Before I start looking

There are a few things you need to do before you start looking for work.

You will need:

  • An email address that sounds professional
  • A clear and simple voice mail message on your phone
  • A Tax File Number
  • An Australian bank account
  • A resume that is relevant for the type of work you are seeking

This information is only for people who have work rights. If you do not have
work rights, it is very important that you do not work as it would put you in
breach of your visa conditions.

Voice mail:

The first thing you need to do when looking for a job is to have a voice mail message recorded on your phone that sounds professional. It should say: ‘Hello, you have called (your name). I am unable to take your call at the moment. Please leave me a message and I will call you back as soon as possible’.

No music, no jokes, no background noise. Just your voice, saying this clearly.


Many jobs require you to apply on the internet. So you need an email address that looks professional, and is not too complicated. It should include your name (or a short, simple version of your name). If you already have an email address, it is a good idea to create a new email account just for your job search.

Working legally in Australia, you will pay tax to the government. You will therefore need a Tax File Number.

You can apply for a Tax File Number (or ‘TFN’) online via the Australian Tax Office website.

If you do not have a passport you may not be able to apply online and you may need to print the form, fill it out, and send it to the Tax Office.

When you apply for a TFN, remember that you may be considered a resident for tax purposes (this is different from being a permanent resident). This is important because when you are a non-resident you will pay more tax. To check if you are a resident for tax purposes, try the ATO residency test.

Getting a Tax File Number is FREE.

You will need a bank account so that you can receive your salary/pay from work.

It is free to open a bank account in Australia, but you will need to provide personal identification, generally 100 points’ worth. This can be difficult if you do not have a passport, so ask the bank about what other documents they will accept from you (e.g. copy of your lease, utility bills, Medicare card, driver’s license).

Some banks have set in place a process that makes it easier for asylum seekers without a passport to open a bank account. Ask your caseworker about this.

It is never easy to earn money. If something looks too good to be true, it generally is.

Asylum seekers are very vulnerable to scams (illegal ways to earn money). They are keen to find work and may be unsure about the law in Australia, or their employment rights.

Many of the jobs that promise things like “Earn $1,000 working from home!”, or jobs advertised through posters at the train station, are actually scams. They involve illegal activities and can get you in trouble with the police.

Read what happened to Jeremy (pdf), an ASRC member, when he applied for a job as a courier through the Internet.

Once you have set up a professional voice mail and email, applied for a Tax File Number, opened a bank account and got a resume, you can start applying for work.

Looking for work is like a full-time job in itself. You need to be organised and do it every day. You may need to apply for one hundred jobs before you get an interview. This is quite common, even for Australians who are looking for work.

To keep track of your job search, you will have to:

  • Write down every job you apply for
  • Record who the contact person or agency is for each role
  • Note down their phone number so that you recognise it when it comes up on your phone.

Get yourself a notebook for this purpose!

Often, when an employer or an agency calls you, they actually want to interview you over the phone. So it is important that you are always ready to talk about your skills and experience. You can learn more about phone interviews in the section ‘How to look for work‘.