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

This article contains 6 examples of the most popular questions received by SuperGuide from Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents departing Australia, and who are seeking to access 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 United States

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. (I explain the conditions of release in my article Accessing super early: 12 legal reasons to cash your super).

Preservation age for anyone born on or after 1 July 1960 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.

In the olden days (just under 15 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.

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. If a temporary resident doesn’t claim any of his or her super benefits within six months of departing Australia, then the super fund will generally pay the super benefits to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). You then have to apply to the ATO for access to your super. You find more information about temporary residents accessing super benefits upon leaving Australia by reading Superannuation information for temporary residents departing Australia on the ATO website.

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. 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. See 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 release of super benefits is due to leaving Australia. Quoting directly from the ATO website:

“Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents of Australia or holders of retirement visas generally cannot claim their super… because they have the option of retiring in Australia. However Australian and New Zealand citizen, and permanent Australian residents, are able to claim super money they earned while previously in Australia on a temporary visa if this money is now held by the Tax Office.”

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.

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. See my response to Question 3.

If you have reached your preservation age (currently 55) when you depart Australia, or when you reach age 55 at a later stage, then you may be able to access super benefits subject to certain conditions. See SuperGuide article Accessing super early: Living overseas and over the age of 55.

Note: If you had been a temporary Australian resident rather than a permanent Australian resident, then you would have been able to access your super benefits (see article Accessing super early: Temporary resident).

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.

6. Living outside Australia and over the age of 55

Q: 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.

A: No, not specifically for the purpose of buying property, but potentially yes for another reason.

Different rules regarding super access come into play when a fund member has reached their preservation age. Preservation age is currently 55 years (although steadily increasing to 60, depending on birth date), which means an individual can access super benefits provided they have retired from the workforce.

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 the age of 55 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 aged 55 or over, 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.

© Copyright Trish Power 2009-2014

Copyright for this article belongs to Trish Power, and cannot be reproduced without express and specific consent.

IMPORTANT: SuperGuide does not provide financial advice. SuperGuide does not answer all questions posted in the comments section. SuperGuide may use your question or comment, or use questions from several readers, as the basis for an article topic that we publish on the SuperGuide website. We will not disclose names or personal information in these articles. Comments provided by readers that may include information relating to tax, superannuation or other rules cannot be relied upon as advice. SuperGuide does not verify the information provided within comments from readers. Readers need to seek independent advice about their personal circumstances.

Comments

  1. 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…

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