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Working in Australia?

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Serhat Ahmed

Living in Australia, from Turkey

"Without experience of having lived abroad, I thought it would be hard to get to know other expats. But not with InterNations."

Lotta Koskinen

Living in Australia, from Finland

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Australia at a Glance

Working in Australia

Starting a job in Australia as an expatriate might confuse you at first. How to dress for the workplace? What about your pension? Our article covers everything you might want to know about working Down Under: how to find a job, how to behave in the office, or how to handle pension plans.

Expatriates in Australia tend to appreciate the down-to-earth approach to business, fairness and efficiency in the workplace, as well as the healthy work-life balance. All of these make time spent working abroad in Australia a pleasant experience for many expats.

Regional differences in the way business is conducted are not uncommon. People working in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are often said to have a more conservative and formal approach to business than their colleagues in Perth, for example. In general, however, the workplace is probably less formal and hierarchical than what you are accustomed to. You may find that individual input and performance are often valued higher than seniority in Australia’s business world.

Taxation and Benefits

Before you start your job in Australia, you should apply for a tax file number (TFN). This can be done online via the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website. Every citizen, permanent migrant, or temporary resident (including overseas students) who could take up employment in Australia needs this unique number for tax reasons and other administrative purposes.

In general, temporary residents are not eligible for any benefits. Even those residing in Australia on a permanent visa usually need to live in the country for several years to claim government support. This waiting period does not affect permanent migrants’ entitlement to family tax benefits and Medicare support.

International employees who are in Australia on a temporary visa may be able to claim “living away from home allowance”. This so-called fringe benefit tax for foreign employees is provided by the ATO through your employer.

Pensions and Superannuation

While you are working in Australia, you will become entitled to some form of retirement pension. The state pension is called Age Pension, and you must meet the age and residency requirements to be eligible. Generally speaking, only permanent residents who have worked in Australia for at least ten years will receive an Age Pension once they reach retirement age.

People on a temporary visa should check whether their country of origin has a social security agreement with Australia. Currently, 29 countries have entered into such a bilateral treaty with Australia. If this is the case, the above-mentioned minimum requirements may not apply. Furthermore, any state pension or benefits you are eligible for in your own country will include the time you spent working in Australia.

In addition to their Age Pension, employees also have a retirement savings account called Superannuation Fund. Every Australian employer is required to pay a minimum of 9% of your income into your “Super”. Temporary residents can claim their Departing Australia Super at any time using the online form on the ATO website, provided they have already left the country.

Bank Accounts

Needless to say, if you earn your salary from a local employer, you will need an Australian bank account. Opening a current account with an Australian bank is easy and best done within 30 days of arrival. Your passport plus valid visa and another form of ID, e.g. your driving license, should suffice by way of documentation. People who wait longer than one month before opening an account will meet stricter requirements. You will be asked to provide, among other things, proof of address and tax file number.

InterNations Expat Magazine