Social security agreement with Australia

Introduction

This information is for:

  • New Zealand residents who have lived, live or are going to live in Australia
  • Australian residents who have lived, live or are going to live in New Zealand. 

The Social Security Agreement

  • New Zealand and Australia have a social security agreement. The Agreement covers the following benefits and pensions:
    • New Zealand
      New Zealand Superannuation
      Veteran’s Pension
      Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)
    • Australia
      Australian Age Pension
      Disability Support Pension (for the severely disabled)
      Carer Payment for the partner of a person who is in receipt of Disability Support Pension

The Agreement means that Australian and New Zealand residents who have lived, live or are going to live in either country may qualify for a benefit or pension from both countries. If they are paid, or apply for a benefit or pension they must apply for the equivalent benefit or pension from the other country.

This document only applies to benefits and pensions covered by the Agreement. 

Phrases used

“Ordinarily resident in New Zealand” describes a person who normally lives in New Zealand and intends to continue doing so. As there are a number of factors that prove “ordinarily resident in New Zealand". Work and Income decides this on a case by case basis.

A partner is your spouse (husband or wife) or a person (of the opposite sex) with whom you have a de facto relationship.

Centrelink in Australia is the equivalent of Work and Income in New Zealand.

Centrelink International Services is the equivalent of Senior Services International in New Zealand.

A New Zealand resident

A New Zealand resident is a person living in New Zealand who is either a New Zealand or an Australian citizen, or holds a residence class visa or residence permit issued by Immigration New Zealand.

An Australian resident

An Australian resident is someone who is residing in Australia and has permission to remain there permanently, either because they are a New Zealand citizen who holds a Special Category Visa, an Australian citizen, or they have a permanent resident visa issued by the Australian Government.

A Special Category visa is granted to New Zealand passport holders when they arrive in Australia. This allows New Zealanders to work in Australia, but won’t give full access to Australian social security benefits.

Residing in Australia

In deciding whether a person is residing in Australia, Centrelink will also consider the following factors:

  • the nature of the accommodation used by the person in Australia;
  • the nature and extent of the family relationships the person has in Australia;
  • the nature and extent of the person’s employment, business or financial ties with Australia;
  • the nature and extent of the person’s assets located in Australia;
  • the frequency and duration of the person’s travel outside Australia; and
  • any other matter relevant to determining whether the person intends to remain permanently in Australia.

New Zealand Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) and Australian Disability Support Pension (for the severely disabled)

In order to qualify for either of these benefits under the Agreement you must meet the criteria for either New Zealand Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) or Australian Disability Support Pension and you must also be assessed as “severely disabled”.

“Severely disabled” means:

  • you must be permanently blind or
  • you must have a physical, psychiatric or intellectual impairment that makes you totally unable to work or benefit from any assistance or rehabilitation programme for the next two years, and
  • the severe disablement must have occurred while you were resident in either New Zealand or Australia.

All references to New Zealand Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) and Australian Disability Support Pension in this document require that you meet the “severely disabled” criteria.

Receiving a benefit or pension in Australia

If you live in Australia or intend to, you may qualify for a benefit or pension from both New Zealand and Australia.

Once your applications are processed, you may be paid benefits or pensions made up of payments from both New Zealand and Australia eg what you are paid may be made up of a New Zealand Superannuation and an Australian Age Pension payment. When this happens the total amount you receive will be similar to the amount you would have received had you spent all your life in Australia.

Receiving a New Zealand benefit or pension in Australia

Senior Services International uses certain criteria to decide who can receive a New Zealand benefit or pension in Australia and how much will be paid.

Can I receive New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension?

You may be able to receive either of these in Australia if:

  • you meet the New Zealand criteria (except being ordinarily resident in New Zealand)
  • you have been resident and present in New Zealand for more than 10 years since the age of 20 with five years since the age of 50 (you can use time spent an Australian resident between the ages of 20 and 65 to count towards this)
  • you have lived in New Zealand or Australia continuously for one year since age 20
  • you are an Australian resident (generally, this means that you must intend to remain in Australia for at least one year or have been living in Australia for at least 26 weeks)
  • you are in New Zealand or Australia when you apply
  • you are 65 or over
  • you have the necessary service and disability qualifications (for Veteran’s Pension).

Note: You can receive New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension, but not both.

What if I already receive New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension?

If you already receive either of these and you are over 65 before you leave New Zealand, you may continue to receive this for up to 26 weeks after leaving New Zealand.

However you should check this before you leave New Zealand, as what you may be paid in Australia may be less than what you are paid in New Zealand especially if:

  • you have a partner under 65 who is already included in your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payments, or
  • you receive any supplementary benefits and allowances (such as the Disability Allowance or Accommodation Supplement) in New Zealand as these can’t be paid after you leave New Zealand, or
  • you have lived in a country other than New Zealand or Australia, or
  • you have income and/or assets that may affect your entitlement to an Australian Age Pension.

Whether you are paid in Australia will depend on the outcome of your application for an Australian Age Pension (which includes an income and asset test).

For more information, contact Senior Services International

For more information about the Australian income and asset test, contact Centrelink.

What do I need to do within 26 weeks?

To see if your New Zealand payments can continue for more than 26 weeks after leaving New Zealand, you must apply for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension to be paid to you in Australia. To do this, you need to apply for an Australian Age Pension through your local Centrelink office within 26 weeks of leaving New Zealand.

If Centrelink grant you an Australian Age Pension, they will send you a New Zealand application form to complete so Senior Services International can work out whether you will continue to be paid and how much you will receive.

If Centrelink can’t grant you an Australian Age Pension because you don’t meet the residency requirements, please contact us.

For more information, see “How much will I be paid?”

When do my New Zealand payments change?

Generally, any changes to your New Zealand payments begin from the date that you apply for an Australian Age Pension. Senior Services International will treat your application for an Australian Age Pension as an application for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payable in Australia. This means if you apply for the Australian Age Pension in week one of leaving New Zealand, the changes to your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension will take place from week one.

What happens if I don’t apply within 26 weeks?

In order to be eligible for payments for the first 26 weeks you must complete an application for Australian Age Pension and New Zealand Superannuation payable in Australia within 26 weeks of leaving New Zealand, regardless of whether you believe you will qualify or not.

If you don’t apply for the Australian Age Pension and New Zealand Superannuation payable in Australia within 26 weeks of leaving New Zealand and you don’t return to New Zealand within 30 weeks, you will need to pay back any payments made from the day after you left New Zealand. We can only restart your payments from the date you apply for an Australian Age Pension or New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension.

If you do not wish to apply, please notify us before your departure so we can stop your payments from the day after your departure.

What if I am over 65 but my partner is under 65?

If your partner is under 65 and is already included in your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payments, they can only be paid up to the date that you apply for an Australian Age Pension. They can apply for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension and an Australian Age Pension once they turn 65.

What happens if I don’t qualify for an Australian Age Pension?

In most situations, if you don’t qualify for an Australian Age Pension based on income or assets, your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payments will stop from the date that we receive your application for New Zealand Superannuation payable in Australia.

If Centrelink can’t grant you an Australian Age Pension because you don’t meet the residency requirements, please contact Senior Services International.

Can I receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)?

You may be able to receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) in Australia if:

  • you meet the New Zealand criteria (except ordinarily resident in New Zealand)
  • you have been resident and present in New Zealand for more than two years since turning 20 (you can use time spent as an Australian resident between the ages of 20 and 65 to count towards this)
  • you have lived in New Zealand continuously for at least one year since age 20
  • you are in Australia or New Zealand when you apply
  • you are an Australian resident (generally this means that you intend to remain in Australia for at least one year or have been living in Australia for at least 26 weeks)
  • you are assessed as “severely disabled.”
What happens if I have a partner?

When we pay the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) in Australia, we may also be able to include payments for partners, even if they work or have never lived in New Zealand.

What if I already receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)?

If you already receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) before you leave New Zealand:

  • you can continue to receive this for up to 26 weeks as long as you apply for the Australian Disability Support pension within four weeks of leaving New Zealand
  • you need to contact your local Work and Income office to ask that they stop any supplementary benefits and allowances that you receive as these can’t be paid after you leave New Zealand
  • you can see whether you qualify medically for the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) payable in Australia (contact Senior Services International to find out more).

If you do qualify medically, it will not necessarily mean that you will be paid in Australia as Centrelink has its own application process and severely disabled criteria. This depends on the outcome of your application for a Disability Support Pension (which includes an income and asset test).

For more information about the Australian income and asset test, contact Centrelink

What do I have to do to continue to receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)?

To continue to receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) for up to 26 weeks you must apply for the Australian Disability Support pension within four weeks of leaving New Zealand.

Your application must be made through your local Centrelink office or through Centrelink International. If Centrelink grant you a Disability Support Pension they will send you a New Zealand application form to complete. This is so Senior Services International can assess how much you will be paid from New Zealand.

If Centrelink can’t grant you a Disability Support Pension because you do not meet the residency requirements, please contact us.

To avoid delays in processing your application for an Australian Pension, make sure you take any doctors’ and specialists’ reports you may have to Australia.

For more information, see “How much will I be paid?”

When do my New Zealand payments change?

Generally, any changes to your New Zealand payments begin from the date that you apply for a Disability Support Pension.

Senior Services International will treat your application for the Australian pension as an application for a New Zealand benefit. This means if you apply for the Australian pension in week one of arriving in Australia, the changes to your New Zealand benefit will take place from week one.

What happens if I don’t apply within four weeks?

If you don’t apply within four weeks and you don’t return to New Zealand, your Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) will stop after four weeks after leaving New Zealand and you will need to pay back any payments made from the day after you left New Zealand. Provided you eventually apply and qualify for a Disability Support Pension, we can generally restart your New Zealand payments from the date that you applied for the Australian Disability Support Pension.

What happens when I apply for a Disability Support Pension?

When you apply for a Disability Support Pension, Centrelink will assess whether you are severely disabled. The criteria for this assessment are stricter than for a standard Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) in New Zealand. Centrelink will decide whether you qualify for the Australian pension and what rate you should be paid.

What happens if I don’t qualify for a Disability Support Pension?

In most situations, if you don’t qualify for a Disability Support Pension based on income or assets or because you have not been assessed as severely disabled your Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) will stop from the date that your application for an Australian Disability Support Pension was declined.

If Centrelink can’t grant you a Disability Support Pension because you don’t meet the residency requirements, please contact Senior Services International.

What happens if my application for a Disability Support Pension isn’t processed within 26 weeks?

Your Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) will stop after 26 weeks of leaving New Zealand. You won’t receive any further payments until it is decided that you qualify for the Australian pension.

Can I receive extra assistance?

New Zealand supplementary benefits and allowances (Disability Allowance, Accommodation Supplement and Family Tax Credit (formerly Family Support)) aren’t paid to people living outside New Zealand. They stop the day after you leave New Zealand.

If you live in Australia, you may be able to receive extra help. You need to talk to Centrelink about this.

How do I apply for a New Zealand benefit or pension?

Centrelink will ask you to apply for a New Zealand benefit or pension after your Australian pension application is granted. Centrelink will send you the appropriate New Zealand application forms. Note:

If you receive New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension before you leave New Zealand, you must apply for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payable in Australia within 26 weeks of your departure from New Zealand.

You do this by applying for an Australian Age Pension to be paid to you in Australia, within 26 weeks of your departure from New Zealand.

If you receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) before you leave New Zealand, you must apply for the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) within four weeks of leaving New Zealand.

You do this by applying for a Disability Support Pension with Centrelink within four weeks of leaving New Zealand.

If Centrelink decide that you qualify for a Disability Support Pension, they will arrange for you to apply for your Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) to be paid from New Zealand to Australia.

When you make an application for a New Zealand benefit or pension in Australia, you need:

  • your passport
  • another form of identification (eg driver licence or birth certificate, marriage certificate)
  • your travel itinerary or tickets
  • your New Zealand or overseas bank account details that you want your payments made to (bank book, bank statement or deposit slip)
  • any documentation that shows your intent to reside in Australia (eg accommodation agreement)
  • any other information that you think will be helpful.
  • You may need to take additional items depending on your situation. You can check this when you call to arrange an interview.
When will my payments begin?

If you are already paid a New Zealand benefit or pension, then the new payment payable in Australia will usually start from the date your Australian benefit or pension is granted.

If you are not already paid New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension, payment will usually start from the date of your application or the entitlement date – whichever is later.

If you don’t already receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) and you apply for the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) from Australia for the first time, there is a stand-down before we can pay you.

For more information, contact Senior Services International

What if my circumstances change?

Although you are no longer living in New Zealand, you still need to tell Senior Services International about any changes to your circumstances that may affect your payments of New Zealand Superannuation, Veteran’s Pension or Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind). For example, if you marry or change address. You also need to advise Centrelink of these changes.

Receiving an Australian benefit or pension in Australia

Centrelink decides who can receive an Australian benefit or pension and how much will be paid. Australian benefits and pensions are income and asset tested. Centrelink decides the rate of benefit or pension they will pay you.

For more information about the Australian income and asset test, contact Centrelink

The time you spent in New Zealand (between ages 20 and 65) counts towards the residence requirements for the Australian benefits and pensions covered by the Agreement. This means you may be able to receive:

  • Australian Age Pension
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Carer Payment (for partners of people who receive the Disability Support Pension).

How do I apply for an Australian benefit or pension?

You should apply for an Australian benefit or pension after you leave New Zealand and within the timeframes explained earlier.

Application forms are available through your local Centrelink office or you can call Centrelink International Services.

When you make an application for an Australian benefit or pension in Australia, you need:

  • proof of your identity (eg passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, or driver licence. A full list of acceptable documents can be obtained from Centrelink)
  • your bank account details so that payments can be made to you (bank book, bank statement or deposit slip)
  • proof of any income and assets you have.

How much will I be paid?

As a general rule, the total amount you are paid is about equal to the Australian benefit or pension you would be paid if you lived all your life in Australia.

New Zealand Superannuation or Veterans Pension

Senior Services International assesses your rate of New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payable in Australia. It is the smaller amount of either:

  • the New Zealand rate that is based on the amount of time you have lived in New Zealand, or
  • the amount you would be paid by Centrelink if you had lived in Australia all your life.

The New Zealand rate is based on the number of whole months lived in New Zealand between age 20 and 65 eg if you lived in New Zealand for 45 years since turning 20, you could be eligible for the maximum New Zealand rate, as long as this amount was the same or less than the amount you would be paid by Centrelink if you lived in Australia all your life.

Formula for the rate of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension:
Formula for the rate of the New Zealand Invalid's benefit.

Note: The New Zealand benefit rate is the maximum gross rate of the married or single sharing rate depending on your circumstances, less 15%

Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)

Senior Services International assesses the rate of your Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) payable in Australia. It is based on the smaller amount of either:

  • the New Zealand rate based on the amount of time lived in New Zealand and/or Australia between age 20 and the date you are assessed as severely disabled by either Senior Services International or Centrelink, or
  • the amount you would be paid by Centrelink if you lived in Australia all your life (if you have a partner this may be equal to the combined total of the Disability Support Payment and the Carer Payment).
Formula for the rate of the New Zealand Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind):
Formula for the rate of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension.

What if my New Zealand payment is less than the equivalent Australian payment?

Centrelink will deduct the New Zealand amount before they pay you.

This means that the total amount you are paid is similar to the Australian benefit or pension you would be paid if you lived all your life in Australia.

What if my New Zealand payment is more than the equivalent Australian payment?

We will pay you the same as the assessed Australian amount (as if you had lived in Australia all your life). Centrelink will deduct the New Zealand amount and won’t pay you an Australian payment.

What if I spent time in a country other than New Zealand and Australia?

If you aren’t an Australian citizen or a permanent resident:

  • any time you have spent in a country other than New Zealand and Australia between age 20 and 65 is counted as time spent in New Zealand when assessing your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s pension rate of payment, and
  • if you receive a benefit or pension from a country other than New Zealand and Australia, the amount of the benefit or pension from that country is directly deducted from your New Zealand benefit or pension.

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident:

  • any time you have spent in a country other than New Zealand and Australia between age 20 and 65 is not counted when assessing your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension rate of payment, and
  • if you receive a benefit or pension from a country other than New Zealand and Australia, no account is taken of the amount of that benefit or pension when calculating your New Zealand benefit or pension.

Note regarding Special Banking Option: If you receive an overseas pension and you have taken up the Special Banking Option in New Zealand, this account will be closed when your application for payment in Australia is processed.

This is because the Special Banking Option is only available for clients who reside in New Zealand. You will need to arrange with the overseas agency to have your payments made to your personal bank account. We suggest you arrange this prior to your departure from New Zealand.

How are payments made from New Zealand?

You can choose to have your payments made:

  • to an overseas bank account every four weeks or
  • to a New Zealand bank account every fortnight.

If you choose to have your payment made to an overseas bank account, Senior Services International will pay the initial cost of transferring the funds. You must pay for any other costs that your bank charges.

If you choose to have your payments made to a New Zealand bank account and then transfer that payment to an overseas account, you must pay the cost of any transfers.

What tax will I have to pay?

While you receive a New Zealand benefit or pension and live overseas, Senior Services International won’t deduct tax from your New Zealand payments.

If your payments are put into an Australian bank account, you may have to pay tax on these payments in Australia. For more information contact the Australian tax authority.

If your payments are put into a New Zealand bank account, you may need to pay tax on these payments in New Zealand and/or Australia. For more information contact the relevant tax authorities.

What happens to my New Zealand benefit or pension if I leave Australia?

If you plan to leave Australia for any length of time, you should let Centrelink know.

If you wish to travel to another country for 26 weeks or less, you can continue to be paid your New Zealand benefit or pension at the same rate that you are paid in Australia, for up to 26 weeks.

If you wish to travel to another country for more than 26 weeks and you have not had to use your Australian residence to help you qualify for your New Zealand benefit or pension, you can continue to be paid your New Zealand benefit or pension at the same rate that you are paid in Australia for 26 weeks. Payments after 26 weeks will depend on whether the country you go to has a social security agreement with New Zealand.

If you wish to travel to another country for more than 26 weeks or you end up residing in another country for more than 26 weeks and you have used your Australian residence to help you qualify for your New Zealand benefit or pension, your entitlement to payments will stop from the day after you depart Australia.

However, if you are going to a country that has a social security agreement with New Zealand, you can apply to be paid under that agreement after your arrival.

If you are entitled to payment, it will restart from the date of your application in that country or the date you become entitled to that benefit - whichever is the later.

If your payments aren’t stopped from the date that you are no longer entitled to them, you will be required to refund any overpayments to us.

For more information, contact Senior Services International

What happens to my New Zealand benefit or pension if I return to New Zealand?

Returning temporarily

If you return to New Zealand temporarily, you will continue to receive your New Zealand payments at the same rate that you are paid in Australia. You should talk to Centrelink before you travel to New Zealand.

Returning permanently

If you return to live in New Zealand permanently, you should tell Centrelink before you travel to New Zealand. When you return to New Zealand, you will need to contact Work and Income so that your payments can be reassessed.

Checklist

Things to do before leaving New Zealand for Australia

  • Advise Work and Income about your plans.
  • Make sure you have proof of your identity (eg passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate or driver licence), your bank account details, and any doctors’ or specialists’ reports, if you receive the New Zealand Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind).
  • If you receive an overseas pension that is paid using the Special Banking Option in New Zealand, you need to contact that overseas agency and request that they pay directly to your personal bank account. For help with this please contact Senior Services International

Things to do after arriving in Australia

  • If you are paid the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) or a Veteran’s Pension and are under 65, you must apply for the Disability Support Pension within four weeks of leaving New Zealand. Your partner may be able to apply for an Australian Carer Payment. To make an application, talk to your local Centrelink office or call Centrelink International Services.
  • If you are paid New Zealand Superannuation or a Veteran’s Pension and you are over 65, you must apply for an Australian Age Pension within 26 weeks of leaving New Zealand. To make an application, talk to your local Centrelink office or call Centrelink International Services.

Receiving a benefit or pension in New Zealand

If you live in New Zealand or intend to, you may qualify for a benefit or pension from both New Zealand and Australia.

Once your applications are processed, you may be paid benefits or pensions made up of payments from both New Zealand and Australia eg what you are paid may be made up of an Australian Age Pension and a New Zealand Superannuation payment. When this happens the total amount you receive will generally be similar to the amount you would have received if you had spent all your life in New Zealand.

Receiving an Australian benefit or pension in New Zealand

Centrelink in Australia decides who can receive an Australian benefit or pension and how much can be paid. Below is a list of the benefits and pensions that can be paid into New Zealand under the Agreement:

  • Australian Age Pension
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Carer Payment for the partner of a person who is in receipt of Disability Support Pension.

How do I apply for an Australian benefit or pension?

If you already live in New Zealand contact Senior Services International

If you are already paid an Australian benefit or pension and you leave Australia to live in New Zealand, please tell Centrelink International Services so that they can adjust your Australian payments.

When you make an application for an Australian benefit or pension in New Zealand, you need:

  • your passport
  • another form of identification (birth certificate or driver licence, marriage certificate)
  • your travel itinerary or tickets
  • your bank account details so that payments can be made to you (bank book, bank statement or deposit slip)
  • proof of any income and assets you have
  • any other information that you think will be helpful.

Receiving a New Zealand benefit or pension in New Zealand

Can I receive New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension?

You may qualify for either of these in New Zealand if you have lived in Australia and/or New Zealand and:

  • you are 65 or over
  • you are in New Zealand when you apply
  • you intend to remain in New Zealand for at least one year or have lived in New Zealand for at least six months
  • you have lived in Australia for a period of at least 12 months between the ages of 20 and 65, including six continuous months
  • you have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years since you turned 20, with five years since the age of 50 (you can use time spent as an Australian resident between the ages of 20 to 65 to count towards this)
  • you have the necessary service and disability qualifications (for Veteran’s Pension).

Note: You can receive either New Zealand Superannuation or the Veteran’s Pension, but not both.

Partners

You may choose to include your partner if they do not meet the criteria for either pension eg they are under 65 or do not meet the residency criteria.
If you choose to include your partner, the married rate of New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension will be income tested. This means that the rate you are paid will depend on any income you and your partner have.

More information about New Zealand Superannuation

More information about Veteran’s Pension

Can I receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)?

You and your partner may qualify for the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) and:

  • you are in New Zealand when you apply
  • you intend to remain in New Zealand for at least one year or have lived in New Zealand for at least six months
  • you have lived in Australia for at least 12 months, of which six months were continuous
  • you have a total of two years residence in New Zealand and/or Australia (in the case of Australia, this residence must have been between the age of 20 and 65)
  • you are assessed as severely disabled.

The criteria for the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)(severely disabled) are stricter than the criteria for the standard Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind).

The Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) is income tested.

More information about the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind)

Can I receive extra assistance?

There are a number of supplementary benefits available in New Zealand. You may qualify for these depending on your circumstances.

Accommodation Supplement

The Accommodation Supplement helps with paying rent or board, or owning a home. The rate depends on the area you live in and your accommodation costs.

Disability Allowance

If you have a disability you may be able to receive a Disability Allowance to help towards any extra costs such as regular doctor visits, medicines, extra clothes, food or travel.

Working for families tax credit (formerly Family Support)

If you care for dependent children, you may be able to receive Working for families tax credit. This depends on any other income you receive.

For more information about these benefits, refer to Work and Income’s brochure:

If you’re applying for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension refer to:

How do I apply for a New Zealand benefit or pension?

If you are in New Zealand, contact Work and Income. If you are in Australia, contact Work and Income after you have arrived in New Zealand.

When you make an application for a benefit or pension in New Zealand, you need:

  • proof of your identity (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, or driver licence)
  • your bank account details so that payments can be made to you (bank book, bank statement or deposit slip)
  • any other information that you think will be helpful. 

How much will I be paid?

Generally, the total amount you are paid is about equal to the New Zealand benefit or pension you would be paid if you had lived all your life in New Zealand.

Work and Income uses certain criteria to decide whether you qualify for a New Zealand benefit or pension and how much will be paid. 

Centrelink decides whether you qualify for an Australian benefit or pension using Australian law and an income and asset test.

How are payments made from Australia?

You can choose to have your Australian benefit or pension paid by the Direct Payment Method or the Special Banking Option.

The Direct Payment Method

If you choose the Direct Payment Method, your Australian benefit or pension is paid to your bank account every four weeks. You need to pay tax in New Zealand on this.

Your full gross Australian benefit or pension converted each month to New Zealand dollars using the previous month’s average exchange rates. This amount is directly deducted from your New Zealand benefit or pension. This means that the payments you receive from Australia and New Zealand change each month due to fluctuations in exchange rates. 

Each month Senior Services International will send you a letter explaining how your New Zealand payment rate was worked out. If you don’t want to receive these, or only want to receive the letter when there is a significant change, please let us know.

For a majority of countries we use an average exchange rate between the overseas currency and the New Zealand dollar over a specific period ( the 16th of one month to the 15th of the next). 

Some countries notify us of the actual exchange rate or sometimes more than one exchange rate they used to pay their pensions in New Zealand.  With these countries we use the either actual exchange rate or the average of the exchange rates for the month whichever is the most advantageous to you.

The Special Banking Option

If you choose the Special Banking Option, your Australian benefit or pension will be paid into a special bank account that only Senior Services International and the bank access.

Work and Income will pay you the full New Zealand benefit or pension weekly or fortnightly. Your payment isn’t affected by exchange rates and the tax is already paid for you.

For more information, see Payment options for overseas pensions

What tax will I have to pay?

You may have to pay tax on your Australian payment in New Zealand if:

  • you are paid New Zealand Superannuation or a Veteran’s Pension
  • you are paid your Australian pension by the Direct Payment Method.

This is regardless of whether your Australian pension is paid to a bank account in Australia or New Zealand.

If your combined New Zealand and Australian payments exceed the maximum Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind), you will need to pay tax.

Make sure you keep copies of all your banking records, as these may show your gross Australian pension payments required for tax purposes.

You may not have to pay tax on your Australian payment in New Zealand, if:

  • you are paid the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) or any other New Zealand benefit, and
  • you are paid your Australian payment by the Direct Payment Method.

This is because your gross Australian payment is directly deducted from your net New Zealand entitlement.

If you have chosen the Special Banking Option the tax is already paid before you receive your payment. However, you may need to pay tax on any Australian benefit or pension you received prior to choosing the Special Banking Option.

We recommend that you discuss your tax liability in New Zealand with Inland Revenue

What happens to my New Zealand benefit or pension if I leave New Zealand?

If you leave New Zealand temporarily, you must advise Work and Income. Your benefit or pension may be stopped, depending on the amount of time you are away. By doing this there is less chance that you will be overpaid and then be required to make repayments later.

Going to another country

If you wish to travel to another country for more than 26 weeks, and you haven’t had to use your Australian residence to help you qualify for your New Zealand benefit or pension, you may be able to apply to receive some or all of your New Zealand benefit or pension. What you are paid will depend on which country you go to.

If you wish to travel to another country for more than 26 weeks and you have had to use your Australian residence to help you qualify for your New Zealand benefit or pension, your entitlement to payments will stop from the day after you leave New Zealand.

However, if you are going to a country that has a social security agreement with New Zealand, you can apply to be paid under the Agreement either before leaving New Zealand or after arrival in the agreement country. There are some exceptions to this as under some agreements you must be present in New Zealand when you apply to receive your payments in the Agreement country.

If you apply to be paid in the Agreement country before you leave New Zealand and you qualify, payment will be under the Agreement from the first payment date after you depart New Zealand.

If you apply after arrival in the Agreement country and you qualify, your payment under the Agreement will start from the date of your application in that country.

See Social Security Agreements and guides, and the special arrangement with Pacific countries for more information about other Agreement countries.

Carrying out full-time voluntary humanitarian work

If you go overseas temporarily to do full-time voluntary humanitarian work, you may be able to receive your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension for up to 156 weeks. You need to check with Work and Income before you go.

If you are paid New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension, refer to:

If you are paid a benefit, refer to:

Checklist

Things to do before leaving Australia for New Zealand

  • You must let Centrelink know your date of departure from Australia and preferably your New Zealand address. Centrelink will be able to tell you whether you will continue to receive your Australian benefit, pension or allowance.
  • Make sure you have proof of your identity (eg passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate or driver licence), your bank account details and any doctors’ or specialists’ reports (if applying for the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind).

Things to do after arriving in New Zealand

  • If you want to apply for New Zealand Superannuation, a Veteran’s Pension or the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind), contact Work and Income

Legislation

A copy of the Social Welfare (Reciprocity with Australia) Order 2002 (the Agreement) can be found here on the New Zealand legislation website:

Frequently Asked Questions

New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension

Q. What happens if I receive New Zealand Superannuation or the Veteran’s Pension before I leave to live in Australia?

A. You can continue to be paid in Australia for a maximum of 26 weeks.

To see if these payments can continue after 26 weeks, you must apply for New Zealand Superannuation to be paid to you in Australia. You must do this within 26 weeks of leaving New Zealand by applying for an Australian Age Pension at your local Centrelink office.

Q. What happens if I do not apply for my New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payment to be made in Australia within 26 weeks?

A. Your payments may be affected. If you return within 26 weeks you will continue to receive your payments while you are away.

If you return within 30 weeks you will only be paid for the first 26 weeks that you are away.

If you don’t return to New Zealand within 30 weeks of your departure, you won’t be paid while you are away. Your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension payments will stop from the first pay day after you leave New Zealand and you will have to return any money paid to you from that date.

Q. If my partner is under 65 and is included in my New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension and we move to Australia, is my rate affected?

A. Yes. If your partner is under 65 and already included in your New Zealand payments, they can only continue to be paid up to the date that you apply for Australian Age Pension or New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension to be paid to you in Australia.

This means if you apply for an Australian Age Pension the week after you leave New Zealand, your partner’s payments will stop from this date. Your partner can apply for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension and an Australian Age Pension once they turn 65.

Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind), Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment

Q. What happens if I’m already paid the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) before I leave to live in Australia?

A. You can continue to be paid this in Australia for a maximum of 26 weeks, providing you apply for the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) within four weeks of your departure from New Zealand. To do this, apply for a Disability Support Pension at your local Centrelink office or Centrelink International Services.

Whether these payments continue will depend on whether you are able to receive the Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) paid to you in Australia.

To avoid possible delays in applying for the Disability Support Pension, take any doctors’ and specialists’ reports to Australia.

Q. What happens if I do not apply for a Disability Support Pension within four weeks of leaving New Zealand?

A. Your Supported Living Payment (health condition, injury, disability or totally blind) will stop after four weeks. You will need to return any payments made to you after that date.

General questions

Q. Who decides how much I will be paid?

A. Centrelink decides who can receive an Australian benefit or pension and how much will be paid. Senior Services International decides who can receive a New Zealand benefit or pension and how much will be paid.

Q. What if I’m living in New Zealand and my Australian benefit or pension is higher than the New Zealand benefit or pension?

A. If your Australian pension is paid by the Direct Payment Method, you will be paid your full Australian benefit or pension but not a New Zealand benefit or pension.

If your partner is paid a New Zealand benefit or pension, any excess from your Australian pension will be deducted from their New Zealand benefit or pension.

If you are on the Special Banking Option, please talk to us about your options.

Q. What happens if my income and/or assets are above the limits for an Australian pension?

A. If you live in Australia, this means that you won’t be paid an Australian pension or a New Zealand pension or benefit.

If you live in New Zealand, your New Zealand payment will not be affected.

Q. Is my benefit or pension affected if I owe money to Centrelink or Work and Income?

A. Yes. A debt in either country can be deducted from your benefit or pension. You should talk to us about repayment options.

Q. What happens to the information I provide Centrelink or Work and Income?

A. Any application forms you complete for an Australian or New Zealand benefit or pension may be compared with information held by Centrelink or Work and Income, to check your identity and residency status.

Work and Income may compare information with Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Corrections, the New Zealand Customs Service, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Accident Compensation Corporation, Housing New Zealand Corporation and Immigration New Zealand. Work and Income may pass this information on to Centrelink as well.

In certain circumstances, Work and Income may approach other governments from whom you may be able to receive a similar benefit or pension.

Under the New Zealand Privacy Act 1993, you have the right to request all information we hold about you and corrections to that information.

Contacts

For Australia contact details go to our overseas pensions agency contact details page.

If you write to International Services you should include:

  • your full name
  • full address
  • date of birth
  • a list of all the countries you have lived in.

For New Zealand Senior Services contact details go to the Getting in touch with us page on the Ministry of Social Development website.