Student Visa and ABNs

In Australia on a Student Visa / Working under an ABN

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is commonly used by small business owners and independent contractors to account to their clients for work carried out. Subject to the structure of each business, it may be used with or without the necessary Tax File Number (TFN) but it is always linked for the purposes of assessing income. To obtain an ABN the applicant must first hold a TFN.

Is an ABN accessible for persons holding a student visa?

Overseas visitors, studying in Australia on Student Visas, can openly apply for an ABN, as they can for a TFN, but the terms of their visas continue to apply. Unless specific additional work was formally registered as part of their course application, student visa holders are not permitted to work prior to the commencement of their course, nor are they permitted to work more than 40 hours per fortnight during each course semester (a fortnight is defined as a two-week, or 14 day period, commencing on a Monday). Working hours are not restricted however during academic holiday breaks, when the course is considered “out of session”.

Don’t be misled.

Some easily misunderstood press has recently created the misconception that students holding ABN numbers might be able to work the hours of their choice, but this is simply not the case. Students attempting to avoid the fortnightly restriction are placing their visas at considerable risk.

The use of wording such as “get paid according to your tasks, not according to the number of hours you have worked” tend to suggest that an ABN could possibly be the key to unlimited work opportunities whilst in Australia, but an ABN requires accountability, a TFN requires accountability and with modern technology recording all accruing checks and balances, the Department of Home Affairs has the means to swiftly become aware of growing evidence of deceit.

Adhering to the terms of your visa is similar to showing respect to your host, at times when you are cordially invited to his or to her home.

Is it worth obtaining an ABN?

The answer to this question depends so much on the occupation and the objectives of each individual but it should always be the choice of the individual, not an enforced requirement of the employer.

Some employers have been known to insist upon ABN numbers for all casual employees. In doing this, they are able to set remuneration arrangements which may generally fall behind Australian standards. The ABN holder must then invoice the employer, remains accountable for payments received and very probably will need to pay tax on profits; fundamentally absorbing all responsibilities that the employer would otherwise hold.

But on the other hand (and there always seems to be another hand) an ABN can be extremely beneficial for self-employed workers, such as IT Specialists, cleaning and other service contractors; even those who sub-contract to others.

For those who are prepared to work honestly and fairly, the prospects for work in Australia are broad and exciting, but visas are a precious privilege so obtaining the correct advice is of paramount importance.

Always talk to experts in the field of immigration

Immigration is an extremely complex and continually evolving domain. It always pays dividends therefore, to obtain professional assistance; skilled practitioners who are specialised in the field, comprehensively trained to recognise the traps and the trends. It can save so much time, prevent possibly unnecessary expense and so often, avoid a myriad of future disappointments.

For more information on this or on any relating issues, contact the migration experts – Sellanes Clark and Associates – specialising in all immigration matters.


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