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Insurance in Australia: Life, health and travel insurance for non-citizens of Australia
A great way to make sure you're well looked after if something goes awry while abroad.
Insurance. It’s that peace-of-mind guarantee that, should an accident or unforeseen circumstance arise away from home, you will still be taken good care of. Because you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells to avoid a massive medical/emergency bill when you should be enjoying your time in Australia.
These days you can insure practically anything – but when it comes to moving country, there are some key insurances you should look into taking out. They are life, health, work, travel, and property insurance.
Before departing for Australia, you might like to consider speaking about your insurance with a provider in your home country or – at the very least – be across what is required to gain cover in Australia. You can do this by contacting insurers at home to ensure you receive cover as quickly and easily as possible when you arrive. Some insurers can even provide you with a cover note, which acts as interim cover for the period before your formal insurance policy is issued.
Depending on what visa you hold, you will have different insurance options available for you in Australia. Generally though, anyone holding a permanent residence visa will find it much easier to obtain cover, and receive the same or similar benefits to an Australian citizen, than a non-citizen on a temporary visa.
Even though you might not think you need life insurance, you never know what the future holds, which is why life insurance is an important consideration. The way life insurance works is that you pay your insurance provider an ongoing and recurring fee – so if the worst were to happen, your policy would cover any final expenses and pay your next of kin (e.g. your dependents) a compensation for their loss. Something to be aware of with certain policies is that if you have an existing medical condition, insurers may apply a premium loading, exclude the condition from cover or reject your application altogether. To put this in perspective, this works in the same way that a car insurance company wouldn’t want to ensure a bad driver due to the probability of them having an accident. Now, this isn’t to say that those with existing medical problems can’t obtain cover, but if they do they may be required to pay a higher premium for the increased and more immediate risk.
The benefit payment from a life insurance policy can be used to cover such expenses as;
- Funeral costs
- Mortgage/rent payments
- Everyday living expenses
- Education fees
- Small personal debts
Eligibility requirements for purchasing life insurance as a non-citizen
Non-Australian residents must meet certain criteria to be eligible for life insurance in Australia. These are as follows:
- You must come from a Level 1 or Level 2 country (as specified by the Australian Federal Government). These countries include Malaysia, Thailand and South Africa.
- You must have lived in Australia for at least six months. If you’ve been in the country less than this, your application may be rejected. Additionally, your application will look stronger if you’re in the process of obtaining permanent residency.
- You must hold a visa that permits you to stay in Australia for a minimum of two years. These visas include: permanent work visas, spousal visas, certain business work visas (890), and certain nominated working visas (121/857, 457).
While these are the standard, general requirements, different insurance companies might have their own (extra) criterion that needs to be met before you’re eligible for a policy with them. Some companies might also choose to charge non-citizens higher rates or premiums, or even limit their coverage. This can be particularly true if the non-citizen comes from a high-risk country and returns often.
Although some countries hold a Reciprocal Health Agreement (RHCA) with Australia, allowing their citizens to benefit from Australia’s national health care system (Medicare), others don’t. If yours is one of these countries, you might have to pay up-front and in-full for any medical costs you may incur while in Australia. To ensure that you don’t get slammed with a hefty bill should you require medical treatment, it could be worth taking up health cover for the length of your stay.
Even if you do belong to a country that is supported by the RHCA, you might still want to consider private health cover, as this provides you with added benefits, as well as access to private health care.
Medicare and the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA)
Medicare, as mentioned above, is the government’s national health care service, and provides financial aid for those requiring medical attention. Thanks to the RHCA, migrants from certain countries (which at the time of writing are: Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK) are eligible for Medicare and the immediate treatments on the public health care system that it provides access to.
Medicare is not only available to countries bound by the RHCA, but to migrants on a permanent residence visa. To register for Medicare, you will need to fill out a Medicare Enrollment Form (available from the Human Services website) and present original or certified copies of your passport and travel documents to a Medicare office to prove eligibility. Once approved, you will be issued with your Medicare card, which you must present whenever you obtain medical treatments through the public health system.
As Medicare is a public service, it provides only limited medical treatments. If you require private health care or non-emergency treatments (optical, dental) you should consider taking out private Overseas Visitors Health Cover.
Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)
Specifically designed for international workers and visitors, OVHC is a private insurance that can cover a number of medical expenses, including doctors visits and hospital admissions. Although some visas don’t require you to have health insurance to enter Australia, some visas (subclass 457 and 485) do require you to carry a minimum amount of health insurance for the length of your stay. Read the conditions of your visa carefully as you may be denied entry into Australia if your visa requires you to have appropriate health cover, and you do not. Also, whenever applying for health insurance, remember to take waiting periods into consideration so you don’t run into problems with your visa.
Note: if you are entering Australia on a student visa, you will be required to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) which you can read about below.
Eligibility requirements for OVHC
You are eligible for OVHC if you’re visiting Australia and aren’t being provided health cover under Medicare or OSHC. This insurance can be purchased from an approved insurance company and premium rates will vary with providers and are subject to individual evaluation.
If you hold an Australian visa that requires you to provide a minimum amount of health insurance, then OVHC is your main option to consider for health cover in Australia. While policies vary, most will cover you for a portion of your doctor’s fees as well as necessary hospital admissions. Excess coverage (dental, optical, specialists) isn’t covered, however you will still be able to access general, public health coverage which can cover these services. Additionally pharmaceuticals might not be covered, or might only be partially covered with OVHC.
Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
OSHC is mandatory for international students on temporary student visas and provides access to medical and hospital care, ambulance services and limited pharmaceuticals. It can also cover any of the student’s dependents (spouse and children) who are with them in Australia. What it doesn’t cover are unnecessary medical treatments (health screenings, medical examinations) and extras (dental, optical).
Depending on the university or school you are studying at, you might be able to access more comprehensive cover. To determine what medical benefits are available to you contact your educational institution direct.
Of note: your health cover ceases when you student visa expires, and students from certain countries might be eligible for special insurance agreements. See our Studying in Australia page for more details on OSHC.
Eligibility requirements for purchasing OSHC
Generally, if you’re studying in Australia as an international student, your educational institution will have its own affiliated OSHC provider and be able to assist you to apply for health cover with them. However, should you wish to, you can also apply for OSHC independently with a provider of your own choosing.
If you choose to go with your own provider, consider these:
- Pharmaceutical costs – some policies won’t cover over a predetermined amount for pharmaceuticals, meaning you’ll have to cover any extra costs above this amount.
- Pre-existing conditions – some policies might make you go through a waiting period of 12-months if you have a pre-existing condition.
- Extras cover – generally OSHC won’t cover optical and dental. If you require these you might like to consider extras cover to include them.
The purpose of income protection is to replace a portion of your wages in the event that you’re unable to work due to serious sickness or injury. The compensation is typically in the form of monthly payments and can be as much as 75% of your pre-tax earnings (up to $10,000). In order to be eligible for a claim, you will have to provide evidence (e.g. medical assessments) of a sustaining and serious injury that renders you incapable to perform your working duties, thus causing a drop in your income.
Under most circumstances, so long as you pay your premium, your policy will remain in place until you retire, turn 65, cancel your policy, or become deceased.
Depending on the conditions of your policy, benefits might cease if the policy ends, the cover expires, the benefit/payment period ends, the maximum benefit has been paid, the life insured is no longer disabled or the life insured dies. Read your policy carefully for full details of when your benefits could cease.
In general, income protection is available to working Australians and permanent residents (including New Zealanders) who are:
- Between the ages of 18 and 59
- Work for at least 20 hours and week and hold that position the 12-months before the policy commences
Temporary residents who aren’t permanent residents may still be eligible for income protection. See below for more details.
Eligibility requirements for Income Protection as a non-citizen on a temporary visa
While income protection is generally only available to Australian citizens and permanent residents, there are circumstances where temporary residents may be eligible for income protection. These include:
- If you’re currently in the process of becoming a permanent resident
- If you can provide proof that you’ll be in Australia for a certain period of time (determined by your provider) and will sustain a substantial level of income or investment threshold (again, determined by your provider)
- If you’ve been in Australia continuously for at least six months on a temporary work visa
If you are ineligible for income protection in Australia, you might still be able to obtain income protection from your country of origin as many policies provide worldwide 24-hour cover. Contact your provider for more information.
WorkCover (workers compensation) is a full liability insurance that all employers (unless exempt) are legally obliged to take out to cover a worker’s medical and general living expenses should they be injured on the jobsite. In the case that an employer is exempt (they pay less than $7500 in total annual wages, don’t employ apprentices/trainees or aren’t part of a group for premium purposes) that employer becomes ‘deemed’ to hold a policy and will still have the same obligations as non-exempt employers, including having to assist in injury management. To make a claim, exempt employers should notify the WorkCover Claims Assistance Service where their claim will be assigned to one of their scheme agents.
While workers compensation laws differ from state to state, their basic obligations to their workers are the same. It also doesn’t matter what status visa you hold, so long as you’re legally working, all residents and non-residents are entitled to Workcover benefits.
Typically, there are four types of benefits that can be paid through workers compensation:
- Income replacement: Although income replacement through workers compensation varies from state to state, usually lump sum benefits will be paid to you as an addition to your weekly benefits. This amount is determined by a committee upon assessing your medical report.
- Medical benefits: These cover medical and other health-related costs for injuries sustained at work.
- Death benefits: In the event of your death, your beneficiaries will receive a lump sum benefit to fund funeral costs and other living expenses.
- Permanent disability: This is defined as a condition that remains unchanged despite continuous medical attention. Anyone deemed permanently disabled under workers comp will be paid a lump sum benefit in addition to weekly benefits.
Note that you can be paid one or more of these benefits and that there may be a benefit period that is subject to the maximum limits of the lump sum.
Non-resident travel insurance
If you haven’t taken out travel insurance with a provider from your country of origin, rest assured many Australian providers offer non-resident travel insurance for migrants travelling to or throughout Australia. Specifically, migrants on the 457, 405/410, 411, 416, 417, or 422 visas are eligible for non-resident travel insurance.
Depending on what level of cover you require and your budget, non-resident travel insurance can cover you for the following:
- Emergency medical assistance: This cover can include medical, hospital and dental due to immediate and acute pain.
- Overseas emergency medical assistance: This can include 24 hour medical assistance, ambulance cover, medical evacuations, funeral expenses and hospital guarantees.
- Personal disability cover: In the event that you are rendered disabled due to an injury suffered while travelling, you may be eligible for a personal disability benefit. There may be rules as to what constitutes ‘disabled’, which will be outlined in your policy.
- Cancellations and lost deposits: In the event you are forced to cut your trip short or cancel it and the cost or deposit isn’t refunded to you by the airline or other travel agency, you will be reimbursed by your insurance provider.
- Travel delays: Including any travel delays that affect your pre-paid travel arrangements.
- Luggage delays: You’ll be provided with the necessary monies to replace clothes and toiletries misplaced or lost by your travel provider.
- Loss or theft of personal belongings and luggage: There’s monetary compensation for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage or personal items. This includes travel documents and credit cards.
- Rental vehicle excess and cover: Some policies may cover your excess on your rental car’s insurance if it is stolen or damaged.
- Personal liability: This will cover any legal expenses in the instance you’re found liable for causing someone injury or for damaging property during your trip.
Eligibility requirements for non-resident travel insurance
While eligibility, terms of coverage, and premiums vary from provider to provider, generally non-residents on a Temporary Business Long Stay (457), Retirement/Investor Retirement (405/410 ), Exchange (411 ), Special Program (416 ), Working Holiday (417), or Medical Practitioner (422 ) visa who spend the majority of their trip in Australia can obtain non-resident travel insurance.
In addition to the above criteria, your provider might also:
- Require to carry personal health insurance or Medicare
- Charge you a premium if you have a pre-existing medical condition, or at the least exclude pre-excluding medical conditions from your policy
- Charge you a premium or limit your benefits if you are in a risk-age category (typically 65+ years old)
- Require you to purchase your insurance within a certain time period from landing in Australia
- Have waiting periods before your policy comes into effect or before you’re able to make a claim
As always, to ensure you obtain the most appropriate travel cover for you, it’s best to research each policy before you make your purchase.
Home and contents insurance
Home and contents insurance can protect your home’s structure, fixtures, structural renovations, and everything inside it of value, including personal possessions.
When purchasing home and contents insurance for your Australian home, you should know that some policies might only cover specific aspects of your homestead, while others might offer to replace or compensate for everything, including your personal liability and valuables. As a non-citizen, certain providers might require you to fulfil certain eligibility criteria before being approved for a policy.
Insurance for your vacant home in your country of origin
If you’re travelling for an extended period of time and have a home in your country of origin, you might want to consider taking out home insurance to cover it against damages in your absence. Before you leave, you might consider renting out your home through an agent, who can manage your property, including rent collection and maintenance) to alleviate the stress of an empty homestead and help bring in some added funds.
If you do leave your home unattended, home insurance can cover your property for weather damage, fire, and flooding to a certain degree, but generally won’t cover theft, vandalism or squatting.
International personal property insurance
International personal property insurance ensures that if your possessions are lost, damaged, or stolen, whether in transit or in storage, you can be compensated for your loss. Policies and what they cover will naturally vary, so to find out about any exclusions contact specific insurance providers.
Other forms of insurance to consider
While we’ve outlined some of the more popular forms of insurance migrants take when arriving in Australia, here are some others worth considering too.
This can protect your business in the case of serious setbacks, which can lead to unaccounted for costs (fire, flood, explosion, theft, or even a visitor’s injury on your premises). In the event of an unaccounted for cost, business insurance can help pay the residual effects. Business insurance can also covers worker’s compensation.
If you’ve invested in a car, or have transported yours to our shores, you might want to consider car insurance. This can cover damages to both your car and other vehicles damaged in an accident. In Australia, it’s required that all vehicles on the road are insured through an approved insurance company. There’s a large market for car insurance in Australia, with comprehensive plans starting at $600 per year. For non-residents, international car insurance is also available if you plan to use your own car in Australia. Like any other insurance policy. each company will have their own eligibility criteria and offer their own premiums.
How to apply for insurance
While the concept behind every policy is the same, different companies offer different features – and all for different prices depending on these features and your circumstances. Before choosing a policy, do your research and compare policies to determine the one that best suits your needs.
Once you’ve decided on an insurance policy, you can apply for it online with the insurance agent you’ve chosen. Then, you must wait to be accepted for cover. To be accepted, you’ll have to meet set criteria by the insurance company, which might be slightly stricter than usual if you’re a non-resident.
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