The Social Security Agreement between Australia and the United States of America (USA) started on 1 October 2002. The Agreement provides enhanced access to Australian and US social security benefits for people living in both countries who have lived and/or worked in the other country.
People who will Benefit from the Agreement
Australian residents who have worked in the USA may now be entitled to a US benefit for the first time. These people will be able to use periods of employment in Australia to count as periods of coverage in the US social security scheme for the purpose of meeting minimum qualifying requirements.
Note: A person must have a minimum of six 'quarters of coverage' (about eighteen months work) under the US social security system before they can claim a US benefit under the Agreement.
Residents of the USA who have lived in Australia during their working life (between 16 years of age and age pension age) will now be able to claim an Australian pension for the first time, and will be able to count periods of coverage in the USA as periods of residence in Australia for the purpose of meeting minimum qualifying requirements. Note: A person living in the USA must have a minimum of 12 months working life residence in Australia to claim an Australian payment under the Agreement.
Payments that are Covered by the Agreement
For Australia, the new Agreement with the USA covers Age Pension, Disability Support Pension for the severely disabled, pensions payable to widowed persons and Carer Payment to partners of people who receive an Age Pension or a Disability Support Pension.
For the USA, the new Agreement covers Retirement Benefits, Disability Benefits and Survivor Benefits.
How People Can Claim
People living in Australia can lodge claims for Australian benefits at any Centrelink office. Centrelink will also assist people who wish to claim a benefit from the USA. There are over 400 Centrelink offices in Australia. The Centrelink website at Centrelink - www.centrelink.gov.au, has a list of these offices.
People living in the USA can lodge claims for both US and Australian payments at any Social Security Administration office. Locations of offices are available on the SSA website at Social Security Online - www.ssa.gov
Case Study One
(example of how the Agreement works)
Edna lived in Australia for 20 years during her working life (between 16 and age pension age) and is now living in the USA. She is already receiving a US retirement pension. Edna left Australia before reaching age pension age and was unable to claim an Australian pension because she was not living in Australia. The new Agreement with the USA will allow Edna to claim an Australian pension even though she is living in the USA. Edna's Australian pension entitlement will still be subject to the means test and will be paid according to the number of years of working life she had in Australia.
Case Study Two
(example of how the Agreement works)
Sam is 67 and currently lives in Australia. He has worked in Australia for 15 years. Prior to this he worked in the US for 8 years. He cannot claim a US retirement benefit because he does not have the minimum 40 quarters of coverage (around 10 years of work) to qualify for payments. The new Agreement with the USA will allow Sam to add the periods he has worked in Australia to his 32 quarters of coverage (8 years work) in the US to make up the minimum 40 quarters required to qualify for a US retirement benefit. Sam's US benefit will still only be paid based on his earnings in the USA and the time he actually worked there.
Double Coverage for Seconded Workers
The Agreement also means that contributions do not have to be made into both countries' systems for an employee seconded to work temporarily in the other country. Australian and US employees will remain subject only to the relevant laws of their home country. In Australia's case this is the Superannuation Guarantee scheme. The Australian Taxation Office is responsible for the administration of the double coverage provisions. Contact the ATO on telephone 131020 if you require more information on this aspect of the Agreement. Their website address is ATO Superannuation - www.ato.gov.au/super.
Need more Information?
More information about the new Agreement with the USA, or Australia's other social security agreements, is available on the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services Internet website at Social Security Agreement between Australia and the United States of America. You can write to the Department at PO Box 7576, Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610. Or you can email the Department at International Branch (email@example.com).
Information about claiming an Australian pension or USA benefits is available from Centrelink International Services. You can telephone them on 131673 or you can write to them at GPO 273 Hobart Tasmania 7001. Or you can email them at International Services (firstname.lastname@example.org)