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What you need to know about NZ Super

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If you are a New Zealand citizen or resident and meet the residence criteria, you can generally access the New Zealand Superannuation when you turn 65. There is no means or income test involved.

But if you’ve recently settled in New Zealand, or have spent a lot of your life outside the country, it can be a bit more complicated. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s NZ Super?

NZ Super, usually referred to by New Zealanders as “the pension”, is paid to people over 65.

The rate for couples who both qualify is based on 66% of the “average ordinary time wage” after tax. For single people, it is about 40% of that average wage.

It is not means-tested and you do not have to have had any period of paid work to qualify.

Who qualifies?

Things are a little bit more complicated if you are a recent migrant, or if you have spent a lot of time out of the country during your life.

To qualify, you have to be a legal resident of New Zealand who has lived in the country for 10 years since the age of 20, including at least five of those years since you turned 50. 

But from July 2024, this requirement is increasing slowly over time, so that it will be 20 years by July 2042.

You need to be able to show you were both a resident and physically present in New Zealand through those years.

Living in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau also qualifies.

Foreign superannuation

Depending on where you’re moving from, you may find that any pension you bring with you – or even qualify for in any other country -  could affect what you can receive as NZ Super.

If the New Zealand Government considers that your superannuation is paid in the same type of circumstances as New Zealand’s pension, and administered by or on behalf of another government, it may offset the NZ Super you qualify for. Not every country is affected by this and it is something that some migrants have been caught out by.

The Government says some of the pensions that can affect what you qualify for include Australia’s pension, Canada’s old age security, pension plan and Quebec pension plan, Netherlands’ Algemene Ouderdomswet (AOW), United States’ social security pension scheme and United Kingdom’s state pension.

Voluntary contributions that you have made to your superannuation would not be offset.

If you qualify for a pension from another country, you need to apply for it there.  The offsetting is designed to ensure that people who have lived overseas get the same level of assistance as people who have only lived in New Zealand.

You can choose to have your overseas pension paid by direct credit into your bank account – you’ll then have to pay tax on this if you are also getting NZ Super. There is also a small number of countries, including the United Kingdom, for which you can organise to have your pension combined with your NZ Super as one payment, with the tax already deducted.

How to apply 

If you are approaching the age of eligibility and want to apply for the pension, you can do this via the Ministry of Social Development’s website.

If you do not already have a client number with the ministry, you’ll need to complete another form first to request it, then begin your application. You can also download and print a paper form and take this into a ministry service centre.

Useful resources

If you would like some more information about what is available, and what you might qualify for, there are a number of resources online that can help.

As pension transfer experts, we can also help you to determine how the support you are entitled to may fit together with other superannuation schemes you have built up over your working life. 

Time to talk?

If you’ve moved to New Zealand, or are in the process of doing so, you may be thinking about how your UK pension fits in with your new life here. For some migrants, moving their pensions can make a lot of sense. We can help you work through whether this is the case for you, and how to go about it.


Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.