General portability (1.1.P.310) of pensions started on 8 May 1973. The legislation for portability is in SSAct Part 4.2 and in the SS(IntAgree)Act, which give effect to international social security agreements (1.1.A.120).
Full details about each of Australia's Social Security Agreements are in Part 10 of the Guide to Social Security Law.
Act reference: SSAct Part 4.2 Overseas portability
If you need to refer to:
Since general portability of Australian pensions began in 1973, there have been a number of important changes including:
From 1 January 2013 generally all payments are portable for up to 6 weeks (for most payments, only for temporary absences). Specific conditions must be met for some payments.
The 6 week portability period is subject to continuing qualification for the payment and nothing in the portability rules confers a right on a recipient to continue to be paid if the recipient is not qualified for the payment (section 1212D). This means that qualification for the payment overrides any portability provisions.
Portability is defined in terms of payability, i.e. as long as a person qualifies for a payment the payment can be paid for temporary absences of up to 6 weeks. Ancillary payments such as RA and PhA are also portable for up to 26 weeks (6 weeks for TAL) for temporary absences only if the main payment is portable indefinitely.
Entitled WidB, entitled WP and Age are portable indefinitely. Terminally ill DSP recipients who are severely disabled and those who have a severe and permanent impairment and no future work capacity, may also have unlimited portability for permanent departures. These recipients with unlimited portability may have their payments proportionalised after 26 weeks of absence if their AWLR is less than 25 years (there are special rules if the recipient is departing to New Zealand). Some of these recipients may also retain the 20 September 2000 savings provision (see below).
Act reference: SSAct section 1212D Part does not affect need for qualification
If extreme circumstances beyond the recipient's control arise after departure and prevent a recipient, who has a limited portability period, from returning to Australia the portability period may be extended under the Secretary's discretionary waiver power.
A pension granted to a former resident who resumes Australian residency is not portable for the first 24 months following their resumption of residence in Australia. There is NO discretionary power to allow for portability in this period.
Act reference: SSAct Schedule 1A clause 128 Saving provision-portability rules relating to rates of pension
DSP recipients who were outside Australia immediately before 1 July 2004 with unlimited portability may keep that unlimited portability for any departure on or after 1 July 2004 providing they have not returned to Australia for permanent residence.
If these recipients return temporarily, they will not be entitled to ancillary payments such as RA and PhA, or entitled to a concession card. This is because they are not Australian residents. If a recipient chooses to resume Australian residency (and therefore entitlements to ancillary payments, e.g. concession cards), then they will lose the savings provision and any new absence will be under the new rules.
If DSP recipients continue to be payable indefinitely under this savings provision, they will retain their previous proportional rate exemptions and rules (including pre 20 September 2000 rules if applicable).
Act reference: SSAct Schedule 1A clause 135 Unlimited maximum portability period for disability support pension
Recipients overseas immediately before 1 January 2013 are subject to the rules under which they departed until they return to Australia.
Example: A YA recipient given 13 weeks' portability on 14 December 2012 can continue with that absence. However, any absence starting on or after 1 January 2013 will be under the new rules (generally 6 weeks).
Age, entitled WP and entitled WidB recipients who were overseas before 20 September 2000 and who have not since returned to Australia for a period of 26 weeks or more are to be paid their portable pensions under the pre 20 September 2000 rules.
Age and WidB recipients (who were granted before 2 July 1986 or who were Australian residents on 8 May 1985, and left Australia for any country before 1 January 1996, or, after that date for a country with which Australia does NOT have a social security agreement) will not have their rate proportionalised. In some circumstances Age and WidB recipients can use their partner's (or former partner's) AWLR in determining their proportional rate.
Note: The above rules MAY also continue to apply to DSP 'saved' overseas on 1 July 2004 (as above) for as long as they retain that 1 July 2004 saving.
DSP recipients granted on or after 12 November 1991 who are not severely disabled or severely impaired, and wife and WidB pensioners who are not entitled may still have their 20 September savings provision (allowing them 12 months of portability) for absences that commenced prior to 1 July 2004. These recipients were overseas immediately before 20 September 2000 and have not since returned for more than 26 weeks although they have returned every year for a short period to 'renew' their 12 months' portability period.
Once these recipients return to Australia this savings provision will be lost and they will generally be limited to 6 weeks' portability for any departure commencing on or after 1 January 2013.
Note: The following exemptions from proportionality were not altered by either the 20 September 2000, 1 July 2004 or 1 January 2013 changes:
Act reference: SSAct section 1220B(2) Proportionality-disability support pension rate for a severely disabled person, section 1221(2) Proportionality-wife pension and widow B pension rate for entitled persons, Schedule 1A clause 128 Saving provision-portability rules relating to rates of pension
From 1 July 2011, severely disabled DSP recipients may be entitled to a discretionary extension of portability if they have a family member who is posted overseas for work on whom they depend and with whom they will be living throughout the period of absence.
Act reference: SSAct section 1218AB Extended portability period for disability support pension
From 1 July 2012 DSP recipients with a severe impairment and no future capacity to work are eligible for indefinite portability of their pension. DSP recipients applying for portability under the 'severely impaired' provisions are required to undergo an assessment of their impairment and their future work capacity.
To be eligible for indefinite portability under this rule:
Except for a manifest grant, DSP recipients applying for indefinite portability under these provisions are required to undergo a portability assessment which includes the JCA processes. For a person to meet the DSP portability work capacity test they need to be assessed as having no future work capacity. This requirement will be met, if the JCA indicates that, based on the evidence and the assessor's professional opinion, it is unlikely that the person will have any capacity to undertake work in the open employment market at or above the relevant minimum wage in the next 5 years, even with interventions.
DSP recipients who apply for portability under these provisions while in Australia, are required to undergo a portability assessment before departure. Generally, those recipients who apply while overseas will need to return to Australia to undergo portability assessment. An exception to the requirement to return to Australia for an assessment will apply where a DSP recipient is unable to return to Australia because they have had a serious accident, or been hospitalised, before the end of their current portability period.
Act reference: SSAct section 1218AAA Unlimited portability period for disability support pension-severely impaired disability support pensioner, section 94(3B) Severe impairment
Last reviewed: 2 January 2013