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Cross-border Payment of Benefits

Ensuring social security rights in the European Union


Ensuring social security rights has been an important factor in guaranteeing the free movement of people in the EU. Since the legislation providing for social security rights is different across different member states, coordination rules have been developed for ensuring the interoperation of the social security systems used in different member states and preventing people from losing social security rights.

This is regulated by the European Union in the form of Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the coordination of social security systems. This regulation describes the conditions on which a person is ensured social security in another member state. The EU rules cover illness and maternity benefits, disability (incapacity to work), old-age and survivor's pension, occupational accident and occupational disease benefits, funeral allowance, benefits paid to the unemployed, and family benefits.

It is up to the states to ensure that a person moving from one member state to another does not find themselves in a worse situation compared to someone who has lived and worked in a single member state for all of their life. The coordination rules are applied in all EU member states, as well as Norway, Liechtenstein, Island, and Switzerland.

The principles established in the regulation apply to the citizens of EU member states, as well as stateless persons and refugees upon their movement from one state to another for residence or employment.

Ensuring social security rights outside the European Union


Estonia has also signed a number of bilateral social security agreements to regulate situations where a person becomes the resident of a country outside the EU. Bilateral social security agreements have been signed with Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Moldova, and Australia.

The EU has signed association agreements with certain third countries; main social security matters regulated by these agreements include the equal treatment of citizens and the export of pensions, i.e. obligation to pay pensions to third countries.

On 1 January 2018, an amendment to the State Pension Insurance Act regulating the global export of pensions enters into force, ensuring the payment of pensions to all foreign states, with certain limitations. This gives people the right to receive a pension from Estonia even if they do not live in Estonia during the period they are eligible for the pension.

The payment of social insurance benefits is managed by the National Social Insurance Board, the Health Insurance Fund, and the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Last updated: 6 November 2017