Australia at a Glance
Working in Australia
- Every resident who wants to work in Australia needs a tax file number.
- For most types of visas English proficiency is necessary; there are numerous tests recognized by the Australian government.
- The Australian government regularly updates its list of skilled occupations; the best way to find out which professions are currently in demand.
Expatriates working 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 in Australia a pleasant experience for expats new and old.
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. In general, the workplace is probably less formal and hierarchical than what you are accustomed to. You may find a higher value is more often placed on individual input and performance rather 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 a short-term resident (including overseas students) who wants to start working in Australia needs this unique number for tax reasons and other administrative purposes.
In general, temporary residents are not entitled to any benefits. Even those residing in Australia on permanent visas usually need to live in the country for several years to claim government aid. This waiting period does not affect permanent migrants’ entitlement to family tax breaks and Medicare support.
International employees who are working in Australia on a temporary visa may be able to claim “living away from home allowance”. This so-called fringe benefit for foreign employees is provided by your employer under ATO regulations.
Pensions and Superannuation
While you are living and working in Australia, you will become entitled to some form of retirement pension. The state pension is a means-tested payment called the 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 eligibility for the Age Pension once they reach retirement age.
People on a short-term visa should check whether their country of origin has a social security agreement with Australia. Currently, 30 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 period you spent working in Australia.
In addition to their Age Pension, those working in Australia also have a retirement savings account called Superannuation Fund. The ‘Super’ has been hailed by experts and has resulted in Australia being praised for having the most adequate pension system in the world in a survey conducted by Melbourne Mercer Global in 2015. Every Australian employer is required to pay a minimum of 9.5% of your income into their 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.
Needless to say, if you earn your salary from a local employer while working in Australia, 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, or even before immigration. Your passport, confirmation of your arrival in Australia within the last six weeks, plus your valid visa and another form of ID, should suffice by way of documentation. People who wait longer than one month before opening an account will encounter stricter requirements. You will be asked to provide, among other things, proof of address and your tax file number.
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