EU Coordination Rules

What are the EU Social Security Coordination rules and how do these apply to me?

The EU provides common rules to protect the social security rights of persons moving within Europe (EU 28 + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).  The coordination of the various EU Member States’ social security systems, including that of Malta, is effected by means of EU Regulations (EC) Nos. 883/2004 and 987/2009 (the latter Regulation contains detailed rules for implementing the former Regulation), which came into force on the 1st May 2010, replacing the previous Regulations (EC) Nos. 1408/71 and 574/72 respectively.  These Regulations apply to all Member State nationals who are, or who have been, covered by the social security legislation of one of the Member States, as well as to the members of their family and their survivors.  This means that not only employees, self-employed persons, civil servants, students and pensioners, but also non-active persons will be protected by the coordination rules.  Moreover, Regulation (EU) No 1231/2010 further extends the application of the rules to third country nationals legally resident in the Union.   The rules on social security coordination do not replace national systems with a single European one. All countries are free to decide who is to be insured under their legislation, which benefits are granted and under what conditions.

The four main principles

  • Persons are covered by the legislation of one country at a time and only pay contributions in one country. The decision on which country’s legislation applies is made by the social security institutions and is not optional for the person concerned.
  • Persons have the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the country where they are covered. This is known as the principle of equal treatment or non-discrimination.
  • When a claim for benefits is submitted, the previous periods of insurance, work or residence in other Member States are taken into account, if necessary.
  • If a person is entitled to a cash benefit from one country, this is payable even if the person is living in a different country. This is known as the principle of exportability.

Determining which social security scheme applies

The rules on social security coordination provide for a series of conflict rules which enable social security institutions to determine which country’s legislation applies to persons who are in a cross-border situation between two (or more) countries.  Once determined, the country whose legislation is applicable issues Portable Document A1 which certifies the country which is competent for the social security coverage of the person.

Benefits covered by the EU rules on social security coordination

Once the applicable legislation is determined, the insured person shall be covered against the following contingencies:

Each category of benefits may include different benefits which may vary from one country to another.  The same applies for the eligibility criteria for each benefit which needs to be satisfied.

As regulations, the coordination rules apply directly in all EU countries. In other words, they have to be observed by national authorities and administrations, social security institutions and courts. Even when national laws are in conflict with them, EU rules have priority.

It may be difficult to determine whether or not a particular benefit is covered by the coordination rules.  The social security institutions in the various EU Member States are the point of reference in these circumstances.  A list of institutions can be found through the directory provided by the European Commission available at:  https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1028&langId=en.

In Malta, the Department of Social Security is the competent institution for determining the applicable legislation and for the payment of social security benefits.

What is not covered?

A certain number of special cash benefits which are not based on contributions (non-contributory benefits) will only be provided by and at the expense of the institution of the country of residence. In most cases these benefits are paid to people whose pension or income is below a certain level. These benefits will not be paid outside the country. The special non-contributory cash benefits are listed in Annex X of Regulation 883/2004.

In the case of Malta, the following benefits have been declared as Special Non-Contributory Cash Benefits:

EU coordination does not apply to social and medical assistance: these benefits are normally granted on the basis of the person’s means.

EU coordination does not apply to taxation. Taxation related issues should be addressed to the tax authorities in the country of residence.

The general principle is that a worker should be subject to the legislation of only one Member State at any one time.  Workers are generally subject to the legislation of the state in which they are working, regardless of their place of residence or the location of the employer.  Title II of Regulation (EC) 883/2004 contains particular rules, such as rules for civil servants, who are subject to the legislation of the Member State to which the administration employing them is subject, or for persons who are employed or self-employed in several Member States.

Persons who are normally employed in two or more Member States are subject to the legislation of the Member State of residence if they pursue a substantial part of their activity in that Member State; if they do not pursue a substantial part of their activities in the Member State of residence, they are subject to the legislation of the Member State in whose territory the registered office or place of business of their employer is situated.  However, in the case of self-employment, a person is subject to the legislation of the Member State of residence if the person pursues a substantial part of the activity in that Member State; if the person does not reside in one of the Member States in which a substantial part of the activity is pursued, the person is subject to the legislation of the Member State in which the centre of interest of the activities is situated.

Special arrangements exist to provide for employees temporarily posted by their employer to work in another Member State.  If the anticipated duration of the posting does not exceed 24 months and the employee is not replacing someone whose tour of duty has ended, the worker may remain insured in their “home” state’s scheme.  If the work unexpectedly lasts longer than 24 months, the Member States involved may enter into a common agreement (under Article 16 of Regulation 883/2004), whereby the person may remain insured in the sending state.  This agreement should be made in the interest of certain categories of persons and professions.

More information about the practice for the determination of the applicable legislation is available in the: Practical Guide:  The legislation that applies to workers in the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEU) and in Switzerland.

The A1 certificate

The portable document (PD) A1 certifies which social security legislation applies to the holder of the form.  It will generally be needed in situations where an employed or self-employed person has a connection with more than one EU country through the work activity.  Under the EU rules a person is only subject to the legislation of one country at any one time.  The A1 is issued by the country to whose legislation the person is subject and, in turn, also confirms that the legislation of any other country to which the person is connected is not applicable.  In other words, the worker will have no obligation to pay social security (including health insurance) contributions in the other countries involved.  The A1 remains valid until the date of expiry, indicated on the form or until it is withdrawn by the issuing institution.

Where and when to obtain an A1 certificate?

In case of an employed person who goes to work temporarily in another EU country, the employer will normally apply for the A1 with the Department of Social Security, on the employee’s behalf.    Employers should also apply for an A1 document on behalf of their employees when these normally pursue activities in more than one EU country.  Self-employed persons should apply in their own right.   An application should be submitted through the online application for an A1 document.  Whenever possible, the application should be made before the activity begins in the other country.

If, on the other hand, a person is insured in another EU country and is going to work temporarily in Malta, an A1 document should be obtained from the social security institution where the person insured and present it to the Maltese employer.

Use of the A1 certificate

The A1 should be kept available to be presented, by the worker and the employer, to the institution in the country where the activity is carried out, to confirm the social security position and to indicate in which country the security contributions will have to be paid.

Which situations does the A1 form cover?

  • When you are sent by your employer to work temporarily in another EU country on his behalf for a maximum period of 24 months. This is known as a “posting”.
  • When you are normally self-employed in an EU country and go to pursue a similar activity in another country for a maximum period of 24 months.
    • Self-employed persons are required to fill in the posting questionnaire. If all the conditions for posting are fulfilled, the A1 form will confirm that you will remain subject to the legislation of Malta.
  • When you are employed or self-employed on board a vessel flying the flag of Malta
    • Unless you reside in the same country where your employer is situated, the A1 form will confirm that you will be subject to the legislation of Malta.
  • When you are performing an activity as flight or cabin crew of an aircraft whose designated home base is in Malta
    • When the designated home base in terms of Annex III of Regulation 3922/91 is Malta , the A1 form will confirm that you will be subject to the legislation of Malta.
  • When you are normally employed in more than one EU country at the same time or in alternation.
    • Depending on your situation, you may be subject to the legislation of either your country of residence or the country in which the registered office or place of business of your employer is situated.
    • In this case the determination of the applicable legislation is carried out by the social security institution in the Member State of residence.
    • When Malta is the Member State of residence responsible for carrying out the determination of the applicable legislation, the employer is required to fill in the employment questionnaire.
  • When you are normally self-employed in more than one EU country at the same time or in alternation.
    • Depending on your situation, you may be subject to the legislation of either your country of residence or the country where your centre of interest is situated.
  • When you pursue both an employed and self-employed activity in different EU countries.
    • In this situation, the A1 form will confirm that the legislation of the country of your employed activities prevails.
  • When you are a Maltese civil servant pursuing activities in more than one EU country.
    • In this situation, the A1 form will confirm that you remain under the legislation of Malta.
  • When it is your interest to derogate from any of the above rules,
    • Two or more EU states may, on the request of your employer, agree that you will be subject to the legislation of a state other than that provided by the normal rules. The A1 form will confirm to which legislation you are subject.

Insurability for Mariners working on board Maltese flagged vessels

In terms of Article 11(4) of Regulation 883/2004, persons employed or self-employed on board a vessel flying the flag of Malta shall be subject to pay their social security contributions in the Maltese social security scheme.  The only exception to this rule is applied in case the employer is located in the same EU country of residence of the employee. It is pertinent to note that Article 11(4) applies only when the vessel operates on the high seas.  Vessels operating in internal waterways (such as on river boats) are treated in terms of Article 13 of Regulation 883/2004 dealing with persons working in two or more Member States.

The provisions of Article 11(4) apply only to EU nationals and Third Country nationals legally resident in the EU.  Other persons working on board a Maltese flagged vessel are not subject to the same provisions.  Such cases shall be treated in terms of the Maltese Social Security Act (Chapter 318 of the Laws of Malta) which exempts from the payment of social security persons who are not ordinarily resident in Malta and whose employer does not have a place of business in Malta (Article 1 of Part I of the First Schedule).

UK nationals working on a Maltese flagged vessel, shall be treated in accordance with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement if their activity started before the 31st December 2020.  For UK nationals whose activity on board a Maltese flagged vessel started after the 1st January 2021, shall be treated in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol between the EU and the UK.  In both scenarios, the flag state principle applies.

In view of the above, it may result that an employer located outside of Malta is liable to pay the social security payments in the Maltese scheme on behalf of those employees who have been determined subject to be insured in Malta.   In this case, the employer should make arrangements with the office of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue in order to effect the payments.

Getting insured in the Maltese social security scheme

When the outcome of the process for the determination of the applicable legislation, indicates that the Maltese social security scheme applies, the worker is directed to apply for a social security number. An online application is available here.

Benefits provided under the Maltese social security scheme

Once insured in the Maltese scheme, EU Nationals resident in the EU, UK Nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, and Third Country Nationals legally resident in the EU (except for UK nationals covered by the Protocol), shall be covered against the following contingencies:

UK Nationals resident in the UK who started their cross-border activity in Malta after the 1st January 2021 shall be covered against the same contingencies except for the following:

  • Family benefits – entitlement exists only if the whole family resides in Malta or in the EU.
  • Unemployment benefits – entitlement exists only for Unemployment Benefit when the worker claims benefits while resident in Malta.
  • Invalidity benefits – entitlement is equivalent to the periods of employment in Malta only. UK Invalidity benefits from the are not payable outside of the UK. 

Moving within Europe: EU Social Security Coordination Videos

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General Information - Which country is responsible for your social security rights?

Frontier Workers - Which country is responsible for your social security rights?

Pensions - Which country will pay my old-age pension?

Unemployment - How does moving affect my right to unemployment benefits?

EU (Cross-Border) Social Security Coordination

Certification of Insurance/Employment Periods in another EU Country (Form U1) – view information
Entitlement to Remain Insured in Malta (Form A1) – view information