Australian Working Holiday Guide Part 2

Getting Started In Oz

by stephmylifetravel

I’ve talked you through getting your working holiday visa for Australia (go back and read the post here if you haven’t already). Now it’s time to talk about getting your new life started in Australia, the practicalities involved with setting up your new life, and getting started in Oz in 2024!

I’m originally from Ireland, but since I was 20, I have lived and worked in England, America, Bangkok, and Australia for various periods. I started from scratch in each country, so I’ve been through the process of starting a new life in a new place quite a few times – and the good news is that getting set up in Oz was by far the easiest of all the 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 and started in Australia easily and quickly. 2024 has seen a massive influx of Irish moving to Australia, bringing new challenges for housing, jobs, and general “settling in” admin. Read on to see how you can make the move seamless!

Set up your Australian bank account before you arrive

We opened accounts with Commonwealth Bank Australia (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, just pick a branch where you want your debit card to be delivered. Your card will usually take about one week to arrive.

Once you arrive, contact the bank to arrange an appointment to finish setting up your account. When you come to the appointment, bring your passport and a copy of your visa.

The bank staff will talk you through your options and explain everything. you need to know. The person helping us knew all about the 417 visa and what we would need for a bank account. She explained what 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 the best savings account for us.

CBA has a great app that you can use to do pretty much anything you like, from setting up joint accounts to international transfers. You can also withdraw cash without a debit card by using a code before you receive your card. This helped us out for the first week while waiting for our cards to arrive. For that reason alone, I would bank with CBA.

Open a Superannuation Fund

Everywhere you turn in Australia, you will see TV adverts, billboards, and people talking about Superannuation  – or ‘Super’ for short. A Super is like a pension, where your employer pays a government-mandated contribution to a fund that is meant to provide you with income after retirement. If you’re here short term you can withdraw the money from your Super once you leave Oz.

Your employer must contribute to your super fund if you earn over $450AUD per month, and the minimum contribution an employer can make is 9.5% of your salary or wages. Ensure your employer pays this correctly as you will get this money back when you leave Australia. A job will advertised as ‘salary including super’ or ‘salary plus super’ – this is an 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 must deposit your super payments into a dedicated Superannuation account. There are many Super accounts out there, with different perks and rates. The rates with CBA were great so we went with them, but you can shop around if you prefer.

You will most likely have your Super account and current account set up before you receive your ‘Tax File Number’ (TFN, explained below).  If you don’t supply this to your employer they’ll tax your super account, so make sure they have this. 

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, so you reeeeally want to have one!

The Australian Taxation Office will issue your TFN, and applying for it is super easy. You can apply at your local tax office or do it online here. You need your passport and visa details.

After you receive your TFN, you can add it to your super account online. Additionally, give it to your employer when you start working so that you won’t pay extra tax.

Get a SIM card Immediately.

One of the first things you’ll need to do upon arriving in Oz is getting an Aussie number.  You will need a number for practically everything here, including paying for things using BPAY, so you’ll want to do this very soon after you arrive.

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

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

Tip: Before you head off, make sure you unlock your phone so that you are able to change networks.

Apply for a Medicare Card

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

Because I lived and worked in London for 6 years, I qualified for a Medicare card. So you may still be eligible even if you’re not from one of those countries but previously lived in one.

To apply for a medicare card you’ll need to supply more information than the previous applications. Your passport, visa details, and also 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. You will need to pay on the day in surgeries that don’t have bulk building, and receive reimbursement later.

Insurance

I always recommend getting insurance no matter where you are travelling to! However, many visa holders moving to Australia must have health insurance before arriving. As always, my go-to insurance provider is Safety Wing. Whether you are in Australia for a short time or in it for the long term, insurance is a must for getting started in Oz!

 

I hope this article will help you with your first few weeks starting in Oz! Next up, I’ll talk you through how to find a place to live and a job. Don’t forget to 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 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!
Steph
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