Deciding to study in another country can be an exciting opportunity for any international student that provides for life experiences, as well as educational growth, but of course – with the chance to be overseas also brings the worries of accommodation, paperwork and especially finances. If you’re looking to become an international student in Australia soon, you’re probably working out how to save your pennies, or even wondering how to go about getting a part-time job so that you can still experience the best of your new backyard.

Take a breather because you can have the best of both worlds in Australia – where you can study and still take on work as both an employee, and a self-employed individual student. All you need to do to get yourself sorted out is to ensure you can work legally in Australia is sort out your ABN, as well as getting yourself sorted out as an independent contractor. 

What is an ABN and why do you need it?

What is an ABN you might ask? 

For all local citizens and international students coming to Australia, an ABN is an Australian Business Number, which is an 11-digit identifier (or a business ID) that helps to gauge profits, income and taxes while being in the country. All businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs, and self-employed individuals who work and “share” their services in Australia are issued an ABN for identification purposes for the ATO – the Australian Taxation Office – to calculate tax obligations. 

While you’re an international student in Australia, it may be hard to come by full-time jobs, but depending on your industry of study, local businesses can contract you for your skills – and invoice you for your time. 

However, you’ll only be able to get paid properly if you have an ABN. In this way, while it’s not exactly being self-employed, it serves as a point for you to get paid for your time, while working in your own hours, and in this way, it also saves the businesses tax and superannuation, which reduces their costs and allows you a maximum payment. 

Basically, an ABN is the most important thing you need to have for anyone who’s in Australia and wanting to work for themselves.

How to get an ABN?

We know it sounds daunting, but fret not! Getting an ABN through the Australian Business Registration is free and takes no time at all – but you just need to be aware that you have all your identification paperwork ready to go.  As an international student, once you’ve figured out why you need an ABN to work, you’ll be on your way. 

Studying in Australia with an ABN

What do you need to know about studying in Australia with an ABN and what’s next?

Once you’ve been approved for your own ABN, you’ll be able to be contracted by companies and local businesses who would like your services – which can help to accelerate your experiences, skills and even your career in Australia! You’ll be able to:

  • Create your own business name and become a legitimate business (so that contractors can invoice you for jobs)
  • Register for GST (and claim back business-related costs)
  • Deduct taxes after the end of the first financial year (only for the first year, after June 30)

However, as an independent contractor / self-employed individual and an international student, you’ll also be limited to things that Australian citizen will have, such as being covered by local health insurance, and you’re only allowed from between 20 – 40 hours a week depending in your visa and industry.

You’ll also need to keep all your receipts for equipment, materials and services that are related to your self-employed business as you’ll need to record it as part of the annual Tax Declaration and deduct costs and see how much you’ll need to pay the ATO based on the income you made during that financial year period.

Tips to get started with your ABN in Australia as an international student!

So, you’ve sorted out your ABN paperwork and gotten it approved. You’ve also chosen your new contractor business name and you’re ready to go – so what’s next for you? We’ve got three top tips to help you be your own boss while being an international student in Australia:

  • If you’re lucky, you’ll already have been contacted by a company or a business who wants to use your services so all you need to do is sort out your invoice. Otherwise, if you’re just starting out, our best tip for you as an international student is to work on a digital portfolio to show of your skills and services (another pro tip is with an ABN, you can have an Australian website with the domain), then you can reach out to potential clients and companies you want to work with.
  • Keeping on top of your self-employment work is to always hold onto receipts and any invoices that relate to your work. If you work in hospitality, you can keep receipts for uniform you need to buy, or if you’re a in creative industry, you can keep receipts for materials and equipment.
  • Template of invoices – as you do more work, you’ll need to churn out as many invoices as possible and make sure you’re paid on time by your contractors. All invoices provided by you as the self-employed individual must include your: full name, residential address, date of invoice, due date of invoice, your ABN number, as well as information on the job you’ve completed and your contractor’s details. 
  • Keep track of how many hours you do during the week so that you’re paid correctly, as well as keeping in line with the Australian regulations for international students with certain visa.

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