So you’re about to arrive in Australia? Here’s what you need to know first.

If you’ve just got your student visa – congratulations! Now comes the next step of booking flights, accommodation and planning the finer details of your trip. Hopefully your agent has been super helpful; but once you are onshore in Australia, you may not have quite the same level of support. Many students find themselves saying….’Why didn’t anyone tell me that I needed this or …. I didn’t know about that….

So here are a few essential details that you need to know.

You need a Tax File Number (TFN)

Before you can apply for jobs and work in Australia, you need to apply for this. It can be done online and the following information is taken from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO):

You can apply for a tax file number online if you meet these three conditions (the bold ones most probably apply to you):

  1. You are a foreign passport holder, permanent migrant or temporary visitor.
  2. You are already in Australia.
  3. Your visa is one of the following:  
    • a permanent migrant visa
    • a visa with work rights
    • an overseas student visa
    • a visa allowing you to stay in Australian indefinitely (including New Zealanders automatically granted a visa on arrival).

What information do I need to complete a TFN?

  • Your travel documentation (passport)
  • Personal details
  • Australian address details
  • Contact details
Have your passport handy to apply for a Tax File Number and to open a bank account.

How to open a bank account

You can open a transaction account either before you arrive in Australia or just after you arrive. There are several banks you can choose from as an international student – the following are suitable accounts:

What do I need to open an account?

Opening a bank account in Australia is quite simple. You can even apply online via an application form up to 3 months before you arrive. You just need your passport and other travel information such as your arrival date, some personal details and a reliable email address. Once your application has been approved you will be given your account details so that you can transfer money before your arrival. For more useful information on opening bank transaction and savings accounts click here.

Setting up your phone

Mobile (cell) phones and SIM cards: Being able to use your phone is one of the first things you will want to sort out and this is easy to do. You can buy a cheap sim card when you arrive which you can use with your current phone. There are several providers and you can choose to sign up for a short term contract or contract-free prepaid plans which you can pay for as you go and buy credit as needed. The following are some of the larger telco providers offering prepaid plans:

There are many more providers. To compare more prepaid plans on offer in Australia check out this telco comparison site.

Travelling by public transport

To travel on public transport (bus, train, light rail/tram and ferries) you will need a transport travel card which is different in each state/city.

  • Opal Card [Sydney/NSW]: You will need to apply for an Adult Opal card which you can order online or get at an Opal retailer or at a Service NSW Centre. You keep this card, top it up and reuse it to pay for travel on public transport. (There is also a single use option.) You can add value to it when needed (or you can get an automatic top up debited from your bank account) then tap on and tap off to pay your fares. Don’t forget to tap off when you finish your journey or you will be charged the maximum fare!
  • Myki Card [Melbourne/Victoria]: If you travel infrequently you can pay as you go. If you travel frequently you can buy a Myki pass. You can buy it online or at a retailer. The City Circle tram is free in Melbourne.
  • Go Card [Brisbane/South East Queensland]: This card covers all transport. You can buy this online, at a retailer or over the phone. You can also set up auto top-up.

Work documents (where applicable)

  • Superannuation (or ‘super’ ): Australian employers are required to pay 9.5% of your earnings into a superannuation (pension plan) account – it is a way of saving money for retirement. As temporary residents, international students who have worked in Australia may be eligible to access their superannuation once they permanently depart Australia. You can choose your own super fund or your employer will use their own one and set one up for you. Make sure you take note of the name of the superannuation fund you’re employer uses.
  • Work cards / Certification: Depending on what industry or job you choose to work in, there are certain documents, certifications or checks you need to have. Some of these are as follows:
    • White card: This is required for people who want to undertake construction work. You need to complete construction induction training with an RTO (Registered Training Organisation). To find a white card trainer in your area, click here. They will ask you to have various forms of ID (identification). [For Melbourne/ Victoria, click here; for Brisbane/Queensland, click here]
    • RSA/RCG: If you choose to work in a licensed venue (a place that sells alcoholic beverages) you need competency training in the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) . If you are planning to work in a registered club or hotel and your duties include gaming machines you need to complete competency training in the Responsible Training of Gambling (RCG). The links above will direct you to an RTO in your area where you can complete the required training. The law is different in each State – for Melbourne/ Victoria, click here; for Brisbane/Queensland, click here]
    • Working with Children Check: The Working With Children Check (WWCC) is a requirement for anyone who works or volunteers in child-related work in NSW. A National Police Check is done as well as a review of reportable workplace misconduct. Each State has similar requirements – for Melbourne/Victoria, click here; for Brisbane/Queensland, click here]
You need an RSA to work in a bar or venue that sells alcoholic beverages.