To be eligible for a UK state pension, you need to have been employed or self-employed in the UK and/or have made National Insurance Contributions for a certain minimum number of years (which could include voluntary contributions or time spent in child care).
These years of National Insurance contributions are referred to as “qualifying years”. As the legislation stands today, if you have not yet reached pensionable age, then you only need 1 qualifying year to be eligible for a partial state pension. You also only need 30 qualifying years to receive the maximum pension.
A partial pension is simply prorated based on the number of qualifying years you have. For example, if you have 10 qualifying years, then you would be eligible for a pension equal to 1/3 of the full pension amount. For 2013, the full UK state pension is £5,727 per annum.
These qualifying years provide what is known as a Category A Pension. In addition, the spouse or civil partner of someone receiving a Category A pension may be entitled to receive a Category B pension, even if they have never worked in the UK, lived in the UK, or even visited the UK themselves. The Category B pension is based on a percentage of the Category A pension being received by the main pensioner, (approximately 60%).