Accessing Social Security Benefits

When moving within the EU, you only pay social security contributions in one country at a time. Generally, you will also receive social security benefits exclusively from this country.

The EU has rules on social security coordination. This does not mean that there is a single European social security system. All countries are free to decide who is to be insured under their legislation, which benefits are granted, and under what conditions.

These four principles apply when you live, study, or work in another EU country:

  • You are covered by the social security legislation of one country at a time and you only pay contributions in one country.
  • You have the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the country where you are covered (where you pay contributions).
  • When you claim a benefit, your previous periods of insurance, work, or residence in other countries are taken into account if necessary.
  • If you are entitled to a cash benefit from one country, you may generally receive it even if you are living in a different country.

However, it is important to distinguish between social security benefits (such as unemployment benefits, pensions, etc.) and social assistance benefits, under which also certain disability benefits can fall. In the case of social assistance benefits, different rules may apply especially to the portability when you move temporarily or permanently to another country.

For more information, please consult the Commission’s webpage on social security coordination and the Regulation 883/2004 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons, to self-employed persons and to members of their families moving within the Community.