How can I claim my Irish State pension from abroad?

Ask the experts: I worked in Ireland in the 1980s but now I live in US state of Florida

 A person who has worked in a number of countries could receive a pension from Ireland, as well as from the US.

A person who has worked in a number of countries could receive a pension from Ireland, as well as from the US.

 

Question

I am Irish born and educated, and I emigrated to Switzerland in my twenties. I worked with the South Eastern Health Board for three years in the 1980s, before leaving Ireland. Now in my 60s and currently living in Florida, how do I go about applying for my Irish pension, and how is it calculated?

Answer: Sarah Owen, Crosscare Migrant Project

It is possible to apply for an Irish State Pension (Contributory) from outside of Ireland when you live abroad by contacting the Irish Department of Social Protection, which has its offices at Social Welfare Services, College Road, Sligo, Ireland for an application form. You can also call the office on + 353 71-915 7100 or download the form from welfare.ie. This should be done between three to six months before you reach pension age, which is currently age 66.

The State Pension (Contributory) is not means tested, but to qualify a person must:

– Have paid social insurance contributions before a certain age

– Have a certain number of social insurance contributions recorded, and

– Have a certain average over the years since they first entered insurance.

For example, a person who reaches pension age on or after April 6th 2012 must have paid contributions before the age of 56. They must also have at least 520 appropriate contributions and a yearly average of 10 appropriate contributions from the year they entered insurance (or 1953, whichever is later) or a yearly average of 48 for each contribution year from the 1979/1980 tax year, until the end of the tax year before reaching the age of 66.

Someone who has worked in Ireland as well as another EU country, or a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement, such as including the United States, can combine their Irish contributions with those made abroad to help them qualify for the Irish State Pension (Contributory).

Contributions made in Ireland can also be used in these countries to help qualify for a local pension. This means that a person who has worked in a number of countries could receive a pension from Ireland, as well as pensions from other EU countries, the US and Switzerland.

More information on combining social insurance contributions from abroad is available from the Citizens Information service.

Part 2 of the application form for the Irish State Pension (Contributory) asks for details of employment for all countries in which a person has worked. In this person’s case, they should therefore list their employment history in the US if they have worked there and in Switzerland, along with any other countries in which they have worked. Their eligibility will depend on the number of appropriate social insurance contributions they have, as well as whether they meet the yearly average criteria.

The maximum personal rate available to someone with a yearly average of between 10 to 14 contributions is €93.20 per week. This goes up to €233.30 per week for someone with a yearly average of 48 contributions or more. Full details of the eligibility criteria and rates of payment, as well as pro-rata pensions for people with mixed-insurance records who spent time working in the public service, can be found at welfare.ie.

Our Claiming an Irish pension when living in the US leaflet also provides detailed information on applying for an Irish State Pension from the United States. This, along with other information on emigrating from or returning to Ireland, can be found at our website migrantproject.ie.

Sarah Owen is Irish Abroad Networking Officer with Crosscare Migrant Project, which provides information and support to Irish emigrants and immigrants as part of the Dublin Archdiocese. See migrantproject.ie.

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. We regret that only questions selected for publication online can be answered. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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