Australian Working Holiday Guide Part 2: Getting Started In Oz

by stephmylifetravel

I’ve talked you through the process of getting your working holiday visa for Australia (go back read the post here if you haven’t already). Now its time to talk about the practicalities involved with setting up your new life!

I’m originally from Ireland but since I was 20 I have lived and worked in England, America, and Australia for various periods of time. I started from scratch in each country so I’ve been through the process of starting a new life in a new place a few times. Getting set up in Australia was by far the easiest of all three countries I’ve lived in! With the huge number of people arriving each year banks, recruitment agencies, estate agents and phone companies have everything in place to help you get set up easily and quickly.


Set up your Australian bank account before you arrive

We opened accounts with Commonwealth Bank Australia (also known as CBA) before we arrived in Australia and the process was quick and straightforward. You can apply as a foreigner from outside Australia here. If you haven’t got an address in Australia yet then you can ask for your debit card to be delivered to a branch of your choosing. Allow more time than they estimate as ours took about a week!

Once you arrive into Australia, contact the bank to arrange an appointment to finish setting up your account. Bring your passport and a copy of your visa with you when you come to the appointment.

The bank employee will talk you through your options and explain everything to you so you don’t need anything else. The person helping us knew all about the process of working in Australia under a 417 visa and what we would need in a bank account. She explained what details we would need to give our future employer to get paid correctly, what a Super is (explained below), how to request our Super back when we leave the country, and which was the best savings account for us.

CBA have a really good app which you can use to do pretty much anything you like from setting up joint accounts to international transfers. It also allows you to withdraw cash without a debit card by using a code, so you can withdraw money before you receive your card. This really helped us out for the first week when we were waiting for our cards! For that reason alone I would bank with CBA but there are other alternatives.

ANZ is another popular bank, and when we were in Australia this was the only bank that used Apple Pay. They seem to be improving from a technology point of view but from what I heard the app isn’t as good as the CBA app.


Open a Superannuation fund

Everywhere you turn in Australia you will see tv adverts, billboards and people talking about Superannuation or ‘Super’. A Super is basically like a pension, your employer pays a government mandated contribution to a fund that that is meant to provide you with income after retirement – or if you’re there short term you can withdraw it once you leave Oz.

It’s compulsory for your employer to make a contribution to your super fund if you are earning over $450SUD per month and the minimum contribution that an employer can make is 9.5% of your salary or wages. You get this money back when you leave Australia so you want to make sure you’re getting paid!  A job will advertised as ‘salary including super’ or ‘salary plus super’ – this is important thing to note when looking at a job offer as it will affect your take home amount if your salary includes Super.

Your employer will need to deposit your super payments into a dedicated Superannuation account. This account does not have to be the same as your current account, there are a lot of Super accounts out there, but the rates with CBA were great so we went with them!

You will most likely have your Super account and current account set up before you receive your TFN (explained below) but when your TFN is granted you must supply this to your bank so that they can link it to your Super account. If not then you are taxed on your Super account.


Get a SIM card

We tried a couple of networks while we were in Australia. I started with Optus and Telstra but eventually settled on Vodafone as it was the cheapest data without a contract.

To get a SIM card you’ll just need to bring your passport and they can set you up in store with a number there and then. Be aware that mobile phone data is a lot more expensive than in the UK and Ireland. I was paying £15 per month for unlimited data, calls and texts in the UK and this cost me AU$70 in Australia.

Tip: Make sure your mobile phone is unlocked before you travel so that you can use a different network.


Get a Tax File Number

Your Tax File Number, or TFN, is your personal reference number in the Australian Tax and Super systems. You don’t have to have a TFN, but if you don’t have one then you’ll pay more tax on your wages – plus you’ll pay extra tax on your Super too.

Your TFN will be issued by the Australian Taxation Office and they are super easy to apply for. You can apply at your local tax office or else do it online here. From what I remember you just need your passport and maybe your visa details.

Once you have received your TFN then add this to your Super account (this can be done online) and give it to your employer when you start working.


Apply for Medicare

Healthcare in Australia can be expensive but you may be eligible for a Medicare card which drastically reduces the costs. If you live in the following countries you will be eligible for a Medicare card under the Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • the Republic of Ireland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • the United Kingdom

I was eligible for a medicare card as I was previously a UK resident (I lived and worked in London for 6 years) so you might still be eligible even if you’re not from one of those countries but you’re living there.

To apply for a medicare card you’ll need to supply a bit more information than the previous applications. Your passport, visa details and also a proof of address, which you can get from your bank.

Tip: If you do get a Medicare card then find a GP that does ‘bulk billing’. This means you don’t have to pay anything upfront for your appointments, other surgeries will make you pay and then you get reimbursed.

I hope this article helps you with your first few weeks in Australia! Next up I’ll talk you through how to find a place to live and a job – or check out the other posts in the series below:

  • Part 1: Getting Your Visa. A step-by-step guide to applying for your 417 visa – and a few things to watch out for before you do.

  • Part 4: Finding a job in Australia. Whether you’re working in hospitality, doing a work away or pursuing a professional career I’ll run through everything you need to find a job when you arrive in Australia. Plus what you can expect to earn!

Thanks for reading!

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