Australia is considered one of the safest and most satisfying place to live in the world. With a reputation for friendly and relaxed people, strong industries, good schools, a multicultural vibe, and some of the planet’s most unique and varied environments, it’s no wonder so many expats are moving to live in Australia.
This huge continent divided into two territories, Capital and Northern, and six states. Its long isolation from the rest of the world is behind its strange animals and landscapes unlike those anywhere else in the world. Perhaps its this that gives its inhabitants such a strong love for outdoor pursuits, ideal for nature-lovers and adventure-seekers moving Downunder. It’s also home to the oldest culture on the planet; Australian Aborigines have been around for an estimated 70 thousand years. The rich if dappled past of the country sits alongside its agricultural and metropolitan identities. This guide gives you some tips on what to do when moving to Australia.
Table of Contents
- 1 Moving to Australia checklist
- 2 Paperwork and customs
- 3 Finding work in Australia
- 4 Finances
- 5 Finding a place to live
- 6 Setting up shop
- 7 Moving your family?
- 8 Getting around
Moving to Australia checklist
- Get your passport, visa, and papers ready
- Check regulations on import, decide what you want to take, and get your belongings ready to ship
- Make sure you have insurance for your move
- Research banks and get local currency for when you first arrive
- Research states and cities (if you don’t know where you want to live yet)
- If you don’t already have a job, start researching
- If you have kids, investigate school options and start the enrolment process
- Make sure you’ve got somewhere to stay for the first couple of weeks
Paperwork and customs
Working in Australia
- Most non-citizens will need a visa to work in Australia. If you don’t have a job offer (where your employer is likely to help you go through the visa process) Australia does have a list of skilled occupations that highlight areas of work Australia is looking to improve and where they invite expressions of interest from potential immigrants. At the moment, moving to Australia as a nurse or medical practitioner, an auditor, or someone experienced in engineering and manufacture could be simpler than you might expect.
- If you’re moving to Australia the points system will be a factor in which visa you can get. There are a variety of different visas that allow you to live and work, but you’ll be assigned a number of points against them based on how many criteria you meet.The visas include two classes of Employer Sponsored workers, Business visas for those who own businesses or are looking to make investments, and various Skilled worker visas that apply to people in those skills shortage areas. Keep in mind that if you have a sponsored visa you’ll be tied into working for that employer for the duration of the visa. The Working Holiday Visa is fairly popular for younger people from eligible countries – but this option for moving to Australia has an age limit of under 31.Visa application is primarily online and you’ll need to provide documents depending on your visa type (as might your employer). Create an ImmiAccount to start your application and to keep track of its progress.
- There are also plenty of visas is you’re moving across and want to bring your partner and family with you, and depending on nationality it can be possible to visit Australia temporarily with just your passport.
Customs and importation
- With its unique environment and flora and fauna, Australia has some strict rules on importation to help protect is biodiversity. Food, plant material, and animals and animal products are all strongly regulated and there may be quarantine requirements. There are even restrictions for moving things like plants, fruit, agricultural machinery, animals, and recreational equipment between states.Luckily, the Australian government website has information about customs regulations to help you work your way through it. If you’re moving to Australia and shipping belongings, Links will help you with importing but if you have anything on the plane with you that you’re in doubt about, just declare it. The penalty for bringing in something prohibited or not following quarantine requirements is high.
Finding work in Australia
- Being such a huge continent, you’ll find that the area and city you move to will often be tied to the kind of work available. Currently, Sydney and Melbourne are the main cities driving Australia’s economy. For professional services, finance, and information technology jobs you might like to consider Sydney, Melbourne. Canberra also has a strong IT industry. Big players in the mining industry (and some work in manufacturing and construction) are Perth and Adelaide, but Brisbane and Melbourne are also worth looking into.
- Average full-time earnings came to AUD$78,832 a year at the end of 2016. Mining was the best paying industry on average at $139,303, with other leading industries being Financial Services, Information, Utilities, Professional and Technical services, and Education. The minimum wage at the start of 2018 was $18.29 an hour.
- If you’re still overseas looking for work, the great news is that many companies will be willing to do a Skype interview. There are also a lot of recruitment agencies in Australia who you could contact before you move and who might be able to help you find work, depending on your industry. You can do your own search using online engines like Seek, Indeed, and Jobseeker. The government’s Job Search website can also be a useful tool.
- Although there is no official language, English tends to be the de facto spoken language (albeit with distinctive accents and its own dialects). In saying that, there’s a very high proportion of bilingual migrants because Australia has become a fairly multicultural nation. The 2016 Census found that 30% of households spoke more than one language and the next common languages after English were Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Italian. There are also around 15 native Aboriginal languages spoken around the country.
Cost of living
- So, what is the cost of moving to Australia? Although it can be quite high, it depends where you move to and where you’re coming from. A recent Mercer study ranked Australia’s most expensive city, Sydney, at number 42 on the cost living index scale, making it attractive for those relocating to the Asia-Pacific region. If you’ve moving to Australia from Singapore, Hong Kong, or similar expensive countries you might find you’re saving on living costs.When moving to Australia costs to consider are rent, food, transport, and entertainment. For monthly rent, you can expect to be paying between $2,850 and $2,190 on average, and groceries and food can cost from $100 to $280. You can find more specific estimates of living costs on Numbeo. Keep in mind too that in many areas you should have access to some fresh, delicious, and relatively cheap fruits and vegetables from farmers markets.
- The Australian Dollar is worth about HKD$6.18, US$0.8, and SGD$0.95 but you can check current rates online at XE
- There are 53 Australian banks, 14 of which are government-owned. The banking system is considered fairly stable and, with finance taking its share of the pie in Australia’s economy, you can expect some good services. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, National Australian Bank, Westpac, and AMP Bank Ltd all have excellent reputations.It may be worth chatting to your current local bank before you open one in Australia, just in case they have any recommendations or affiliates (or their own branch). The Commonwealth Bank is a multinational bank, and Citibank and HSBC also have presences in Australia. Finder.com has a useful comparison tool.
- Australia’s progressive tax system ranges from 19% to 45% for different tax brackets. There is a tax-free threshold on the first $18,200 of income for Australian residents but it doesn’t apply to foreign residents. There is also an additional levy of 2%, which goes towards the Medicare health system. In most instances your employer will automatically take tax from your pay. The government website has useful information about tax including how to make your tax return. The easiest ways to pay are online using their BPAY system or via credit or debit card.
Tax File Number
- One of the things to do when moving to Australia is sort out a Tax File Number. You’ll need one of these to ensure you’re being taxed by your employer at the correct rate. If you start working without one you have 28 days to get one. You’ll likely need to fill in a paper form with details about your tax code. Your employer may be able to help you.
Finding a place to live
Where to live in Australia
- Australia has a population of 24.13 million people and an area of nearly 8 million square kilometres, so a little planning about where exactly you want to live will come in handy. The country has everything from sandy beaches to arid outback so factoring in the lifestyle you’re after is important. Most of Australia’s top metropolitan cities have an excellent standard of living and a lot to offer in terms of entertainment, culture, schooling, and outdoor pursuits – Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth are some of the common choices for expats. It’s worth noting too that Melbourne has been ranked as the most liveable city in the world.
- Good properties go fast, so as soon as you know where and when you’re moving you can get started on the house hunt. At least two weeks in advance is advised, though looking earlier in advance wouldn’t hurt. Keep in mind the size of your city too – if you’re planning on finding somewhere once you’ve arrived, you’ll need to factor in the travel time for looking at different locations.Make sure you know what you’re looking for and consider factors like travel time, neighbourhood, and schools. Realeaste.com.au, Domain, and Property.com.au are useful whether you want to rent or buy, and Rent.com.au can help you specifically with your rent search. If you’re moving to Australia on your own, you might consider looking for a room share
- Rental prices are on the rise in some cities like Canberra, Hobart, Sydney, and Melbourne. Renting in Australia is common and there are a range of different lease lengths available, the majority being one year or monthly. The main types of accommodation are flats (or apartments), houses that often have outdoor space, studios which are essentially one room flats, and units which are usually a larger flat with split levels. Some properties may also come with utilities.When you find a place you like the look of you’ll need to put in an application to rent, which will often include proof of identity, proof of income, and references. A bond (or security deposit) will be required and held by an independent government body to ensure your money is safe, and the organisation can act as a mediator if any disputes should arise when you move out. Before you sign the lease, make sure you inspect the property first, create an inventory, and agree with your landlord on any changes to be made. When it comes to the details, there are different laws and regulations in different states, so have a look at the relevant legislations when it comes to your state
- As a foreigner, you may need to request Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval before you buy property. However, if you hold a permanent visa you’re unlikely to need this. Unsurprisingly, buying property in Australia can be expensive! Make sure you carefully inspect the property first to avoid surprises. If you need to take out a mortgage or a loan it’s useful to talk to a bank or organisation who’s familiar with working with overseas buyers, just to make sure you know what to expect.
Setting up shop
- Because Australia’s so huge there are a range of different internet providers and services available across the country. In most of the larger cities you should be fine for a reliable connection (though there have been some complaints about the speeds of fixed broadband) but in other areas you may be more limited. If you’re moving into a flat there may already be an internet account you can take over. If you’re comparing services, Switchwise is a helpful resource and Compare Broadband has a great service for checking the best options in your area.
- There are 4 major cell phone providers – Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and Virgin Mobile. As these providers have some branches or affiliate companies in other countries, if you already have a mobile with these it may be worth looking into. There are a range of options for signing up, from package deals to contracts to prepaid, and you may want to compare your options http://www.mobile.com.au.If you’re planning on using your old phone make sure it’s compatible with Australian GSM technology – if it is, you can just pop your new SIM card in and you’re good to go; if not, there are packages available that will include a new phone. Cell phone reception is good in most populated areas of Australia, but many people still have landlines. If you want one you may be able to get a deal with your internet provider or even find a larger package that also includes a deal with a cell phone.
- In terms of power, electricity and gas are available depending on your location. You’ll also need to pay rates for sewage and water, perhaps unsurprising given the hot climate of much of the country. When you’re setting up your utilities (or reconnecting, if there is an existing service with your property that you want to keep) you’ll need to have details of your address, when you want services connected, and your personal details (often including an ID). You can find a list of water utilities here and there are online tools for comparing energy companies like Product Review . Electricity is 230/240 volts, 50 Hz, and uses a three-pin flat blade plug.
- Australia boasts one of the most efficient and practical health systems in the world. Medicare is partly subsidised by the government for citizens and permanent residents. If you’re on a visa there are some things you’ll need to know depending on your visa type, but there are details on their website to help with your questions. A Medicare card will allow you to make a claim for Medicare benefits when you visit your doctor or when you’re treated in a public hospital. If you need to contact emergency services, the number to dial is 000.
- Mosquitoes (or mozzies) can be a real problem in Australia, so it may pay to invest in some insect repellent. Better to be safe than eaten alive. And while we’re on the topic of creatures that bite, Australia may be known for some of its more dangerous creatures but the truth is if you’re living in a city and if you’re sensible you’re unlikely to encounter anything that will truly put you at risk.
Moving your family?
- School in Australia
- In the list of Moving to Australia Pros and Cons, this is definitely a pro if you have children. Australian schools have a good reputation. With relatively low class sizes, well-trained teachers, good facilities, and programmes to support students who need extra support and those who’re already excelling, it’s a good choice for your children. Education is primarily managed on a state level in Australia, although the government provides the foundations.The school year runs from January through to December. Compulsory education starts at the age of five or six and lasts for up to 13 years (it’s compulsory up to at least age 16) from preparatory to senior secondary. There are public schools, funded by the government and free for Australian citizens and residents, and private schools, which generally charge a fee and may have some differences in their curriculum. You can search the Australian Schools Directory to find the location of different kinds of schools and the Good Schools website will help you compare different schools. If you’re making a list of what to do before moving to Australia, add getting in touch with schools to it – the earlier, the better.
- Moving to Australia with Pets
- The good news is that, despite Australia’s strict regulations, you should be able to bring your cat or dog into the country with you. Moving to Australia with a dog or car is possible but there’ll be documentation to provide, including evidence your pet is tick- and rabies-free and in good health, and you’ll need to get your pet microchipped. There will also be a quarantine period of about 10 days once your pet arrives in Australia before you can be reunited.More information on bringing in your pet and how long the process will take can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website – along with information on the few other animals that can be imported. Links provides a Pet Relocation Service if you do decide to bring your companion over to the Land Down Under.
- National transport in Australia is excellent, and it’s no surprise given the population dispersal across the huge continent. It would take approximately 3 days to drive from Melbourne to Perth, and the country is as wide as the distance between London and Moscow. There are 300 airports, and trains and intercity busses can also help you get across the country (although Greyhound is the only national bus service). You can plan your rail journey on Rail Maps and find information about fares as well as links to regional services.Within cities, you’ll generally find excellent public transport too, including busses, trams, trains, and taxis. The price for public transport is also quite affordable.
- It is possible to live in Australia without a car, but it can come in useful, especially if you want to explore some of the incredible landscapes – and if you’re in Australia, it would be a real shame not to. If you’re buying a car you may pay a lot, but negotiation is part of the process. All vehicles will have to have their roadworthy certificate and will need to be registered, a process overseen at a state level. It’s also essential you get insurance and you may like to look into any roadside services.If your car breaks down in the middle of a desert, it will be good to know you can get someone out there to help you. You can find out about the requirements and safety standards your car would need to meet for importation on the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities. If you are able to import, Links can help you arrange this.
- While it won’t get you across the country in a hurry, cycling can actually be a good option in some areas of Australia. It fits in well with the outdoorsy nature the nation is famous for and is popular as a mode of transport as well as recreation. There’s even an Australian Cyclists Party. Another mode of transport in some areas is boats and ferries – despite its arid reputation there are plenty of waterways in the country and it is, after all, a giant island surrounded by lots of smaller ones. And no. You can’t ride a kangaroo. Don’t even ask.