T.F.N.? Superannuation? Bank Accounts? What to do when you arrive in Australia on a Work and Holiday visa

So, you’ve made it this far. You’re in Australia, you’ve got a visa to work here but no idea where to begin with getting yourself organised. People keep saying things like “T.F.N.,” “medicare” and “superannuation.” All of a sudden, your dream trip to Australia has become a bureaucratic nightmare. Don’t stress! Getting yourself organised is simple if you know what you’ve got to do and how to do it. No more than a day needs to be spent to get yourself prepared for your new adventure in Australia. Follow our step-by-step guide of what to do when you arrive in Australia on a Work and Holiday visa.

Step One:

Get yourself an Australian phone number.

At first, it may seem stupid to put this as the most important thing to do upon arrival in Australia. However, every form you fill in or application you complete will ask for a phone number. So, before you even think about tackling anything else, head to a phone store and grab a pay as you go sim. Simple.

I can already hear people asking: “well, that’s great, but what company should I go with?” The conventional backpacker wisdom is to go with Telstra. They have the best service in more remote areas (great if you are road tripping) and their prices are competitive. However, there are other options. Vodaphone and Optus may not have such comprehensive coverage but they may be cheaper. So, perhaps just go with Telstra to start off and then shop around at a later date, especially if you are living in a city long term, where every network will have coverage.

Step Two:

Open a bank account.

Again, this is so simple and easy to do. Just walk into the bank of your choosing and ask to open an account. All they will need is a copy of your passport. However, if you don’t open your account in the first six weeks after your arrival in Australia then the matter becomes more complex. So, don’t hang about, get it sorted early!

Remember, you will need an address for your shiny new bank card to be sent to. Most hostels will not have an issue with you using their address. If not, simply have it sent to the local post office for you to collect.

Not sure which bank to choose?

We went with Commonwealth because that’s who everyone we spoke to banked with. So far, we have zero complaints. In truth, every bank is pretty much the same, the only distinguishing factor is the number of ATMs that bank will have. In Australia, you can only withdraw money from your banks’ ATMs without charges. Less prevalent banks may have fewer ATMs in remote areas forcing you to pay added fees (around $2). However, you can always get cash back at the supermarket for free.

My advice, bank with whoever is closest to your hostel. Whether its Commonwealth, ANZ, NAB or another bank.

Step Three:

Apply for your TFN.

Oh god, an acronym. Don’t fret, it stands for Tax File Number. Every employer needs your tax file number in order to pay you properly. Rather than waiting to get a job before applying, get it straight away because it takes ten minutes to apply online. Input a few personal details and your passport number and, voila, you are done. You will then get a letter sent to you with your tax file number on it. Keep this safe, you will need it later.

A better description of what TFN is can be found here.

Step Four:

Set up your Superannuation fund.

Superannuation is the Australian pension scheme. Every employer pays into it on your behalf, and even better, when you leave Australia for good, you can claim your super back (although it is heavily taxed!). While all employers will have a super fund they can put you on automatically, this can become a pain because every employer will set up a new fund and when you go to reclaim your super you are going to be chasing a lot of different accounts. Instead, you can nominate your own superannuation account. For example, Commonwealth bank offered to open a super account for us, I wish we had taken this option because we now have multiple super accounts and we have only been in Australia for two months!

Step Five:

Get your Medicare sorted (if you are eligible).

If you come from one of the lucky countries that have a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia then you are eligible for free/greatly reduced health care while living in Australia. All you need to do is head to the Medicare office and register. You just need to take your passport with you. My advice would be to get this done before you need it (unlike us who waited until we were ill before applying!). You do not want to be sitting in a government office waiting for a card while you have the flu!

Step Six:

Start enjoying yourself.

That’s it! You’ve done all the paper pushing and now you are ready to start working, or better yet, start exploring! After all, it is a Work and Holiday Visa!

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Read more about what we have been up to since we have arrived in  Australia.


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