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EXPLAINED: Do your pension contributions abroad count in Austria?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Do your pension contributions abroad count in Austria?
Austria's alpine regions have the highest life expectancy in the country. Photo by Matt Bennett on Unsplash

Plenty of foreigners in Austria – particularly those who retired to Austria – contributed to their pension before arriving here. What happens to those contributions? And what happens to contributions you made in Austria if you retire somewhere else?

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Many internationals living in Austria will have made pension contributions somewhere else before arriving here – or perhaps even in several places over the course of their lives. Maybe you studied in your home country outside the EU and worked there for a few years before moving to Germany for another 20 years – before deciding to come to Austria to retire.

It’s not an uncommon story – especially here, where people move to trade the bustle of their working lives for fresh mountain air. So if you take the alpine retirement leap, how much of your pension counts, when can you retire, and who pays it out?

What happens in reverse? What if you’ve worked in Austria for years and maybe decided to return to your home country for your retirement years?

There’s no easy answer. But depending on the countries you’ve worked in, you may be able to combine your contributions.

READ ALSO: Five reasons to retire in Austria

Which countries combine with Austria and how does it work?

To be eligible for an Austrian state pension, you need to have worked and made pension contributions in Austria for at least 15 of the last 30 years.

That’s quite a bit higher than many countries, including Germany, which requires just five years of contributions – or places like Ireland, which typically requires ten.

The good news is that the contributions you’ve made in other countries may end up counting, depending on your situation.

The most obvious example is if you worked in EU countries other than Austria. If someone worked in Ireland for three years and made pension contributions there before moving to Germany, worked in Germany for another 25 years, and then moved to Austria for the last 15 years of their career before retiring – EU law mandates that they be treated as having made 43 years of contributions.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

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This is true even though someone typically has to work for ten years in Ireland to receive an Irish pension, for example. The person in this example would file their application to the authorities of the last country in which they made pension contributions – in this case Austria. The Austrian authorities would then get in touch with both Germany and Ireland on their behalf to arrange the necessary payments.

The beautiful village of Hallstatt in Austria. Austria is a popular retirement destination, also for those who haven't necessarily worked in Austria before retirement. (Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash)

It’s important to bear in mind though that the person in this example would probably end up getting paid only a partial pension for the first few years of their retirement.

That’s because Austria’s retirement age is 60 for women and 65 for men. By contrast though, Germany’s is 67 for everyone. That means that the person in this example would be paid only the Austrian part of their pension if they retired before age 67. Once they turn 67 though, they’d then receive the German part of their pension and get full payments.

Typically speaking, in order for a contribution period in another EU country to count, EU rules say you should have paid into the system there for at least a year. So someone who worked in another EU country for six months before moving to Austria will likely not be able to count those six months into their total.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

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What about pension contributions made in non-EU countries?

EU social rights protections are the most straightforward, with your contributions made in different EU countries generally combining to your overall total when you reach retirement age. Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland also fall under these rules.

But Austria also has treaties with certain non-EU countries that sometimes work in a similar way. The thing to do is to check and see if the non-EU country you made contributions in has such a treaty with Austria. If it does, you are quite likely to be able to have the pension contributions you made in that country to be counted into your Austrian entitlement.

Financial preparation, including understanding your pension rights, can go a long way to a happy retirement in Austria. Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash

Austria currently has social security agreements with 18 non-EU countries, including the US, Canada, India, Australia, Israel, Chile, South Korea and others. You can find a fuller list here.

These agreements, however, may not be quite as simply applied as EU rules are. Each agreement might have certain unique provisions, so it may be useful to get expert advice in certain cases.

READ ALSO: Five things you need to know about the Austrian pension system

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However, one thing these treaties can often do is give someone a certain entitlement they may not necessarily have otherwise.

For example, under the US-Austrian Social Security Agreement, if someone had made ten years of contributions in the US followed by five years of contributions in Austria, the Austrian authorities would treat them as having made the minimum 15 years of contributions required for an Austrian pension. Even though only five of those years were in Austria, the ten years of contributions made in the US would then be combined into the Austrian total.

Austria and the UK have not, so far, signed a social security agreement covering current pension contributions.

Contributions made in the UK before February 1st, 2020 fall under the Brexit deal and are treated much the same way as contributions made in another EU country are. Any contributions made after that would be subject to a new social security agreement between Austria and the UK – one which hasn’t yet been negotiated.

READ ALSO: Where in Austria do al the British residents live?

Vienna remains a popular place for foreigners, including retirees, to settle. (Photo by Andy Wang on Unsplash)

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What if I retire to Austria but have never worked here?

In general, if you finish your working life before moving to Austria and only settle here after retirement – perhaps on a settlement permit that doesn’t come with permission to work – you will apply for your pension in the last country where you made contributions. There may be exceptions to this depending on what social security agreements might be in place – so get expert advice if you need it.

READ ALSO: How many years for I have to work in Austria to be entitled to a pension?

If the reverse is true, where perhaps you finish your working life in Austria and then move to a country like Italy or Spain to retire, you would generally file your pension application with the Austrian authorities – as Austria was the last place you made pension contributions, even if you end up living somewhere else.

 

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