Updated : 12/2012
When you move abroad, you should be aware that there may be different forms of family benefits for example:
All countries offer some family benefits but amounts and conditions differ widely. In some countries you will receive regular payments, while in others your family situation may give rise to tax benefits rather than payments. When you move abroad, the types of family benefits you are entitled to may change, which could either increase or reduce your income.
Before moving abroad, contact a European employment adviser to get an idea what family benefits you will be entitled to in your new country. Differences between national systems can have a significant impact on your overall income.
If you and/or your children’s other parent have worked abroad, you might be entitled to family benefits from different countries.
In such cases, the relevant national authorities will take account of both parents' situation and decide which country has primary responsibility for paying the benefits. Their decision will be based on "priority rules".
If the benefits you receive from the "primary" country turn out to be lower than what you would have received from the "secondary" country where you also had rights (because you also obtain a pension there or because you work there), the secondary country will pay a supplement equivalent to the difference between the two benefits. In this way, you are ensured of receiving the maximum benefits to which you are entitled.
George and Martine move to country B because Martine has found an interesting job there. George is a pensioner and goes on receiving his pension from country A. Under EU law, the country responsible for paying their family benefits is B (the “primary country” — see above). It pays them €50 per month.
However, in country A, they used to receive €100 a month — so country A is obliged to top up their benefit to this amount by also paying them €50 a month.
This is because country A still pays George a pension, so it remains responsible for paying the difference between the family benefits of countries B and A (as the “secondary” country).
As a pensioner, changing your country of residence does not affect your entitlements to family benefits.
Scenario: you are the only parent entitled to family benefits, and you are entitled to family benefits in more than 1 country because:
In all cases, if the family benefits you receive from the primary benefit-paying country are lower than those you would receive in any of the other countries in which you have rights, those other countries will have to pay you a supplement to make up the difference.
Eva from Norway worked for 15 years in France and 20 years in Finland. When she retired, she decided to move to Malta. Her daughter was then 14 years old. Eva didn't know which country should pay her family benefits.
She contacted a European employment adviser, who advised her to apply for family allowance in either Finland or France. Under EU law, the country responsible for paying should be the one where she was insured the longest — in this case Finland.
However, if the amount of benefits she would be entitled to in France is higher than the Finnish benefits, France will have to pay the difference.
Scenario: you and your children's other parent are both entitled to family benefits in more than 1 country because:
The total amount of your family benefits should be equal to the highest benefits available.
If you are divorced and your ex-husband or wife receives benefits but does not use them to maintain your children, you can contact the family benefits authority in the country where your children live and ask to have the benefits paid direct to you instead, since you are the person who is actually maintaining the family.
You can apply for family benefits in any country where you or your children's other parent are entitled to benefits. The authority in the country in which you apply will share your application with all countries that are competent in your case.
If you apply for benefits in due time in one country, you will be considered to have applied in due time in any other EU country in which you have rights to family benefits. You cannot be refused benefits to which you are entitled because the country where you applied initially forwarded your files too late to the competent authority in another country.
Check with the national authorities what deadlines apply to family benefits. If you miss the deadline, you could lose your entitlement.
National authorities are obliged to cooperate with each other and exchange all the information required to deal with your application. To overcome the difficulties linked to language differences, national authorities use standard documents (former E forms) when exchanging information.
Elias from Greece worked his whole life in Greece but moved to Liechtenstein when he retired. He has 2 children under 18 and so applied for family benefits in Liechtenstein.
However, the authorities there advised him to apply to Greece, claiming they were not responsible for his case.
This is right, because Greece is the only country paying Elias a pension.
National social security systems vary widely within Europe.
Find out about the family benefits system in the country where you are going - to avoid problems and misunderstandings with potentially serious consequences: