What you need to know before travelling overseas this summer

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If you’re planning to travel overseas this summer, it’s important to understand how it may affect your Centrelink and Medicare payments, and how to travel safely with PBS medication. 

Centrelink payments

The rules for travelling outside Australia vary according to your payments or concession card.

Some payments or concession cards will automatically stop as soon as you leave the country, and may reinstate upon your return.

Income support payments such as Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Sickness Allowance, Dad and Partner Pay and Parental Leave Pay will stop when you leave unless you have approval to travel temporarily with these payments.

Other payments may allow you to travel overseas for a short period before your payment stops or adjusts.

For example, generally you can travel:

  • Up to 28 days in a 12 month period if you receive Disability Support Pension
  • Up to six weeks at a time if you are a Family Tax Benefit, Carer Payment or Carer Allowance customer
  • Up to 19 weeks if you are a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holder.

Age Pension recipients who travel overseas for six weeks or less will not experience any change to their payment.

After six weeks, the rate of Age Pension might change as some supplement payments stop or reduce, and your concession cards will cancel. After 26 weeks outside the country, your payment rate will be based on how long you have been an Australian resident.

Tell us about your travel

It’s important to let us know when you plan to travel overseas so we can assess if it may affect your payments.

The easiest way to do this is through your Centrelink online account on myGov. You’ll get a receipt confirming your travel details have been received. We’ll tell you if your travel affects your payments or concession cards and if we need any extra information.

You can also do this by calling us on your regular payment line or visiting a service centre.

The immigration department will also notify us when you leave or enter Australia.

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Taking Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medications overseas

There are strict rules for taking PBS medications out of Australia. It’s illegal to take PBS medication out the country unless it’s for your personal use or for the use of someone travelling with you.

If you plan to take your PBS medication with you, make sure you check it’s legal to take it to the country you’re visiting and if you’re permitted to take it out of Australia.

You can check if your medication is legal by contacting the country’s embassy, high commission, or consulate. You should also take a letter from your doctor with you, which specifies the medicine you take for personal use, and how much of it you use.

If you can’t do this, you can print and fill in the Medicine Export Declaration form and take this with you through customs.

It’s also important to speak with your doctor beforehand to confirm if your medication will last you for your trip.

Medicare coverage

Medicare doesn’t cover any health or medical treatments you receive overseas.

However, some of your medical costs may be covered under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement if you visit a country that has an agreement with Australia. Make sure you take your Medicare card with you if visiting one of these countries.

If travelling on a cruise ship between two Australian ports, you’re entitled to claim Medicare benefits for eligible services provided by a registered medical practitioner. The practitioner must be registered in Australia for Medicare benefits to be payable.

You aren’t eligible for Medicare benefits if you’re travelling between an Australian port and a foreign port, or two foreign ports.

In any case, you should consider organising an appropriate level of travel insurance, to assist with any unforeseen medical costs.

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