Getting the most from Old Age Security

Many immigrants to Canada assume the “universal benefits” they hear about will automatically apply to them. It is not that simple.

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Every game has rules, and if you don’t fit the rules, you don’t get to play in the game. Old Age Security is a good example of this. You can’t assume you’re going to get the maximum amount talked about in the media and in financial examples. There are very specific rules for qualifying for the maximum and anyone who has lived in Canada less than 40 years likely won’t get the maximum available from OAS.

Service Canada’s website suggests that you think of OAS as a pie that’s been divided into 40 equal portions. To get the full pension, you have to qualify for all 40 pieces. Less than 40 pieces? You’ll get some pension.

The number of pieces of pie you get depends on how many years you’ve lived in Canada after the age of 18. From here the formula gets really complicated. If you were born before 1952 special rules apply:

• you must have lived in Canada in 1977, or had a residence in Canada for some period,
• you must have had a valid immigration visa, AND
• you must have lived in Canada for the 10 years prior to your OAS approval, unless you didn’t (see what I mean about complicated) in which case:

- you must have lived in Canada for the entire year before you approval AND
- you must have lived in Canada since the age of 18 for 3 years for every year you were away during these last 10 years .

Oy! My brain hurts!

If you don’t meet the 40-year rule or qualify under the provisions for people born before 1952, you’ll only get some of the 40 pieces of pie and only some of the OAS pension.

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