I’m leaving Australia: Can I access my super?

Q: I really found your web page very informative as I am just about to retire. I wish I had read it years ago. You certainly take the mystery out of super. My son, 42 yrs old, has moved permanently to the USA. He does not intend to return to Australia. He has a small industry-based super account and we were told that he cannot access this until retirement. Is this correct?

Many thanks for your kind words about our website, and we’re pleased that you have found it useful.

I’m assuming your son was a permanent Australian resident and Australian citizen before he departed Australia’s sandy shores, rather than a temporary resident. Australian citizens (and permanent residents of Australia) who then relocate overseas are treated in the same way as Australians living in Australia: they cannot access preserved super benefits until they reach preservation age and retire, or satisfy another condition of release. (I explain the conditions of release in the SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.

Important: New Zealand citizens and Australian citizens are now able to transfer retirement savings between NZ and Australia, in both directions, subject to meeting special rules. The Trans-Tasman Portability Scheme is explained in the SuperGuide article KiwiSaver: Only one super fund accepts super transfers from NZ to Australia.

Note: Preservation age for anyone born on or after 1 July 1964 is age 60, which is the preservation age for anyone aged 42. Preservation age ranges from age 55 (for those born before July 1960), age 56 (for those born on or after 1 July 1960 through to 30 June 1961), and, depending on date of birth, 57, or 58, or 59, through to age 60.

In the olden days (about 17 years ago) it was possible to access your preserved super benefits when you left Australia permanently subject to meeting certain conditions. The rules were changed from July 1998 which now means that any Australian citizen who moves overseas permanently cannot access super benefits unless they satisfy a condition of release. The rationale for this policy is that Australian citizens may return to Australia to retire, or at least have the option of retiring in Australia.

Different rules apply for temporary residents

Temporary residents of Australia however can access Australian super benefits when they leave Australia.

Temporary Australian residents who have visited the country under an eligible temporary resident visa (temporary visa listed under the Migration Act 1958, but not subclasses 405 and 410) can withdraw any super benefits (less tax) when the visa expires and when they leave Australia. If a temporary resident doesn’t claim any his or her super benefits within six months of departing Australia, then the super fund may pay the super benefits to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). You then have to apply to the ATO for access to your super. For more information on accessing super when a temporary resident see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: Temporary resident of Australia, and by reading ATO super temporary residents on the ATO website.


  1. My son, an Australian Citizen, has left Australia to permanently reside in the UK (has a British passport).
    I understand that he is unable to access his super until he has reached preservation age, however will there be anything left by then? That is over the years there will be nothing going into the fund, but the annual fees will still come out leaving him with nothing in the end – this seems extremely unfair.

  2. Darren McCourt says:

    Why would anyone come back to Australia to retire where the cost of living is so expensive, I am going to retire in Thailand where it is a easy stress free lifestyle and the cost of living is so cheap.

  3. Don’t forget they tax about 35%… they don’t leave you go with your money without eating a piece of your cake.

    lookig forward to leave the country!!

  4. Huw Grossmith says:

    This is called having your cake and eating it too. It’s amazing the number of “rip-offs” the government in Australia gets itself. Married couples who both work pay single persons tax but if they both go out of work at the same time they can only claim a couples benefit which is less than two singles combined.

    The ATO takes great delight in declaring Australian citizens non resident for tax purposes which means when they come back, unless its bang on 1 July, the get hit a lot harder for tax when they come back up to the maximum rate charged flat with no free of tax income – been there.

    It would also appear that one can not renounce citizenship and gain access to their super either. In this case if the person becomes and US citizen he renounces his right to Australian citizenship as part of the process. I am happy to renounce mine it would not leave me stateless but will I get my superannuation back – I doubt it. The odd thing I found out is that renouncing citizenship does not mean surrendering my passport! Why not? Let me renounce, hand-over the passport, and give me, as the bank ad says, my money back.

  5. Unfortunately, it appears like Australia doesn’t miss a chance to swallow money whenever it gets opportunity.

    It’s very wrong to not give super back for people who are leaving Australia permanently regardless of being PR or citizen of Australia. Don’t understand why other people in same boat don’t make more complaints about this.

    Super is my money and it’s my choice to live wherever I like. We are leaving in globalised world for god sake..

  6. Teresa Kightley says:

    Hi there, I’m a NZ Citizen 29 years – been in Melbourne for about 2 years. I’m planning to go back to NZ permanently in a couple of months am I able to access my Super before I go? Thanks & Hope So!!

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