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How to claim your superannuation – leaving Australia

How to claim your superannuation – leaving Australia

When you are working in Australia, you are entitled to receive super contributions from your employer on top of your salary. Superannuation is a long-term savings plan, which will provide workers with an income when they retire. Those contributions are paid by your employer during your employment, usually every couple of months. As a temporary resident in Australia, you are entitled to claim your superannuation once you have left the country and after your visa has expired. Here is all you need to know about Superannuation in Australia and how to claim it. 

What is Superannuation?

Super explained

Superannuation is a way to save for retirement. When you are working in Australia, your employer must pay contributions into your super fund. Superannuation is important, because the more you save, the more money you will have for your retirement. Super funds invest and manage this money for you until you retire or claim it (for temporary residents once you have left the country).

It is important to note that this contribution must be paid on top of your salary. It is not deducted from your salary. So if your employer gives you an hourly rate of $22/hour, the superannuation contribution must be added to this amount.

If you are self-employed (freelance), you are not obliged to contribute. In other words, you are not obliged to pay 10.5% into a separate account. For more information: Freelancing in Australia.

Who can benefit from the Superannuation?

You are entitled to receive super contributions from an employer if you are at least 18 years old, and receive a salary of $450 or more (before tax) per month.

Since July 2021, the super contributions paid by your employer must be 10.5% of your ordinary earnings. It’s scheduled to increase to 11% from July 2023.

This money must be paid into an elected super fund. Usually employers will pay contributions every 3 months and not on a monthly basis.

Whether you are working full time, part time or casual, or if you’re a temporary resident of Australia, you are still entitled to receive super contributions.

Opening a Super account

You can chose to open an account with a superfund directly or ask your employer to open one for you. There are lots of different super funds available and different types of accounts.

Most banks such as Westpac, Commonwealth, offer the option to open a Super Account for you when you open you bank account.

Other companies such as Australian Super, SunSuper etc also offer super account. To open an account, it s easy, you can do it online with the superfund of your choice.

We strongly advise you to open just one account and to ask your employers to always pay your money into the same fund. This will make it easier for you to get your money back and limit account management costs. If your employer opens an account for you, remember to ask for the details.

Be aware of the conditions for opening a fund! It is sometimes difficult or expensive to close it. Different organisations (banks or private funds) charge different levels of management fees, so make sure you get the right information before you open an account. You should also check that your money is not automatically placed on the stock market by the super company, as you could lose money without even knowing it.

Finding and consolidating superannuation accounts

Recovering a lost superannuation account

It’s common to loose details of a Super account, especially if it was opened for you by your first employer. So, if you didn’t open your own fund through your bank or a private fund, you’ll need to contact your employer(s) to obtain details of the various accounts into which they paid your contributions.

If you are unable to retrieve the details of your various funds via your employer, you can search for lost funds on the ATO website: find a lost superannuation fund. The process is free.

Merging super accounts

If you have several superannuation accounts and would like to have just one, you can merge your accounts. For example, this will make it easier to recover your super. It can also save you from paying account management fees several times over. To merge accounts, simply choose the superannuation account you want to keep. You then need to contact the superfund you want to stay with. They will provide you with a form to fill in. They will then take all the necessary steps with the other superannuation accounts on your behalf. The process is also free of charge.

When can I claim my superannuation back?

If you are a temporary resident working in Australia, you are entitled to recover the money you have contributed to your pension when you leave the country, or at least part of it.

Contrary to what many people think, it is not possible to recover all the money available in the superannuation fund. Since 2017, the government has deducted 65% of the total amount when the account is closed for WHV makers. If you have a student visa, the rate is 22%. In addition, a management fee will regularly be deducted from your superannuation.

Conditions to claim your superannuation

Usually people cannot have access to their super until retirement. However, as a temporary resident, you can claim your super when:
– You have left Australia AND
– Your visa has expired or has been cancelled.

The payment is called a departing Australia superannuation payment (DASP).

What do you do if your visa is still valid when you leave Australia?

Your visa must no longer be valid for you to claim your money. If you return to your home country before your visa expires and wish to claim your super, you will have two options:

  • wait until the end of your visa to claim your super,
  • or cancel your visa, which will allow you to apply as soon as your visa has been cancelled.

For all holders of a 417 or 462 visa, immigration will not cancel your visa if there is less than 6 months’ validity left on it. You will therefore have to wait for it to “expire” before applying. Cancellation of your visa by the immigration authorities is free of charge if it is accepted.

If your visa is still valid for more than 6 months, you can apply to cancel it. In this case, you need to fill in Form 1194 (fill in parts A, C and D only) and send it by email to GCN.admin@homeaffairs.gov.au.

Good to know: If you wish to return to Australia with another visa, you can contribute to a new fund. You can claim your super between two visas. The request for super only prohibits you to come back with the same visa under which you earned this super.

How to claim my super?

If you have opened your superfund through your bank, you should contact your superfund directly. They will tell you what document need to be provided for them to release the funds. Most of the time you will need to provide them with a copy of your expired visa together with a certified copy of your passport. You should do this claim as soon as possible. Indeed, if there is no activity on your super account for 6 months, your funds will be transferred to the ATO. Therefore you will need to claim your super through the ATO website.

Claiming your super is free. However, you cannot get the full amount of your superannuation back. A 65% tax will be deducted when you claim your superannuation. Also a management fee is often deducted.

The process

To claim your super, you will need to visit the ATO website. You will need to complete an online form on the ATO website.

When completing the form, you will need to provide:

  • your name, date of birth and other personal details
  • email address
  • your passport number
  • Australian tax file number (TFN)
  • your super account details – including your super fund’s Australian business number (ABN) and your member number. These informations can be found online when accessing your super account.

Most of the time you will need to attach a certified copy of your visa, or any evidence showing that your visa has ceased to be in effect, together with a certified copy of your passport.

You can also choose how to receive payment of your super. It can be either by cheque or via an International money transfer to your financial institution overseas. Note here that if you require a money transfer to your bank overseas, you will be charge additional transfer fees.

Once completed just lodge the form online.

Processing times

The service standard for processing a DASP claim is 28 days from the date you lodged your complete application.

Hiring a tax agent

If you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself, do not panic. You can hire a tax agent who will go through the process for you. They can also assist you in claiming your tax back before or at the end of the financial year. For example, if you are leaving the country in December, you do not have to wait until July to claim your tax back and can do it earlier, together with claiming your super.

Don’t confuse Superannuation and Tax Return

Backpackers often mix up Tax Return with Superannuation. But they are two very different things.

Tax Return is income tax. This tax is deducted directly from your salary. Each year, a tax return must be filed at the end of the financial year. The Australian financial year runs from July to June of the following year. The Tax Return can be used to recover taxes overpaid to the government during the year.

Superannuation is the retirement pension for workers in Australia. It is claimed only once by Australians, to recover their superannuation contributions.

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