Working in Australia

Working with a Student Visa

International students are permitted to work in Australia to assist with study and living expenses as well as gaining work experience. Most student visas permit you to work for up to 40 hours every two weeks while your course is in session and unrestricted hours during scheduled course breaks. Before you undertake any paid work, you must check to see if your visa allows you to undertake any work. To find out more, check the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

Prior to commencing work, you must apply for an Australian Tax File Number (TFN). Application information is available on the Australian Taxation Office website and applications can be made (usually by appointment) at selected Australia Post outlets.

Your Rights

All workers in Australia have rights and responsibilities as employees. Following are some tips for you:

  • All employees should be paid at or above the minimum award rate of pay.
  • You must provide a tax file number to your employer and it is illegal to be paid cash in hand.
  • You will be employed under an award. Ensure you are made aware of this award and your rights and responsibilities.
  • Carefully read any contract you are asked to sign. Ask a friend or trusted colleague for a second opinion if you are unsure.

If you have any queries or are treated unfairly, please contact:

Fair Work Ombudsman

Fair Work Commission

Australian Human Rights Commission

Australian Currency

Australia’s currency is the Australian dollar (AUD). There are bank notes for $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100; gold coloured coins for $1 and $2 and silver coloured coins for 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents. Prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents when you pay (for example $5.93 is rounded up to $5.95). EFTPOS and credit cards are widely used in Australia however some outlets accept cash only.

Banking in Australia

Banking in Australia might be different to the system you currently use, so it is important to understand the banking system to enable you to set up and monitor your finances.

An Australian bank account will allow an employer to directly deposit your salary into your bank account and allow you easy access to pay your tuition fees and cover your living expenses. Some service costs can be directly debited from your bank account each month to allow for easier budgeting.

There are four major banks in Australia:

  • Commonwealth Bank
  • ANZ Bank
  • National Australia Bank (NAB)
  • Westpac Bank

There are numerous banks and building societies you can choose from. Research their offerings and charges carefully to ensure you set up an account, which is suitable to your needs.

Opening a Bank Account

To ensure you can access your money as soon as you arrive in Australia, it is best to open a bank account prior to departing your home country.

Usually the bank will allow you to apply through their website using an online application form. You will need to supply your personal and passport details at the time. You will be notified once the account has been approved and you will then be able to transfer funds. Once you arrive in Australia, you will then need to visit a branch of your bank to show identification, usually your passport. You will receive a bankcard, which will allow you to access your money either at the bank or through ATM’s. You can also apply for a debit card and register for phone and Internet banking.

It is possible to open a bank account once you arrive in Australia if you prefer, however you should open an account within six weeks of arriving in the country. You will need to visit a bank in person with relevant identification, usually your passport. At this time you can register for phone and Internet banking as well as a debit card and will receive an account number and temporary password to enable you to transfer and access your money. You will then receive your bankcard in the mail.

Many banks offer international students accounts that have special conditions including no monthly account fee. Research each bank offering carefully and ensure that it suits your needs.

Some questions to ask when selecting a bank account include :

  • Are there any application fees?
  • Can you open an online savings account so you can earn interest on the funds you transfer before arriving in Australia?
  • Are you provided with a personal banker who speaks your language?
  • Are you eligible for a student account?
  • Is there a minimum deposit you must make at the time of opening the account?
  • Is there a minimum balance, which must be maintained at all, times?
  • Is there a minimum or maximum amount you can transfer or withdraw per day?
  • Can you transfer money to Australia with your foreign exchange provider when setting up the account?
  • Does the account include a Visa or MasterCard debit card at no extra cost?
  • Does your bank have a national network of branches?
  • Does you bank have a large number of ATM’s?
  • Does the bank’s ATM provide access in multiple languages?

It is best to look at opening two accounts. The first a high-interest savings account, which offers a higher interest rate, where you keep the majority of your money and have any wages, deposited into. The second is an everyday transaction account for everyday spending including paying for goods.     Again, it is important to research the accounts the banks are offering and look at the fees and charges that apply.

You may also look at applying for a credit card. Again, you will need to provide identification as well as proof of income.

Bank Opening Hours

The usual business hours are 9:30 to 4:00pm Monday to Thursday and 9:30am to 5:00pm on Fridays. Some bank branches open Saturday mornings. Bank branches allow you to open accounts, transfer money, and cash traveller’s cheques, order bank cheques and exchange currency. Automatic teller machines (ATM’s) allow you to withdraw cash; internet and phone banking allows you to transfer money.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATM’s)

ATM’s are available throughout Australia. There are no fees when you use an ATM owned by your bank however when making a transaction at another banks or independently owned ATM there is a nominal charge (usually around AUD$2.50). However it is important to research the accounts on offer as some banks waive all ATM fees if you withdraw a nominated minimum amount.

In addition to cash, there are other methods of payment available in Australia.

EFTPOS

Allows you to pay for items electronically using your bankcard or debit card using your PIN number. It is available in most stores and restaurants however some smaller retailers accept cash only. At some retail outlets, you may also withdraw cash to a certain amount at the time of making your payment.

Credit cards

Allow you to make purchases and pay for them at a later date. It is best to pay your balance in full each month to avoid high interest rates. Credit cards are accepted at most retail outlets, restaurants as well as for Internet and phone purchases. Certain cards however such as American Express (AMEX) or Diners Card are not as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCard. Some retailers will pass on a surcharge when accepting credit card payments, however they need to notify you of this prior to payment.

Debit cards

Debit cards act in the same way as a Credit Card however you are using your own money and therefore a monthly bill is not received.

Cheques

Whilst not widely used, cheques are usually used for larger transactions such as rental and bond payment. If you do not have a personal cheque account, you can go to your bank branch and request a bank cheque.