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.
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What is Superannuation?
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 $23/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 11% 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. If you are under 18, you will need to work more than 30 hours per week. In all cases, it doesn’t matter whether you’re full time, part time or casual.
The super contributions paid by your employer must be 11% of your ordinary earnings. It’s scheduled to increase to 12% from July 2025.
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.
How does a Superannuation account work?
All Superannuation accounts have a monthly management fee. These fees are charged by the week or by the month, depending on the organisation (expect to pay around $6 to $10 per month). Note that many funds charge extra for premium insurance (often not very useful when you are on a WHV). So remember to check the charges involved when you open your account.
As far as account management is concerned, the money paid into your account by your employer will be invested. This money will work and earn you interest. You can choose to manage these investments yourself, or leave the management to the superfunds. You can choose safe or risky investments. Risky investments are riskier but can earn more money. You can discuss this with your superfund or bank to understand how it works.
Types of funds
There are 5 basic types of funds in Australia:
- Industry funds, sometimes open to everyone. You can join if you work in a particular industry and your employer signs up with the fund.
- Retail funds run by financial institutions. They are open to everyone.
- Public sector funds, open to Commonwealth, state and territory government employees
- Corporate funds, only open to people working for a particular employer or corporation
- Self-managed super funds (SMSFs). They work like any other super fund, but the responsibility of managing them, (including their investment decisions and legal responsibilities) rests solely with the trustee (you)
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
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).
You cannot claim your super until retirement if you are an Australian citizen, a New Zealand citizen or a permanent Australian resident.
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.email@example.com.
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 super fund directly. They will tell you what documents 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.
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.
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.
How much super will I get refunded?
How much super you will get back depends on how long you worked in Australia, what visa you were on, how much you earned, what contributions your employer made to your super fund, and what kind of fund you had.
Working Holiday Visa holders can expect to get back approximately 33-35% of their super, while other temporary visa holders can recoup 60-62%, after deducting tax and admin fees from the superannuation fund. On average, the refund for superannuation is more than $1,900.
There is a free online calculator here that can help you figure out what you’re owed.
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.
Yes, you can still come back to Australia on another visa, even if you have claimed your super back. However, you cannot come back to Australia under the same visa under which you earned the super you have claimed back.
No, you can still claim it back. If it’s been 6 months since you left Australia, your super fund will request for the money to be transferred to the Australian Tax Office, who will then hold it for you until you claim it. As long as your visa is no longer valid and you have left the country, you can claim your super. The ATO’s online services can help you keep track of your super, including accounts you may have forgotten or lost touch with.
If you can’t find your TFN anywhere, you can get in touch with the Australian Tax Office and they should be able to help you.
Your super will be taxed at 65% if you are on a Working Holiday Visa and want to claim your money back when leaving Australia. A management fee may also be deducted from your funds.