Recent and upcoming policy changes

Measures previously announced but no longer proceeding

Proposed changes to the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period

This measure (never commenced) would have increased the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period migrants granted a relevant permanent or temporary visa must serve before they can access carer payments and family payments to 4 years. This measure is no longer proceeding and current waiting period rules will remain in place. See the 2021-22 Budget for further information on the original measure.

Enhanced Residency Requirements for Pensioners

This measure (never commenced) would have required a person to have 10 years continuous Australian residence to qualify for Age Pension or Disability Support Pension, with either:

  • 5 years of this residence being during their working life (16 years of age to Age Pension age); or
  • for the person to have not been in receipt of an activity tested income support payment for a cumulative period of greater than 5 years.

This measure is no longer proceeding and current residence rules will remain in place. See the 2017-18 Budget for further information on the original measure.

Stopping the Pension Supplement

This measure (never commenced) would have stopped the Pension Supplement Basic Amount after the recipient spent 6 weeks overseas, or immediately upon permanent departure from Australia. This measure is no longer proceeding and the Pension Supplement Basic Amount will remain payable after 6 weeks overseas. See the 2016-17 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook for further information.

Upcoming policy changes

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, were announced in the 2021-22 Budget. These agreements are subject to approval and legislative processes in both Australia and the relevant partner country.

This page will be updated with commencement details for the agreements, pending completion of all required processes.

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 4 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 4 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.

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