Preparing to Work as an International Student
Getting Ready for your First Job
One of the highlights of studying in Australia is landing your first job. It’s a big accomplishment, especially if English is not your first language!
However, you need to be prepared with required documentation for your employer. In this section we will explain:
Work Rights on a 500 Visa
To be eligible to start working while on a student visa, you must hold the 500 visa and have started your course.
Just a reminder that while calls is in session, you can work 48 hours in a fortnight. A fortnight starts on a Monday. it is up to you how you use those 48 hours. For example, 20 hours the first week + 28 hours the second week. While you are in school holidays, you can work unlimited hours. Please note that a public holiday while course is in session counts in your fortnight work hours.
There are exceptions to theses work rights rules for certain courses and dependents on a 500 visa, so please ensure you understand them for your circumstances.
Getting a Tax File Number (TFN)
All Australian workers must have a Tax File Number (TFN). This number connects you to your employer and your income tax. You must be in Australia at the time you apply. TFNs are issued by the Australian Tax Office (ATO), it is done online, and there is no fee to apply.
Income tax is only paid on income over $18,200. Below this amount is considered the tax-free threshold.
Can I work with an ABN?
You are allowed to be employed as a contractor using an Australian Business Number (ABN), but you must still adhere to the work hours of the 500 visa.
Opening a Bank Account
Most employers will require an Australian bank account in which to deposit your salary.
You generally need to be in Australia at the time of opening the account. You will need to show your passport and visa grant letter.
All banks will offer you the opportunity to open account, but Westpac has a bank account for international students.
Superannuation for International Students
If your student visa is for longer than six months, you will likely be considered a resident for tax purposes. Thus, once you earn over $450 per month, your employer will contribute additional funds into a retirement savings fund, known as superannuation or the compulsory super guarantee.
As of 2023, this amount is 11% of your gross salary (before tax).
When you leave Australia at the end of your visa, you can claim your money back as a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP).
Understand your Legal Rights as an Employee
While most international students have a great experience working in Australia, sadly there are some employers that take advantage of student visa holders.
International students have the same rights and protections as an Australian in the workplace.
As of July 2023, the national minimum wage is $23.23 per hour (before tax), or $882.80 (before tax) for a 38-hour work week. If you are a casual employee there is an additional minimum of 25% casual loading. However, your job may have additional wages attached. Make sure you understand your situation. The Fair Work Ombudsman provides more detail on the Australian minimum wage here.
Employers might threaten that they will have your visa cancelled if they say anything or complain to the authorities. No employer can cancel your visa. That can only be done by the immigration department. If an employer threatens to report you for working more hours than you are allowed to, they are also going to be reporting themselves for letting you do so!
Never let an employer take your passport. If this happens, contact immigration immediately.
The Department of Education website explains the rights of international students in the Australia workplace here.