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.
We assume 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 3 super funds accept 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), age 57 (for those born on or after 1 July 1061 through to 30 June 1962) and, depending on date of birth, 58, or 59, through to age 60 (for more information on preservation age, see SuperGuide articles Accessing super: What is my preservation age? and Accessing super: Preservation age moves to 58 years and Retirement Age Reckoner: Discover your preservation age and Age Pension age.
In the olden days (about 20 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.