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Updated : 20/06/2014

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State pensions abroad

Applying for pensions

Old-age pensions

Who to apply to

If you've worked in several EU countries, you may have accumulated pension rights in each of them.

When the time comes for you to claim your pension, you'll have to apply in the country where you're living - unless you have never worked there. In this case, you should apply where you last worked.

That country is then responsible for processing your claim and bringing together records of your contributions from all the countries you worked in.

If you've never worked in the country where you now live, you should apply to the relevant pension authority in the last country where you worked. Your application will then be processed there.

The pension authority in the country where you live (or last worked) should send you your pension application form before you reach that country's retirement age. If you don't receive it, you should contact them.

You can only apply for your pension from the country where you now live once you have reached the legal retirement age in that country.

If you have pension rights from other countries, you will only receive that part of your pension once you have reached the legal retirement age in those other countries.

You should apply for your pension at least 6 months before you retire because the award of a pension from several countries can be a long procedure.

Documents you'll need

These vary from one country to another, but you usually have to supply your bank details and some form of identification.

For more exact details, contact the pension authority handling your claim.

Differences in retirement ages

In some EU countries, you will have to wait longer to start drawing your pension than in others.

So it's important to find out in advance, from all the countries where you have worked, what your situation will be if you change the date on which you start receiving your pension.

If you take one pension earlier than the other, it might affect the amounts you receive.

You can get more advice from the relevant authority in the country where you live and/or in the countries where you worked.

Sample story

Be aware of different (later!) retirement ages in other countries

Caroline from France worked in Denmark for 15 years, then went back to France towards the end of her career. When she turned 60, she applied for her pension, as is usual in France, but only got a very low one.

At 60, Caroline is only entitled to the French part of her pension. She will receive the Danish part when she turns 67 — the legal retirement age in Denmark for Caroline's age group.

How your pension is calculated

Step 1 — National rate

If you've worked in several EU countries, each country's pension authority will first calculate your pension using its own rules, based on the contributions you paid there (known as independent benefit).

If you have been covered for less than a year in one country, a special rule may apply, as some countries do not provide a pension for short periods: your months of insurance or residence in the country where you worked for a short time will not be lost but taken into account in the calculation of your pension by the countries where you worked longer.

If you have a problem obtaining the payment of a pension for working periods of less than a year, you can get support.

Step 2 — EU-equivalent rate

Then each country adds together your contribution periods from all countries and works out how much pension you would get if these contributions had all been paid into its own scheme.

This amount is then adjusted to reflect the actual time you were covered in that country (called the pro rata benefit).

Result

These 2 amounts are compared and you will receive whichever is higher.

Each country's decision on your claim will be explained in a special note, the P1 form, you will receive.

Example

Rosa worked 20 years in country A and 20 years in country B.

At the national rates, she would get 800 euros a month from A and 900 euros from B — a total monthly pension of 1 700 euros.

But taking into account the contribution periods abroad (the 'EU rates'), Rosa's monthly pension would be 1 000 euros from A and 1 150 euros from B.

Rosa is entitled to this higher amount — 2 150 euros a month.

Payment of your pension

Each country that grants you a pension generally pays the corresponding amount into a bank account in your country of residence - if you live within the EU.

If you do not live in the EU, you might need to open a bank account in each EU country which pays you a pension.

Invalidity / survivors' pensions

The rules mentioned above also apply to the calculation of invalidity pensions and survivors' pensions. It is important to know that:

  • If you claim an invalidity pension or incapacity benefit, each country you have worked in could insist on examining you separately — and may well reach different verdicts. One might assess you as seriously incapacitated while another may not consider you incapacitated at all.
  • Some EU countries do not pay survivor's pensions. If your husband or wife works abroad and you are counting on the possibility of a survivor's pension, check whether they exist in that country.
Help and advice

Help and advice

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Footnote

In this case, the 27 EU member states + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland

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