In the EU, the country (In this case, the 28 EU member states + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) responsible for your social security, including family benefits (child benefits, child-raising allowances and so on), depends on your economic status and your place of residence - not your nationality.
National laws determine the conditions under which parents are paid family benefits. Usually, parents are entitled to benefits in a given EU country:
- if they work there
- if they receive a state pension under that country's social security scheme (for example old-age, invalidity or survivor's pension)
- or simply if they live there.
Beware that family benefits differ greatly within Europe.
If you settle with all the members of your family in another EU country (In this case, the 28 EU member states + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and are covered by that country's social security system only, you will be subject to your host country's family benefit regime.
However, if you are posted abroad for a short assignment (less than 2 years) while remaining covered by your home country's social security system, your home country will be responsible for paying your family benefits.
If members of your family do not live in the country where you are insured, you could be entitled to family benefits from different countries.
The relevant national authorities will then take account of both parents' situations and decide which country has primary responsibility for paying the benefits. Their decision will be based on "priority rules".
- Generally, the primary country responsible for providing the benefits is the country where your family's right is based on work (you or your spouse are employed or self-employed)
- If your right is based on work (employment or self-employment) in both countries, the country where your children live is responsible if one of the parents works there. Otherwise it will be the country where the highest benefits are paid.
- If your right is based on a pension in both countries, the country where your children live is responsible if this country pays one of the pensions. Otherwise it will be the country where you were insured or have resided the longest.
- If your right is based on residence in both countries, the country where your children live is primarily responsible.
If the benefits you receive from the "primary" country turn out to be lower than what you would have received from the "secondary" country where you also had rights, the secondary country will pay a supplement equivalent to the difference between the two benefits. In this way, you are sure of receiving the maximum benefits to which you are entitled.
If you are divorced and your ex-husband or ex-wife receives benefits but does not use them to maintain your children, you can contact the family benefits authority in the country where your children live and ask to have the benefits paid direct to you instead, since you are the person who is actually maintaining the family.
You can apply for family benefits in any EU country (In this case, the 28 EU member states + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) where you or your children's other parent are entitled to benefits. The authority in the country in which you apply will share your application with all countries that are competent in your case.
If you apply for benefits in due time in one country, you will be considered to have applied in due time in any other EU country in which you have rights to family benefits. You cannot be refused benefits to which you are entitled because the country where you applied initially forwarded your files too late to the competent authority in another country.
Check with the national authorities what deadlines apply to family benefits. If you miss the deadline, you could lose your entitlement.
National authorities are obliged to cooperate with each other and exchange all the information required to deal with your application. To overcome the difficulties linked to language differences, national administrations use standard documents when exchanging information.
EU countries are free to establish their own rules on entitlement to benefits and services. All countries offer some family benefits but amounts and conditions differ widely. In some countries you will receive regular payments, while in others your family situation may give rise to tax benefits rather than payments.
To avoid potentially serious misunderstandings that could have a significant impact on your overall income, find out about the social security system in your host country.