this process.
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More information about the Agreement can be obtained from:
- Department of Human Services – International Services
Telephone: 13 1673 from within Australia, Freecall 0800 441 248 from inside New Zealand, or telephone +61 3 6222 3455 if you are overseas. Call your overseas telephone operator to arrange a reverse charge call.
Fax: (03) 6222 2761 from within Australia and +61 3 6222 2761 if you are overseas.
Email: Department of Human Services - International Services (email@example.com)
Mail: Centrelink International Services at GPO Box 273, Hobart TAS 7001, Australia
- For policy information, contact the Department of Social Services (firstname.lastname@example.org).
More information on New Zealand pensions and the Agreement can be obtained from:
- Work and Income
- International Services
PO Box 27 178
Telephone: 1800 150 479 from Australia or 0800 777 227 from within New Zealand
Email: International Service (email@example.com)