Only in Australia for a short time but need travel insurance? Find out if you're eligible for short-term visitor travel insurance.
If you’re a short-term visitor to Australia, you can either buy your travel insurance in your home country or in Australia.
However, not every travel insurance brand offers policies to non-residents of Australia, so you’ll need to compare the policy options available and make sure that you qualify for cover.
Most Australian insurers require you to be a resident if you want to take out cover but there are some insurers who offer cover to short-term visitors. These travel insurance brands include:
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What is covered?
Cover varies depending on the insurer and policy but short-term visitor travel insurance policies typically include:
- Medical expenses. Medical expenses are usually covered if you suffer an injury or illness within Australia.
- Hospital cash allowance. This daily allowance is provided to help cover out-of-pocket expenses while you are hospitalised.
- Luggage and personal belongings. Loss, theft and damage of your luggage and personal belongings will usually be covered.
- Travel and luggage delay. The extra costs you incur when your pre-booked transport or your luggage are delayed will usually be covered by your policy.
- Personal liability. This covers your liability when you cause injury or property damage to a third party.
- Cancellation fees and lost deposits. If sickness, accident or other unforeseen circumstances force you to cancel or cut short your trip, you’ll usually be covered for any pre-booked travel expenses you are unable to recoup.
- Rental vehicle excess cover. This benefit covers the rental company insurance excess you have to pay if your rental vehicle is stolen or damaged.
Conditions of short-term visitor travel insurance
Every insurer has its own conditions and eligibility criteria in order for you to qualify for cover. Read the fine print and check whether any of the below conditions apply to your policy:
- Living in Australia. Some insurers will require you to have been living in Australia for a minimum period of time before you’re eligible for cover, such as three months.
- Waiting period. If you purchase your policy after arriving in Australia, you may have to serve a waiting period before you can make a medical claim.
- Travel within Australia. Many policies will only cover you for travel within Australia.
- Age limits. Make sure you’re within the age limits of your short-term visitor travel insurance policy.
- Maximum trip duration. Insurers will set a maximum limit on the length of trip they are willing to cover, such as 12 months.
- Visa requirements. Some policies may only be available to visitors in Australia on specific visas.
- Medical cover. Some insurers require you to have Medicare cover under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement or private health insurance before you can take out a policy.
Who is a short-term visitor?
A short-term visitor to Australia is someone staying in Australia on one of the following visas:
- Visitor visa (subclass 600)
- Electronic Travel Authority visa (subclass 601)
- eVisitor (subclass 651)
You may also be able to take out cover if you’re here on other visas. For example, if you’re travelling on a 457 temporary work visa or a 417 working holiday visa.
Who qualifies for short-term visitor travel insurance?
You need short-term visitor travel insurance if your visa is one of the above visas and you're staying in Australia for a maximum period of 12 months. These policies ensure that you are protected against a range of common travel risks while in Australia but they are designed for people who are only staying for shorter periods of time.
This type of cover should not be confused with travel insurance for non-residents of Australia, which is designed for foreign residents staying in Australia long-term.
The difference between travel insurance for non-residents and visitors to Australia
Insurance policies for overseas visitors are designed to cover you for your stay in Australia, including any travel you do within Australia. In many cases, they’re designed for leisure or business travellers who have forgotten to take out travel insurance before leaving their home country.
Non-resident travel insurance policies are designed to be taken out by non-residents living in Australia for a longer period and who are planning a trip overseas. For example, if you’re staying in Australia for four years on a 457 work visa, you may wish to embark on an overseas holiday during that time. Non-resident travel insurance gives you the financial protection you need for your trip.
Inbound to Australia
Kirk is a USA resident that has been living in Australia on a 457 visa. His wife, Luann had stayed behind in Ohio. After a year apart, Luann decided that she was going to come to live with her husband for a while.
Originally, Luann had planned to stay in the USA for the duration of Kirk's secondment and had not applied for a partner's visa. Knowing Luann would be coming on a visitor visa, Kirk had arranged for Luann's travel insurance as a temporary visitor to Australia, while they worked on getting her visa status changed.
Things to consider when choosing a travel insurance policy
- Where am I covered? Are you covered anywhere in Australia? Will cover apply if you want to travel overseas and you’re already in Australia?
- What am I covered for? Take a look at the product disclosure statement (PDS) to check the range of benefits that apply to your policy. Also check the list of exclusions so you know exactly when cover will and won’t apply.
- How long will my cover last? Read the fine print to make sure you’re aware of the maximum trip duration your insurer will cover.
- Do any limits apply? Is unlimited overseas medical cover offered or is the cover capped? Check the limit that applies to each benefit, remembering that some features such as personal belongings cover may also feature sub-limits.
- Who is the underwriter? Make sure the policy you choose is issued by a trusted and experienced underwriter.
- How much does it cost? Most insurers make it easy for you to obtain travel insurance quotes online, so enter all your details to get a rough idea of how much cover will cost.
- Do I need to compare policies? Yes. When you consider just how important the protection offered by travel insurance actually is, the need to shop around for the right policy becomes crucial.
Health insurance options for visitors to Australia
Travel insurance policies for short-term visitors to Australia cover a wide range of risks, from medical expenses and cancellation fees to personal liability and rental vehicle excess. However, if you only want medical cover during your time in Australia, you might be better off with private health insurance cover designed for overseas visitors.
These policies are offered by some Australian health insurers, not travel insurance brands, and they don’t include cover for things like lost luggage, trip cancellations or rental vehicle insurance excess.
If you’re visiting Australia temporarily to work or travel, these policies can provide access to Australia’s private healthcare system. Depending on the policy you choose, you may be able to receive cover for treatment as a private patient in a private or public hospital, medical and treatment costs, emergency ambulance transport, pharmacy services and more.
There may be specific conditions that affect your ability to take out a policy. For example, you may need to be on a specific visa in order to qualify for cover, or the policy may be specially designed for working visitors or non-working visitors.
Some insurers that offer this type of cover also offer a choice of different levels of cover to suit your budget and health care needs.
Am I eligible for Medicare?
Medicare is Australia’s national health care system. It gives Australian residents access to a wide range of subsidised health care treatments and medicines, which makes medical treatment more affordable for all.
Unfortunately, most visitors to Australia are not eligible for cover under the Medicare system. This means that you will have to cover any medical expenses you incur while in Australia out of your own pocket, which can end up being quite costly.
Ensuring that you have some form of medical insurance cover in place – either through travel insurance or a private health insurance policy – is crucial for many foreign visitors.
However, if you’re a foreign visitor from a country with which the Australian Government has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA), you are eligible to apply for cover under the Medicare system.
Am I covered by the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?
The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) is an agreement between the Australian Government and the government of a foreign country that allows citizens to access subsidised health care when visiting the other nation.
For example, as a RHCA is in place between Australia and the UK, UK citizens can access subsidised health services for essential medical treatment when visiting Australia, and Australian citizens can enjoy the same privilege when visiting the UK.
Currently, the Australian Government has agreements with the following countries, allowing their citizens to qualify for Medicare cover while in Australia:
- The United Kingdom
- The Republic of Ireland
- New Zealand
- The Netherlands
Travel insurance is an essential consideration for short-term visitors to Australia, so make sure you shop around and compare your options before deciding on the right policy for your needs.
Picture: Marko Mikkonen, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)