Australia

General Information Banking
Business Etiquette Tips Embassy Locations and Registration
Employment-Legal Requirements Entry and Exit Requirements
Intellectual Property Legal and Registration of a Business Entity
Safety and Crime Taxes

General Information

AustraliaAustralia's economic standing in the world is a result of a commitment to strong adherence to solid economic policy settings guided by a government that makes fiscal balance a priority. Australia possesses a stable democracy and a government system much like the United States.  It enjoys a higher standard of living than any G-7 country other than the United States.

Tourist facilities are plentiful, and the landscape encompasses a beautiful mixture of beaches, deserts, rainforests, wildlife parks, mountains, and a plethora of cultural treasures. Known as one of the world's largest islands, Australia is about the size of the 48 contiguous United States. From 1945 through 2000, nearly 5.9 million immigrants settled in Australia, and about 80 percent have remained. Nearly 3 out of every 10 Australians are foreign born. Australia has scarcely more than three people per square kilometer, but it is one of the world's most urbanized countries.

Major Cities
Capital: Canberra
Major cities:  Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, and Hobart
Official Currency
Australian dollar (AUD).  
Time Zone UTC + 10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time). Note: Australia has 3 time zones.
Daylight Saving Time (+1 hour)
Daylight Saving Time starts on the last Sunday in October and ends the last Sunday in March.
Language English (79.1 percent), Chinese (2.1 percent), Italian (1.9 percent), other (11.1 percent), and unspecified (5.8 percent).

Legal System and Government

Type of Legal System

Australia is a constitutional democracy with a federal parliamentary form of government that is based upon English common law and recognizes the British monarch as sovereign.

Contract Enforcement

American companies can choose to have either American or Australian law govern their contracts when drafting agreements. But mandatory Australian legal provisions must be included.

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Banking

Available Banking Services

ATMs
Online banking
Banking in English
Overdraft protection

Opening a Bank Account

 It is highly recommended that any individual authorized to open a business account in Australia do so within six weeks of their arrival. Most accounts must be opened in person. Be prepared to provide business documentation (confirm with the specific bank), proof from the university that you are authorized to open an account on their behalf, and a passport. Individuals interested in opening a savings account prior to arrival may do so online through one of several major banks now offering the service.  

Bank Holidays

New Year's Day
Australia Day
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Anzac Day
Christmas Day   
Boxing Day/Family Day                             

U.S. and Other Major Banks in Country

(Note: Addresses and contact information subject to change.) 

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
Fourth-largest bank in Australia with locations in 25 other nations.
Ground Floor
100 Queen Street
Melbourne, Australia
Web:   http://www.anz.com

HSBC Bank Australia Limited
Level 32, 580 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Web:  http://www.hsbc.com.au

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Business Etiquette Tips

Business Attire

Business dress is conservative in Melbourne and Sydney. Typically men wear dark-colored, conservative business suits, and women wear a smart dress or a business suit. In Brisbane or other tropical areas, depending on the job function and company culture, men may wear shirts, ties, and Bermuda shorts.

Business Negotiations

Australians appreciate brevity, and they are not impressed by too much detail. Expect negotiations to proceed quickly with a minimum of bargaining and a lack of high-pressure techniques.  Decision making is concentrated at the top of the company, though decisions are made after consultation with subordinates.

Public and Social Behavior

Australians are not very formal, and most greetings are casual and relaxed. A handshake and smile generally suffice. The use of first names is common even at an initial meeting. Many invitations to someone's home will be for a "barbie" or barbecue. Guests typically bring wine or beer for their personal consumption.

Scheduling Appointments

Appointments are necessary and relatively easy to schedule.  They should be made with as much lead time as possible.  Punctuality is important. If making a presentation, avoid hype or exaggerated claims and stick to facts and figures.

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Embassy Locations and Registration

Americans living or traveling in Australia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration Web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security Australia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

(Note: Addresses and contact information subject to change.) 

U.S. Embassy Canberra (Limited American citizen services are available in Canberra.)
American Embassy
Moonah Place
Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Web: http://canberra.usembassy.gov

Embassy of Australia in D.C.
1601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: 202-797-3000
Fax:    202-797-3168
Web:   http://www.usa.embassy.gov.au/

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Employment-Legal Requirements

For the most part, employer hiring rights in Australia are fairly unrestrictive, and employee contracts are not a requirement. There are no limitations on employees working nights, weekends, or holidays, and no limits on the duration for a fixed-term contract, which can be used to hire individuals to perform permanent tasks. A typical workweek is 38 hours for a full-time employee. If an employer is responding to a seasonal production increase, the work week may extend up to a reasonable increase as dictated by that industry (typically not beyond 50 hours per week for a reasonable period of time).

Independent Contractor vs Employee Status

The chart below details the differences between contractor and employee status as defined in Australia. 

EmployeesContractors
  • Perform work for the employer in accordance with an employment contract and are paid for time worked.
  • Receive paid leave (for example, sick, annual, or recreation, or long service leave) and employer-provided benefits.
  • Are not responsible for providing the materials or equipment required to do their job.
  • Must perform the duties of their position and agree to provide their personal services.
  • Work hours set by an agreement or award and do not subcontract work out to anyone else.
  • Are recognized as part and parcel of the payer's business and do not take commercial risks.
  • Cannot make a profit or loss from the work performed.
  • Are paid for results achieved.
  • Provide all or most of the necessary materials and equipment to complete the work, and are free to delegate work to other entities.
  • Have freedom in the way the work is done.
  • Provide services to the general public and other businesses.
  • Are free to accept or refuse work, and are in a position to make a profit or loss.


Terminating Employees

Dismissal of employees is not a simple or straightforward action.  Employment cannot be terminated unless there is a valid reason for the termination connected with the capacity or conduct of the worker or based on the operational requirements of the undertaking, establishment, or service.

A worker whose employment has been terminated shall be entitled, in accordance with national law and practice, to either:

  1. A severance allowance or other separation benefits, the amount of which shall be based inter alia on length of service and the level of wages, and paid directly by the employer or by a fund constituted by employers' contributions.
  2. Benefits from unemployment insurance or assistance or other forms of social security, such as old age or invalidity benefits, under the normal conditions to which such benefits are subject.
  3. A combination of such allowance and benefits.

Legally Mandated Benefits and Leave

Annual Leave 4 weeks annually accrued monthly (100 percent regular pay rate)
Sick Leave (for WorkChoices employees) 10 days annually (evidence may be required; available upon 12 months of continuous service)
Compassionate Leave 2 days
Maternity Leave 52 weeks (maximum) available to WorkChoice employees who have completed a minimum of 12 months of employment. (Unpaid maternity or paternity leave is available including adoption of a child under 5). Currently paid maternity leave is not legally mandated in Australia.


Community service leave (jury duty, etc.) is paid leave provided upon submittal of proof of absence.

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Entry and Exit Requirements

American citizens are required to have a valid U.S. passport to enter Australia.  Americans must enter with an Australian visa or, if eligible, through Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA replaces a visa for visitors or business travelers who do not intend to work in Australia and allows a stay of up to three months. It is issued online and in most cases receives instantaneous approval.  A valid passport and credit card are required to complete processing. The ETA may be obtained for a small service fee, for more information, see the Electronic Travel Authority Web site.  Please note that American citizens who overstay their ETA or visa even for short periods may be subject to exclusion, detention, and removal. More information about the ETA, visas, entry requirements, and costs may be obtained from the Australian Embassy in the United States. 

All travelers other than Australian and New Zealand citizens will need to present a valid passport or other acceptable travel document, a valid visa or authority to enter Australia (including electronic visas), and a completed and signed Incoming Passenger Card, including health and character declaration to the officers in immigration clearance.

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Intellectual Property

A patent, once it has been applied for, is legally enforceable and gives the owner the exclusive right to commercially exploit the invention for the life of the patent. All applications are examined to ensure they meet the necessary legal requirements for granting a patent.

Nature of Rights and Available Protection

The maximum term for a standard patent is 20 years. The maximum term for an innovation patent is eight years. An international application is a useful way to apply for patents in a number of different countries simultaneously and protect those important export markets. These are also known as Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) applications. Detailed information about international patents and the PCT is available from the World Intellectual Property Organization's Web site.

There are also two special types of complete application useful only in circumstances where you already have a patent or a patent application. They are:

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is both a type of intellectual property (IP) and a strategy for protecting your IP. It can provide effective protection for some technologies, proprietary knowledge (know-how), confidential information, and other forms of IP.

A confidentiality agreement is often used to stop employees from revealing secret or proprietary knowledge during and after their employment or association with the business. Trade secrets should be supported with signed confidentiality agreements from every person who has knowledge of the secret. If an agreement is breached, evidence is available of what was agreed upon and protection through the law can be enforced.  Common law provides protection for infringement of trade secrets, breach of confidentiality agreements, and trademarks.

Trademarks

Initial registration of a trademark lasts for 10 years. But it can be renewed for successive periods of 10 years each upon payment of the appropriate fee. If renewed, a trademark essentially has infinite life and represents significant business value since a registered trademark gives a company the exclusive legal right to use, license, or sell a product within Australia.

Designs

Design refers to the features of shape, configuration, pattern, or ornamentation which, when applied to a product, give the product a unique appearance. New registrations for a design must be new and distinctive. Initial registration protects a design for five years and can be renewed for a further five years.

Copyrights

Copyright material is protected from the time it is first written down, painted, drawn, filmed, or taped. Copyright material also enjoys protection under the laws of other countries who are signatories to the international treaties, of which Australia is a member. Depending on the material, copyright for literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works generally lasts 70 years from the year of the author's death or from the year of first publication after the author's death. 

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Legal and Registration of a Business Entity

Registration Formalities (Including Timing)

The World Bank lists the length of time to set up a business in Australia as two days.  Common forms of business organizations are representative offices, branches of parent companies, subsidiaries, sole traders, partnerships, trusts, companies, and joint ventures. 

Establishing an office in Australia is extremely simple and only requires a few steps. The first step requires completion and registration of an Application for Registration as an Australian Company and the second is to obtain a certificate of incorporation and an Australian company number. The second step can be completed online. Register online for an Australian Business Number (ABN) with the Tax Authority

Local companies can be fully owned by foreign entities. Branch offices of overseas companies are established in Australia by registering the overseas corporation as a foreign company under Australia's Corporation Law. A branch office does not require directors to be Australian residents, but they must have a registered office address and a statutory agent responsible to fulfill the requirements of the Corporations Law.

The branch will receive an Australian Registered Body Number, which must be shown with the corporation's name on public documents. In addition, if a U.S. business has an office in Australia, that office must register for an ABN under the goods and services tax (GST) introduced on July 1, 2000. Information on the GST and its impact on foreign companies with or without operations in Australia as well as the ABN application process is available on the Australian Taxation Office Web site and the Australian Government's Business Entry Point.

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Safety and Crime

Australia has instituted an alert system for possible terrorist attacks. The threat levels range from "low" to "high." The Australian Attorney General's Office maintains a Web site with up-to-date information regarding the current assessment of the terrorism threat. American citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.  Travelers may also contact the Australian National Security Hotline at 61-1-800-123-400.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Crime

Visitors should be aware that street crime, burglaries, and car thefts are a daily occurrence in Australia's larger cities. Weapons are increasingly used in such crimes, which also may be associated with drug trafficking and usage. Foreign visitors are sometimes targets for pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and petty thieves. There have also been reports of drink spiking in some areas. Appropriate, common-sense precautions should be taken, especially at night, to avoid becoming a target of opportunity. To call for fire, police, or ambulance services throughout Australia, dial "000."

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Taxes

Please note that there is a treaty between the United States and Australia for the avoidance of double taxation. So if a person is paying U.S. taxes that individual is exempted from paying Australian taxes. But completion of all required forms by their specified due dates in Australia is still a requirement. For detailed information see the Australian Taxation Office Web site.  The Australian tax year ends June 30th.

Individual and Employee Taxation

Determining Tax Residence

If you work in Australia for more than six months (183 days) for one employer and live in one place during the course of an income year, you may be considered an Australian resident for tax purposes. Likewise, if you maintain bank accounts, insurance policies that list Australia as your place of residence, pay bills, have a family, and in general display intentions that suggest a permanent residence, you may also be considered a resident for tax purposes. There are several residency tests used by the Australian Taxation Office to assist in determining specific situations.   

Nontax Resident Employees

If you are vacationing or visiting for less than six months (183 days), you are generally not considered an Australian resident for tax purposes.  Nonresidents who receive income sourced in Australia are still required to file an income tax return form, but they will be taxed differently from resident employees and are not required to pay Medicare taxes.

Under the pay-as-you-go system (PAYG), nonresidents are also liable for Australian tax on all assessable income earned in Australia. This includes interest, dividend, and royalty income.

Corporate and Employer Tax Obligations

A company is a resident of Australia if it is incorporated in Australia, carries on business in Australia, has its central management and control in Australia, or has its voting power controlled by Australian resident shareholders.

All employers are required to register for an ABN to hire employees, withhold, and remit payments to the Australian Tax Office.  Employers must withhold and remit income taxes for all of their employees (both the employee and employer portions of the payroll taxes) on a quarterly basis. To comply with other tax obligations the organization also needs to register for the GST, fringe benefits tax (FBT), and PAYG withholding. For foreign workers, the government allows an exemption through a "living away from home allowance."

In general, employers are obligated to pay the following taxes:

Note: Nonprofits (such as religious and public benevolent institutions; educational, health, and community service organizations; charities; and scientific organizations) organized under Australian law may be exempt from certain taxes such as corporate income tax, FBT, and other related taxes. But final determination and approval of tax-exempt status must be received from the Australian Tax Office. For detailed information, please refer to the Australian Taxation Office.

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