Insurance in Australia: Life, health and travel insurance for non-citizens of Australia

A great way to make sure you're well looked after if something goes awry while abroad.

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Insurance. It’s that peace-of-mind guarantee that, should an accident or unforeseen circumstance arise away from home, you will still be taken good care of. Because you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells to avoid a massive medical/emergency bill when you should be enjoying your time in Australia.

These days you can insure practically anything – but when it comes to moving country, there are some key insurances you should look into taking out. They are life, health, work, travel, and property insurance.

Before departing for Australia, you might like to consider speaking about your insurance with a provider in your home country or – at the very least – be across what is required to gain cover in Australia. You can do this by contacting insurers at home to ensure you receive cover as quickly and easily as possible when you arrive. Some insurers can even provide you with a cover note, which acts as interim cover for the period before your formal insurance policy is issued.

Depending on what visa you hold, you will have different insurance options available for you in Australia. Generally though, anyone holding a permanent residence visa will find it much easier to obtain cover, and receive the same or similar benefits to an Australian citizen, than a non-citizen on a temporary visa.


Life insurance

Even though you might not think you need life insurance, you never know what the future holds, which is why life insurance is an important consideration. The way life insurance works is that you pay your insurance provider an ongoing and recurring fee – so if the worst were to happen, your policy would cover any final expenses and pay your next of kin (e.g. your dependents) a compensation for their loss. Something to be aware of with certain policies is that if you have an existing medical condition, insurers may apply a premium loading, exclude the condition from cover or reject your application altogether. To put this in perspective, this works in the same way that a car insurance company wouldn’t want to ensure a bad driver due to the probability of them having an accident. Now, this isn’t to say that those with existing medical problems can’t obtain cover, but if they do they may be required to pay a higher premium for the increased and more immediate risk.

The benefit payment from a life insurance policy can be used to cover such expenses as;

  • Funeral costs
  • Mortgage/rent payments
  • Everyday living expenses
  • Education fees
  • Small personal debts

Non-Australian residents must meet certain criteria to be eligible for life insurance in Australia. These are as follows:

  • You must come from a Level 1 or Level 2 country (as specified by the Australian Federal Government). These countries include Malaysia, Thailand and South Africa.
  • You must have lived in Australia for at least six months. If you’ve been in the country less than this, your application may be rejected. Additionally, your application will look stronger if you’re in the process of obtaining permanent residency.
  • You must hold a visa that permits you to stay in Australia for a minimum of two years. These visas include: permanent work visas, spousal visas, certain business work visas (890), and certain nominated working visas (121/857, 457).

While these are the standard, general requirements, different insurance companies might have their own (extra) criterion that needs to be met before you’re eligible for a policy with them. Some companies might also choose to charge non-citizens higher rates or premiums, or even limit their coverage. This can be particularly true if the non-citizen comes from a high-risk country and returns often.

Find out more about insurance for non residents


Health Cover

Although some countries hold a Reciprocal Health Agreement (RHCA) with Australia, allowing their citizens to benefit from Australia’s national health care system (Medicare), others don’t. If yours is one of these countries, you might have to pay up-front and in-full for any medical costs you may incur while in Australia. To ensure that you don’t get slammed with a hefty bill should you require medical treatment, it could be worth taking up health cover for the length of your stay.

Even if you do belong to a country that is supported by the RHCA, you might still want to consider private health cover, as this provides you with added benefits, as well as access to private health care.

Medicare and the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA)

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Medicare, as mentioned above, is the government’s national health care service, and provides financial aid for those requiring medical attention. Thanks to the RHCA, migrants from certain countries (which at the time of writing are: Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK) are eligible for Medicare and the immediate treatments on the public health care system that it provides access to.

Medicare is not only available to countries bound by the RHCA, but to migrants on a permanent residence visa. To register for Medicare, you will need to fill out a Medicare Enrollment Form (available from the Human Services website) and present original or certified copies of your passport and travel documents to a Medicare office to prove eligibility. Once approved, you will be issued with your Medicare card, which you must present whenever you obtain medical treatments through the public health system.

As Medicare is a public service, it provides only limited medical treatments. If you require private health care or non-emergency treatments (optical, dental) you should consider taking out private Overseas Visitors Health Cover.

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)

Specifically designed for international workers and visitors, OVHC is a private insurance that can cover a number of medical expenses, including doctors visits and hospital admissions. Although some visas don’t require you to have health insurance to enter Australia, some visas (subclass 457 and 485) do require you to carry a minimum amount of health insurance for the length of your stay. Read the conditions of your visa carefully as you may be denied entry into Australia if your visa requires you to have appropriate health cover, and you do not. Also, whenever applying for health insurance, remember to take waiting periods into consideration so you don’t run into problems with your visa.

Note: if you are entering Australia on a student visa, you will be required to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) which you can read about below.

You are eligible for OVHC if you’re visiting Australia and aren’t being provided health cover under Medicare or OSHC. This insurance can be purchased from an approved insurance company and premium rates will vary with providers and are subject to individual evaluation.

If you hold an Australian visa that requires you to provide a minimum amount of health insurance, then OVHC is your main option to consider for health cover in Australia. While policies vary, most will cover you for a portion of your doctor’s fees as well as necessary hospital admissions. Excess coverage (dental, optical, specialists) isn’t covered, however you will still be able to access general, public health coverage which can cover these services. Additionally pharmaceuticals might not be covered, or might only be partially covered with OVHC.


Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

OSHC is mandatory for international students on temporary student visas and provides access to medical and hospital care, ambulance services and limited pharmaceuticals. It can also cover any of the student’s dependents (spouse and children) who are with them in Australia. What it doesn’t cover are unnecessary medical treatments (health screenings, medical examinations) and extras (dental, optical).

Depending on the university or school you are studying at, you might be able to access more comprehensive cover. To determine what medical benefits are available to you contact your educational institution direct.

Of note: your health cover ceases when you student visa expires, and students from certain countries might be eligible for special insurance agreements. See our Studying in Australia page for more details on OSHC.

Generally, if you’re studying in Australia as an international student, your educational institution will have its own affiliated OSHC provider and be able to assist you to apply for health cover with them. However, should you wish to, you can also apply for OSHC independently with a provider of your own choosing.

If you choose to go with your own provider, consider these:

  • Pharmaceutical costs – some policies won’t cover over a predetermined amount for pharmaceuticals, meaning you’ll have to cover any extra costs above this amount.
  • Pre-existing conditions – some policies might make you go through a waiting period of 12-months if you have a pre-existing condition.
  • Extras cover – generally OSHC won’t cover optical and dental. If you require these you might like to consider extras cover to include them.

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Income protection

The purpose of income protection is to replace a portion of your wages in the event that you’re unable to work due to serious sickness or injury. The compensation is typically in the form of monthly payments and can be as much as 75% of your pre-tax earnings (up to $10,000). In order to be eligible for a claim, you will have to provide evidence (e.g. medical assessments) of a sustaining and serious injury that renders you incapable to perform your working duties, thus causing a drop in your income.

Under most circumstances, so long as you pay your premium, your policy will remain in place until you retire, turn 65, cancel your policy, or become deceased.

Depending on the conditions of your policy, benefits might cease if the policy ends, the cover expires, the benefit/payment period ends, the maximum benefit has been paid, the life insured is no longer disabled or the life insured dies. Read your policy carefully for full details of when your benefits could cease.

In general, income protection is available to working Australians and permanent residents (including New Zealanders) who are:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 59
  • Work for at least 20 hours and week and hold that position the 12-months before the policy commences

Temporary residents who aren’t permanent residents may still be eligible for income protection. See below for more details.

While income protection is generally only available to Australian citizens and permanent residents, there are circumstances where temporary residents may be eligible for income protection. These include:

  • If you’re currently in the process of becoming a permanent resident
  • If you can provide proof that you’ll be in Australia for a certain period of time (determined by your provider) and will sustain a substantial level of income or investment threshold (again, determined by your provider)
  • If you’ve been in Australia continuously for at least six months on a temporary work visa

If you are ineligible for income protection in Australia, you might still be able to obtain income protection from your country of origin as many policies provide worldwide 24-hour cover. Contact your provider for more information.

WorkCover (workers compensation) is a full liability insurance that all employers (unless exempt) are legally obliged to take out to cover a worker’s medical and general living expenses should they be injured on the jobsite. In the case that an employer is exempt (they pay less than $7500 in total annual wages, don’t employ apprentices/trainees or aren’t part of a group for premium purposes) that employer becomes ‘deemed’ to hold a policy and will still have the same obligations as non-exempt employers, including having to assist in injury management. To make a claim, exempt employers should notify the WorkCover Claims Assistance Service where their claim will be assigned to one of their scheme agents.

While workers compensation laws differ from state to state, their basic obligations to their workers are the same. It also doesn’t matter what status visa you hold, so long as you’re legally working, all residents and non-residents are entitled to Workcover benefits.

Typically, there are four types of benefits that can be paid through workers compensation:

  • Income replacement: Although income replacement through workers compensation varies from state to state, usually lump sum benefits will be paid to you as an addition to your weekly benefits. This amount is determined by a committee upon assessing your medical report.
  • Medical benefits: These cover medical and other health-related costs for injuries sustained at work.
  • Death benefits: In the event of your death, your beneficiaries will receive a lump sum benefit to fund funeral costs and other living expenses.
  • Permanent disability: This is defined as a condition that remains unchanged despite continuous medical attention. Anyone deemed permanently disabled under workers comp will be paid a lump sum benefit in addition to weekly benefits.

Note that you can be paid one or more of these benefits and that there may be a benefit period that is subject to the maximum limits of the lump sum.


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Non-resident travel insurance

If you haven’t taken out travel insurance with a provider from your country of origin, rest assured many Australian providers offer non-resident travel insurance for migrants travelling to or throughout Australia. Specifically, migrants on the 457, 405/410, 411, 416, 417, or 422 visas are eligible for non-resident travel insurance.

Depending on what level of cover you require and your budget, non-resident travel insurance can cover you for the following:

  • Emergency medical assistance: This cover can include medical, hospital and dental due to immediate and acute pain.
  • Overseas emergency medical assistance: This can include 24 hour medical assistance, ambulance cover, medical evacuations, funeral expenses and hospital guarantees.
  • Personal disability cover: In the event that you are rendered disabled due to an injury suffered while travelling, you may be eligible for a personal disability benefit. There may be rules as to what constitutes ‘disabled’, which will be outlined in your policy.
  • Cancellations and lost deposits: In the event you are forced to cut your trip short or cancel it and the cost or deposit isn’t refunded to you by the airline or other travel agency, you will be reimbursed by your insurance provider.
  • Travel delays: Including any travel delays that affect your pre-paid travel arrangements.
  • Luggage delays: You’ll be provided with the necessary monies to replace clothes and toiletries misplaced or lost by your travel provider.
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings and luggage: There’s monetary compensation for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage or personal items. This includes travel documents and credit cards.
  • Rental vehicle excess and cover: Some policies may cover your excess on your rental car’s insurance if it is stolen or damaged.
  • Personal liability: This will cover any legal expenses in the instance you’re found liable for causing someone injury or for damaging property during your trip.

Find out more about getting travel insurance when you're a non-resident

While eligibility, terms of coverage, and premiums vary from provider to provider, generally non-residents on a Temporary Business Long Stay (457), Retirement/Investor Retirement (405/410 ), Exchange (411 ), Special Program (416 ), Working Holiday (417), or Medical Practitioner (422 ) visa who spend the majority of their trip in Australia can obtain non-resident travel insurance.

In addition to the above criteria, your provider might also:

  • Require to carry personal health insurance or Medicare
  • Charge you a premium if you have a pre-existing medical condition, or at the least exclude pre-excluding medical conditions from your policy
  • Charge you a premium or limit your benefits if you are in a risk-age category (typically 65+ years old)
  • Require you to purchase your insurance within a certain time period from landing in Australia
  • Have waiting periods before your policy comes into effect or before you’re able to make a claim

As always, to ensure you obtain the most appropriate travel cover for you, it’s best to research each policy before you make your purchase.


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Home and contents insurance

Home and contents insurance can protect your home’s structure, fixtures, structural renovations, and everything inside it of value, including personal possessions.

When purchasing home and contents insurance for your Australian home, you should know that some policies might only cover specific aspects of your homestead, while others might offer to replace or compensate for everything, including your personal liability and valuables. As a non-citizen, certain providers might require you to fulfil certain eligibility criteria before being approved for a policy.

Find out more about home and contents insurance

If you’re travelling for an extended period of time and have a home in your country of origin, you might want to consider taking out home insurance to cover it against damages in your absence. Before you leave, you might consider renting out your home through an agent, who can manage your property, including rent collection and maintenance) to alleviate the stress of an empty homestead and help bring in some added funds.

If you do leave your home unattended, home insurance can cover your property for weather damage, fire, and flooding to a certain degree, but generally won’t cover theft, vandalism or squatting.

International personal property insurance ensures that if your possessions are lost, damaged, or stolen, whether in transit or in storage, you can be compensated for your loss. Policies and what they cover will naturally vary, so to find out about any exclusions contact specific insurance providers.


Other forms of insurance to consider

While we’ve outlined some of the more popular forms of insurance migrants take when arriving in Australia, here are some others worth considering too.

This can protect your business in the case of serious setbacks, which can lead to unaccounted for costs (fire, flood, explosion, theft, or even a visitor’s injury on your premises). In the event of an unaccounted for cost, business insurance can help pay the residual effects. Business insurance can also covers worker’s compensation.

If you’ve invested in a car, or have transported yours to our shores, you might want to consider car insurance. This can cover damages to both your car and other vehicles damaged in an accident. In Australia, it’s required that all vehicles on the road are insured through an approved insurance company. There’s a large market for car insurance in Australia, with comprehensive plans starting at $600 per year. For non-residents, international car insurance is also available if you plan to use your own car in Australia. Like any other insurance policy. each company will have their own eligibility criteria and offer their own premiums.


How to apply for insurance

While the concept behind every policy is the same, different companies offer different features – and all for different prices depending on these features and your circumstances. Before choosing a policy, do your research and compare policies to determine the one that best suits your needs.

Once you’ve decided on an insurance policy, you can apply for it online with the insurance agent you’ve chosen. Then, you must wait to be accepted for cover. To be accepted, you’ll have to meet set criteria by the insurance company, which might be slightly stricter than usual if you’re a non-resident.


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10 Responses to Insurance in Australia: Life, health and travel insurance for non-citizens of Australia

  1. Default Gravatar
    Aoife | December 2, 2016

    Hello
    I am an irish citizen on a 1st year working holiday visa.
    I have been accepted to work as a sole trader landscaper and I need personal accident insurance. how do I go about this? I’m looking for quotes but they are for Australian citizens only,even though I am a resident through tax purposes but I have been denied and unfortunately am stuck and would like some help. I will be working on site for three months and just need insurance for myself. I have a white card and an abn,tfn,usi etc but need insurance. Any information would be grateful
    Regards,
    Aoife

    • Staff
      Richard | December 5, 2016

      Hi Aoife,

      Thanks for getting in touch. You may find our personal accident insurance guide useful. On the page you will find information about the cover type and a contact form. If you enter your details into the form, an adviser will be in touch to discuss your cover options with you.

      All the best,
      Richard

  2. Default Gravatar
    Elizabeth | November 26, 2015

    My partner has a metal fabricating fencing contractor business. We are not yet permanent residents and, while he has Public Liability insurance, he would also like to take out Personal Accident Cover.
    We have been in Australia for 5 and a half years, currently on a Student Visa. Are you able to recommend a Personal Accident Cover he can apply for?

  3. Default Gravatar
    Tariq | April 28, 2015

    We are Australian citizens living overseas from last 5 years. we do not have renewed medicare cards. we are visiting Australia for 6 weeks for vacation, please let us know which health insurance we will require?

    • Staff
      Stephanie | April 28, 2015

      Hi Tariq,

      Thanks for your question.

      If you are visiting Australia on vacation you might like to consider taking out travel insurance for the period you will be here. Which cover you choose will depend on your needs. You can view your options with some Australians insurers here: http://www.finder.com.au/travel-insurance

      Hope this helps,

      Stephanie

  4. Default Gravatar
    Dev | April 22, 2015

    Hello!

    I am an Indian citizen and my wife is Australian citizen. I have applied for permanent partner visa and currently holds a bridging visa. Is it possible for me to apply for a life insurance in Australia. Im here since 2007 but I’m not a permanent resident yet.
    thanks!

    • Staff
      Stephanie | May 5, 2015

      Hi Dev,

      Thanks for your question.

      Due to your circumstances, you might be eligible to apply for life insurance in Australia. Generally, banks will require non-citizens to meet certain criterion to be eligible, this includes: 1) The country that you originate from must a Level 1 or Level 2 country (India qualifies as one of these), 2) That you’ve lived in Australia for more than 12 months and 3) The status of your visa.

      While you fulfill the first two criterion, since you only hold a bridging visa, this may affect your application. For further clarification and to determine your insurance options, please speak to your chosen insurer. You can find more information on our Life Insurance for non-Australian Residents and Australians Overseas page.

      Thanks,

      Stephanie

  5. Default Gravatar
    Jenn | September 11, 2014

    Hello!

    I am a dual Canadian/Italian citizen. I understand that Italy falls under the RHCA agreement, but I want to know if I qualify for this coverage. I will be taking a working vacation to Australia in November, with hopes of staying for a few months.

    I am a resident of Canada, although I do possess an Italian passport. Will I be approved for coverage under the RHCA, or do I need to seek alternative Health Insurance?

    Thank you,

    Jenn

    • Staff
      Stephanie | September 11, 2014

      Hi Jenn,

      Thanks for your question.

      As part of the RHCA, Italian citizens and residents are eligible for health coverage with Medicare. So, as long as you’re travelling on your Italian passport, then you qualify for this health cover. However, as an Italian passport holder, you are only eligible for 6-months of cover from your arrival date, so it’s recommended you contact Human Services and enrol with Medicare at your earliest convenience after arriving.

      If you intend to stay longer than 6-months, you might like to consider other health care options for the remainder of your stay.

      Despite being eligible for cover under the RHCA agreement, you might still want to look into alternative Health Insurance or Travel insurance, depending on what you’re planning to do in Australia and if you have any medical condition as the RHCA will only provide limited cover. As part of this limited cover, you will only be entitled to services that are medically essential and you will not be covered for certain health benefits such as medicine subsidised under the PBS or accommodation and treatment in a private hospital.

      You can learn more about your entitlements and eligibility here: https://www.finder.com.au/moving-to-australia/health-care-in-australia

      All the best,

      Stephanie

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