Portability

Some pensions and allowances are payable when the recipient has left Australia.

Under sections 1211–1221 of the SS Act, a pension or allowance may be portable if a person was receiving a payment immediately before they left Australia, or if the payment is granted after they left Australia.

The period a payment may be paid while the recipient is overseas depends on the particular payment. Recipients of some payments can obtain indefinite portability subject to some restrictions as to the amount that is payable. “Indefinite portability” means a recipient can live overseas permanently and continue to receive the payment.

Where an international agreement (see “International agreements”) applies, and a particular payment can be claimed under the agreement in the agreement country, then the international agreement overrides the portability rules for that payment.

Payments that do not have unlimited portability generally require a person to remain an Australian resident and as such are only payable where the absence from Australia is temporary.

The following payments are portable for up to six weeks temporary absence from Australia:

Parenting Payment;

Parenting Allowance;

Widows Allowance;

Mature Age and Mature Age Partner Allowance;

Carer Allowance;

Carer Payment (if the carer is travelling with the person being cared for, or if the carer intends to return to the care situation when they return).

The following payments are portable for up to six weeks of temporary absence from Australia (where a payment recipient has participation requirements, they need to be exempted from these requirements during their absence):

Wife Pension and Widows Pension (six weeks, but some recipients can obtain indefinite portability where they meet the definition of an “entitled person”);

Newstart Allowance, Sickness Benefit and Special Benefit (six weeks, but only where absent for medical treatment not available in Australia, humanitarian reasons, acute family crisis, or for Armed Forces Reserves service);

Youth Allowance and Austudy recipients where the recipient is studying full-time overseas for an approved full-time Australian course, or where travelling overseas;

for medical treatment not available in Australia, humanitarian reasons, acute family crisis, or for Armed Forces Reserves service;

Disability Support Pension where the person does not have an assessment from Centrelink that they are severely and permanently impaired and that they have no capacity to work (four weeks in a 12-month period);

for temporary absences, but portability may be granted indefinitely if terminally ill and planning to return to country of origin or to be with family for care and support. Former residents have a two-year waiting period before their pension is portable outside Australia.

The following payments have unlimited portability subject to the limitations as noted:

Disability Support Pension where the person has an assessment from Centrelink that they are severely and permanently impaired and have no capacity to work (for the first 26 weeks paid at the full domestic rate, and after 26 weeks is paid on the basis of the Australian working life residence rules set out below; former residents have a two-year waiting period before their pension is portable outside Australia);

Aged Pension (for the first 26 weeks paid at the full domestic rate, and after 26 weeks is paid on the basis of the Australian working life residence rules set out below; former residents have a two-year waiting period before their pension is portable outside Australia);

Bereavement Allowance; and

Paid Parental Leave (although recipient must continue to meet the definition of an Australian resident throughout the period of payment).

“Working life residence” is the person’s period of Australian residence occurring between the age of 16 and Age Pension age. If a person has spent 35 years or more in Australia, they are entitled to the maximum rate of pension. They are otherwise only able to receive a proportion of the pension based on the percentage of the 35 years over 16 that they have been resident in Australia.

For temporary absences from Australia, ancillary payments (such as Rent Assistance) are payable for the same length of time as the substantive payment or up to six weeks, whichever occurs first. The person must also remain qualified for the ancillary payment. Pharmaceutical Allowance, Rent Assistance and Incentive Allowance can be paid for up 26 weeks for persons with unlimited portability.

The portability period can be extended only for:

a serious accident or illness;

hospitalisation of the person or a family member;

death of a family member;

custody proceedings that involve the person;

a legal requirement to attend court because of criminal proceedings;

a serious crime committed against the person or a family member;

a natural disaster;

political/social unrest or war; or

industrial action.