Recent and upcoming policy changes

Upcoming policy changes

Proposed changes to the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period from 1 January 2022

Announced in the 2021-22 Budget, subject to the passage of legislation, migrants granted a relevant permanent or temporary visa (see below) on or after 1 January 2022 will have a Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period of four years before they can access carer payments and family payments. This applies a consistent four-year waiting period for these payments with the existing four-year waiting period for working age payments, such as JobSeeker Payment.

The Budget announcement is available at: Budget measure: Strengthening the social security safety net

From 1 January 2022, the changes will:

  • increase the existing waiting period for Carer Payment, Parental Leave Pay, and Dad and Partner Pay from two years (104 weeks) to four years (208 weeks).
  • increase the existing waiting period for Carer Allowance and Family Tax Benefit Part A from one year (52 weeks) to four years (208 weeks).
  • introduce a new waiting period of four years (208 weeks) for Family Tax Benefit Part B.

The measure will also ensure the existing four-year waiting period for concession cards is applied consistently to relevant temporary visa holders, in line with permanent visa holders.

Those granted a relevant permanent or temporary visa before 1 January 2022 are not affected by these changes and remain subject to the rules that applied when they were granted their visa (see below for rules introduced in 2019).

The relevant permanent and temporary visas are:

  • for Carer Payment and Carer Allowance - all permanent skilled, family and special eligibility visas under the Migration Program (except Orphan Relative and Remaining Relative visa subclasses 115,117,835 and 837)
  • for Family Tax Benefit, Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay - all permanent skilled, family and special eligibility visas under the Migration Program (except Orphan Relative and Remaining Relative visa subclasses 115, 117, 835 and 837) and temporary partner visas (subclasses 309 and 820)
  • for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and Low Income Health Care Card - Special Category Visas (subclass 444) and temporary partner visas (subclasses 309 and 820).

Existing exemptions from the waiting period will continue to apply, including for humanitarian entrants and their families, and people who experience a substantial change in circumstances and are in financial hardship.

Visit the residence criteria page for further information on the existing Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period and exemptions.

New International Social Security Agreements with Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republic of Serbia

Two new social security agreements, one with Bosnia-Herzegovina and one with the Republic of Serbia, are scheduled to commence on 1 January 2023, subject to the passage of legislation. Further information is available at New International Social Security Agreements.

Recent policy changes

Portability Extensions for Pensioners

The Government has introduced new permanent provisions from 1 July 2021, which enable eligible pensioners to apply for a portability extension if they are unable to return to their usual place of residence within 26 weeks due to circumstances beyond their control. The new provisions build on the temporary arrangements put in place until 30 June 2021 for pensioners stranded away from home due to COVID-19.

Under the new provisions, portability extensions may be granted for reasons, such as serious illness or injury, hospitalisation, legal proceedings, war or natural disaster, or a public health crisis (including COVID-19).

Age Pensioners and certain Disability Support Pension recipients can request an extension if they are temporarily overseas and unable to return to Australia within 26 weeks for one of these approved reasons. Normally, after 26 weeks overseas, their pension rate will be recalculated based on their Australian Working Life Residence and certain supplements may cease. The extension ensures their pension rate is not affected after 26 weeks.

Some pensioners have ‘saved’ status under changes made to the portability rules from 20 September 2000 or 1 July 2014. A person who normally resides overseas but is temporarily in Australia can also request a portability extension, for one of the approved reasons, if they are unable to leave Australia within 26 weeks. Normally, after 26 weeks in Australia, their ‘saved’ status ends and they become covered by the current portability rules. The extension ensures their ‘saved’ status and associated entitlements are not affected after 26 weeks.

Pensioners who want to apply for a portability extension should contact the Services Australia International Services team to discuss their circumstances. Contact details are available at https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/international-services/how-we-can-help.

New Overseas Welfare Recipients Integrity Program from 20 December 2019

From 20 December 2019, Australian pension recipients residing permanently overseas and aged 80 years and over are required to complete a proof of life certificate every two years to continue receiving their pension.

This new requirement applies to Australian pensioners receiving Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, or Carer Payment.

Services Australia (Centrelink) will notify Australian pensioners living overseas by letter if they are required to complete a proof of life certificate.

The proof of life certificate must be verified by an authorised certifier. An authorised certifier can be:

  • a registered/licensed lawyer, solicitor, or barrister
  • a judge or magistrate
  • a registrar of a law court
  • a police officer
  • an Australian Consular Officer or Australian Diplomatic Officer
  • an Authorised Consular Employee
  • a Justice of the Peace
  • a notary public
  • a registered/licensed medical doctor.

Those who do not provide a certified proof of life certificate to Services Australia within 13 weeks of the request will have their pension suspended. If they have not provided their certified certificate after a further 13 weeks (26 weeks in total), their payment will be cancelled.

Pensioners who have their pension suspended or cancelled can have it restored if they provide a certified proof of life certificate to DHS. They will be paid any arrears they are entitled to.

Changes to waiting periods for migrants from 1 January 2019

Migrants granted a permanent visa, or temporary partner visa, on or after 1 January 2019 must wait between one and four years before they can access certain welfare payments and concession cards. This period is called the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period (NARWP).

Information on these changes is provided in the Waiting period for welfare payments for new migrants and Exemptions from the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period fact sheets. These fact sheets are also available in the following languages:

  • Arabic
  • Korean
  • Nepali
  • Punjabi
  • Simplified Chinese
  • Spanish
  • Thai
  • Traditional Chinese
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese

The current Assurance of Support period that applies to some family visas has also increased to four years, in line with the NARWP for working age payments.

Further information on waiting periods and other residency requirements is provided on the Residence Criteria page.

Enhanced Residency Requirements for Pensioners (2017-18 Budget)

Pending the passage of legislation, to qualify for Age Pension or Disability Support Pension a person will be required to have 10 years continuous Australian residence, with either:

  • five years of this residence being during their working life (16 years of age to Age Pension age); or
  • not have been in receipt of an activity tested income support payment for a cumulative period of greater than five years.

In circumstances where the person does not meet the requirements set out above, they will be required to have 15 years continuous Australian residence before being eligible to receive the Age Pension or Disability Support Pension.

This measure has not commenced.

Stopping the Pension Supplement (2016-17 Budget)

Subject to the passage of legislation, the Pension Supplement Basic Amount will stop after six weeks overseas, or immediately if the recipient has permanently departed Australia.

Currently, the Pension Supplement is reduced to the Basic Amount after six weeks temporary absence from Australia, or immediately for permanent departures.

This measure will affect income support recipients who travel outside Australia temporarily for more than six weeks or immediately if the recipient has permanently departed Australia.

This measure will reinforce and strengthen the residence based nature of Australia’s social security system.

This measure has not commenced.

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