Accessing super early: Permanent departure from Australia (6 Q&As)

This article contains 6 examples of popular questions received by SuperGuide from Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents departing Australia, and who are seeking to withdraw super benefits before retirement. If you’re a temporary resident of Australia then check out another SuperGuide article Accessing super early: Temporary resident of Australia.

The questions covered in this article are listed below (scroll down the page to read the responses):

  1. My son, 42 years old has moved permanently to the USA. He does not intend to return to Australia. We were told that he cannot access his super until retirement. Is this correct?
  2. I was a member of an Australian super fund in the 1990s. I have now left Australia permanently. Can I access my super benefits?
  3. My husband is not an Australian citizen, however he is a permanent resident. Can he access his superannuation, as we have moved to the US, and don’t know if we will be returning?
  4. I’m an Australian citizen but I’m leaving Australia permanently. Can I access my super?
  5. I’m leaving the country, AND taking out UK citizenship. Can I access my super?
  6. I live in Hong Kong. I am 56 and I want to cash my superannuation benefits to help finance an apartment. Is that possible? I don’t expect to return to Australia

1. Relocating to a country other than Australia

Q: My son, 42 yrs old, has moved permanently to the USA. He has married an American lady and purchased a house etc. He does not intend to return to Australia. He has a small industry-based super a/c & we were told that he cannot access this until retirement. Is this correct?

A: 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 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.

Note: Preservation age for 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) through to age 60.

For an expanded answer to this question see SuperGuide article I’m leaving Australia: Can I access my super?

I explain the conditions of release in the SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.

2. Pre-1999 super benefits

Q: I was a member of an Australian super fund in the 1990s. I have now left Australia permanently. Can I access my super benefits?

A: Maybe. You cannot withdraw preserved super benefits unless you satisfy a condition of release, typically reaching preservation age and retiring. If your super benefit includes a category of benefit known as ‘unrestricted non-preserved’, then you can access that portion of your benefit without having to satisfy another condition of release, such as retirement. Some Australians who were members of super funds before 1999, may have some unrestricted non-preserved benefits. For more information see SuperGuide article Unrestricted access to super, sometimes.

3. Permanent resident leaving Australia

Q: My husband is not an Australian citizen, however he is a permanent resident. Can he access his superannuation, as we have moved to the US, and don’t know if we will be returning?

A: No, not if the reason an individual is seeking early access to super benefits is due solely for leaving Australia. Australian citizens and permanent Australian residents 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. For more information see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: Living overseas and reached preservation age.

Note: 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. For more information, see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: Temporary resident of Australia.

4. Australian citizen leaving Australia forever

Q: I’m an Australian citizen but I’m leaving Australia permanently. Can I access my super?

A: No, unless you have reached your preservation age and retired, or otherwise satisfied a condition of release. See my response to Question 3.

If you have reached your preservation age when you depart Australia, or you reach your preservation age at a later stage, then you may be able to access super benefits subject to certain conditions. Preservation age is 55 years for anyone born before July 1960, and at least age 56 for anyone born after June 1960, and up to age 60). For more information see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: Living overseas and reached preservation age.

5. Leaving Australia for the United Kingdom

Q: I’m leaving the country, AND taking out UK citizenship. Can I access my super?

A: No. Accessing super is not possible for the particular reason of permanent departure from Australia, if you are an Australian citizen, or a permanent resident of Australia. In the past, the fact that an individual was leaving Australia permanently was an acceptable condition of release. If you supplied sufficient evidence, such as permanent residence in another country, job details and even citizenship application, then it was possible to access a super benefit before retirement. This condition of release no longer applies.

For more information on the circumstances where early release of super is possible, see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.

6. Living outside Australia and reached preservation age

Q: I live in Hong Kong. I am 56 and I want to cash my super benefits to help finance an apartment. Is that possible? I don’t expect to return to Australia.

A: No, not specifically for the purpose of buying property, but potentially yes for another reason. Note that SuperGuide is an information site, rather than advisory site and this information we provide is of a general nature. You will need to verify your personal circumstances with your super fund.

Different rules regarding super access come into play when a fund member has reached their preservation age. At the time of writing, anyone aged 56 have reached their preservation age (of 55 years or 56 years).

Preservation age is age 55 years (for those born before July 1960) and age 56 for those born on or after 1 July 1960 and up to 30 June 1961. Preservation age steadily increases until it reaches age 60 for those born after June 1964.

A person who reached preservation age AND retired, can access super benefits.

For an Australian living overseas, the rules are a little more complicated, although you should check the rules with your Australian super fund, or with the ATO.

Generally, an Australian living overseas, like Australians at home, who has reached preservation age, can access his or her super benefits in Australia provided they provide documentary evidence to the fund that they have retired.

If an ex-pat is no longer a resident of Australia however, and reached preservation age, I believe that provided the individual supplies documentation of overseas residency and that they are not employed in Australia, then super funds will consider releasing the super benefits. Again, you need to do your own research on your particular circumstances.

Note: Tax is generally payable on super benefits withdrawn before the age of 60, and depending on the tax treaty in place between Australia and the country of residence, there may be tax payable after the age of 60. Taxation of foreign income (if applicable) is not covered by this website.

Comments

  1. The example given of a permanent resident leaving Australia included the possibility of return. Under Australian immigration law such a person remains a permanent resident. However the permanent departure of an Australian permanent resident results in the person no longer being a permanent resident. I can find no information about what happens to a permanent resident’s access to super once they are no longer legally considered a permanent resident.

  2. lyreene Te whare says:

    Yep I’m the same why the hell aren’t we protesting about this, I reckon we would be heard cos man there’s a massive amount of us here, the same rules should apply in nz for Aussies as well we r just ripping ourselves off, 3 years in nz then Aussies can claim everything, but no here in Australia it’s 10 years for a one off payment Wtf

  3. I am a NZ citizen who lived in Australia for 12 years but thanks to the government changing the laws in 2001 (I arrived in 2002) I could never become a citizen so was classed as a temporary resident. There were times when I lost my job but couldn’t get a thing from the government so had no money whatsoever (thankfully this didn’t happen often or for long). I have now left Australia and come home to NZ but want my super and surprise surprise I can’t access it. All the Australian Government do is screw kiwis over! We can’t become citizens, therefore we can’t vote or get any assistance if required, and we work our asses off and pay tax (which they then class us as “permanent residents” for but only for tax purposes). I have 12 years of super that I need and should be able to access because according to the Aussie Government I was a Temporary Resident! Have they never heard of ANZAC?! I thought we were supposed to be allies, apparently not. If I was of any other nationality however I could work there on a visa, earn super then leave Australia with my super and be on my merry way. It’s absolute bullshit and totally wrong. Pity I’m not Asian or Indian then I could even get a loan to start a business in Australia and even become a citizen, all without speaking English!

    • You are absolutely right Monique. New Zealanders as such are probably some of the most discriminated against and used people in Australia. New Zealand is broke in comparison to Australia and all it’s resources. If you are Australian and move to New Zealand then after 3 years, you are eligible to all the benefits that other New Zealand residents get. This is not the case for a New Zealander coming to Australia. To top this off, after reading information on this site, you may have to pay tax on your super if you can get it before you are 60 years of age. This is on top of the tax that you are already required to pay on your compulsory super contributions. This is just another perfect example of the corrupt and dirty practises employed by certain Governments and it’s members here in Australia. It is a shame that such practises are a blight on the rest of decent Australian citizens. While I am currently denied the right of citizenship or equal rights even after six years. After seeing some of the corrupt practises in Australia, I have often wondered if I would wear citizenship as a badge of honour or a badge of shame. I know that when coming here, one of the requirements is to be of good character. Being of good character and having integrity is something not always employed by those who make the decisions.

  4. What a great site and thread. Thank you to those involved! My situation is similar as a ‘Kwozzi’ so to speak. Need cash urgently and called my super fund which is a good one. Lovely person too deal with but no go for extraordinary circumstances. Advised to call the Govt Human Relations mob and after waiting an hour for the phone to be picked up was then left despondent (was quick and straight to the point tho). My message is, don’t even bother calling the government line if you don’t meet requirements. They won’t be interested. If like myself there is ‘some’ type of extraordinary reason to withdraw early then take earlier advice in this thread. Throw yourself on the mercy of your super fund administrator. They can, I’ve been told by the govt, make this decision at their discretion. Will have to be a good reason (an exception) if not within the rules. Wish me luck…

  5. I am a dual citizen (US and Australia). I have moved to the US permanently. What if I relinquish my Australian citizenship? Can I then access my Super?

  6. Hi,

    I have a friend who worked from 2001-2008 and has still not claimed her super annuation. She is currently receiving disability pension. Can you please advise about the best way to go about accessing her money?

    Thanks,
    Aisling

  7. [Not sure how to handle replies on this web site, but I’ll give it a shot here.]

    In response to Peter’s reply to my reply:

    Peter,

    I apologize for my blinders. I am in my 70s, healthy, collecting minimum required retirement.. I am fortunate. For those in the opposite situation of not in good health (or not otherwise expecting long life) and not old enough to access super, it is a difficult, especially if (like you) they would like to use their super in their life time.

    Your problem, though, is not so much in the design of the basic super/pension system, but rather that your situation is not covered in the exceptions. Any granting of significant tax advantages has to protect against “regulatory leakage” by which some try to take benefits without meeting the primary qualification of actually using it for retirement. Exceptions such as hardship are easier to justify if the exception-granting process is relatively simple (clear-cut) and not subject to abuse. This is where, I believe, you and similarly situated people should focus efforts to come up with an easily applied test not subject to abuse.

    But recognise that this would be an exception to the underlying system of employer contributions supporting retirement. The funds, whether considered yours or not at the moment, is not taken by the govt, but rather, if you die before a condition of release, go to your beneficiary(ies). That doesn’t help you directly if you die early, but the govt would not be “taking” your money.

    Finally, although you posted under the topic of “departing Australia”, there is no discrimination as those in your situation staying in the country cannot get their retirement early, either. Thus, I believe that your complaint would have a larger class (i.e., more clout) by focusing on the exception aspect rather than the departing aspect.

  8. Peter Scott says:

    In response to Bob T-S

    Dear Bob, unfortunately on both sides of my family heart disease is very common and therefore the chances of me living past retirement age are extremely thin.

    I should have the right to make use of this money to buy a first home in NZ now (especially since other NZ citizens on a kiwisaver scheme enjoy this right by law)

    There is quite a number of people out there who are not particularly interested in living past 65 years old (for whatever reason) I think it’s a gross abuse of their human rights that the Australian government does not allow them to use their superannuation money while they are alive.

  9. In response to Peter Scott’s conclusion: “What a despicable country we live in, they won’t even let us touch our own money. That is just fascist and pathetic”

    With all due respect, he is forgetting an important point. The govt isn’t taking the money; it remains in his super account to be drawn on in retirement. This is tax sheltered money allowed by the govt for purposes of retirement, only. And the quid pro quo is that we cannot do with it as we please. The govt has a valid interest in preventing super tax concessions leaking to non-super purposes.

    Relocating even permanently out of the country shouldn’t break the commitment for retirement. Furthermore, it isn’t “our” money. The mandatory contribution is paid by the employer, not the employee. And to the extent that the employee salary sacrifices or makes non-concessional contributions, that is the employee’s free choice and the employee gets back valuable tax breaks (see 1st paragraph).

    My wife and I have many pension accounts in a total of 3 countries (the worst is the US where each employer has its own plan and merging of 401(k), 457s, IRAs, etc. is limited and cumbersome). As we are entering retirement, we are tapping each fund as allowed/required by respective countries’ rules. Its a bit of a hassle (but, hey, isn’t that a good use of the free time of retirement + keeps the mind active), but it is OUR money for RETIREMENT, not a free pass to break open that piggy bank early just because we depart Australia.

    Frankly, the current super system took Australia from being one of the highest taxed developed country for retirees to what may be the lowest – no tax on anything in pension phase if planned properly, essentially invisible to the tax system. That’s not despicable, fascist or pathetic. . .but rather taxpayer-friendly and forward looking. Conversely, the overarching policy issue I see (and I know that this is sensitive issue) is that the govt may have given too much away and has had the tax base eroded too much.

  10. Peter Scott says:

    People (Especially Australians and New Zealanders planning to retire in NZ)

    I just found out the answer to my question and it’s not pretty. Basically it says that even though we can transfer our superannuation to the kiwisaver scheme if we were to move to NZ you still won’t be able to access any of the money so this new legislation is useless.

    Transferred savings must be separately identifiable within the receiving country account, to allow administrations to insist Australian-sourced components in KiwiSaver cannot be used to purchase a first home, cannot be transferred to a third country but can be accessed on retirement from age 60.

    What a despicable country we live in, they won’t even let us touch our own money. That is just fascist and pathetic

    • Timothy Mullen says:

      Hi Peter,

      Totally agree with you and the situation still hasnt changed 3 years on. It is totally stupid that we cannot draw down on our Australian Super once it is moved into a Kiwisaver account. I have no intention to move back to Australia and the country has really done me no favours. The annoying part is that no one seems to be championing our cause.
      The other annoying part is that NZ is quite happy to engage in foreign investment from Asia but doesnt seem as keen to get Australian property investment.

      Not Hapy

      Tim

  11. Hello, great website you have!

    My question is:

    I am a member of the Hesta superfund.

    I have not lived in Australia for 8 years as I married an Englishman and live in London with our baby son.

    I have no plans to return to live in Australia as I am becoming an UK citizen.

    What can I do with my super fund? I haven’t paid into it for years and don’t want to send money from here into it. Is it possible to roll it over to my mothers super? Or how can I draw on it?

    Thank you.

  12. Hi Trish,

    I lived in Australia for five years on a student and graduate working visa. I left Australia last year and collected my super with paying the 35% withholding tax. My question is whether I can claim back that withholding tax on my ATO tax return or the ATO will not refund that 35% Any help regarding this is greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  13. Q: My friend citizen of Australia and he leaved 10 years there and now he came india. He is eligible for super withdrawal?
    Also his age is now 34.

    • No. He is a Citizen of Australia. He is not eligible to have Superannuation withdrawn simply because he lives overseas for a period of time.

      Being a citizen of Australia means that he is still bound by the rules of having his super release at the age of retirement or under one of the early release conditions.

      Even in the case, if he was living permanently in India, he relinquished his citizenship with Australia, these rules no longer apply for early release. Once, many years ago, this would of been fine, however, this is no longer allowed under current superannuation conditions for release.

  14. Hi Trish,

    First of all great article! Hopefully the thread is still active but here is my situation.

    I’ve moved to Australia last year on a permanent skilled visa which expires after 5 years (expires 2016). After that time I may, or may not, choose to take up the option of citizenship. If I do take up citizenship I guess I would have to wait for retirement age to access super. However if I leave the country, forfeit my option to citizenship, would I be able to withdraw my funds on leaving? If so what would there be a penalty? If not what would happen to my fund when I move home? Really hoping that the contributions I am making is effectively not dead money to me if I leave the country.

    Thanks so much in advance for advice.

    Dave

    • Hey Dave,

      If you decide to leave Australia, you must apply to the ATO to have your funds released.

      Go to this website.. https://www.ato.gov.au/forms/applying-for-a-departing-australia-super-payment/

      However, you can only do this when you are in your country of Origin and you must provide evidence that your Visa has expired, or that you have cancelled it.

      In most cases, your Superannuation fund will send you a cheque in your name for the amount, however, depending on the fund your with, also depends on their fees n charges for release. Most of them don’t charge, but good to check.

      Also, if you are worried about a check being sent to your country, as it may get lost, you can ask your Fund to transfer electronically to your personal account overseas.. However, more paper work is required from you to have this done.

      Call your fund, or the ATO.. they can help you the best.

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