Moving to Australia: A guide for expats

22.09.15
4 minute read
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With 42% of its population born overseas and an average age of just 37, Australia is a modern, vibrant and youthful society. English-speaking and wealthy, Australia is famous for its quality of life, multi-cultural cities and incredible natural beauty. Its long-standing popularity as a destination for Brits looking to move to the southern hemisphere is not surprising.

Quick Facts About Australia

  • Population: 23.13 million
  • Number of British expats: 1.3 million
  • Most popular cities for expats: Perth, Brisbane and Sydney
  • Currency: Australian Dollar
  • Official language: English
  • Main industries: Mining; Manufacturing; Finance; Media; Education; Agriculture; Logistics & Transport; Tourism

What Visas and Paperwork Do You Need?

UK citizens do need a visa to live and work in Australia, and which one you apply for will depend your situation and whether you want to make a permanent move or just work in the country for a year or two.

The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection has a comprehensive guide. If you have an Australian parent then you are likely to be able to apply for an Australian passport, and bypass the visa situation altogether.

The Cost of Living

The most expensive city in Australia is Sydney, so maybe it is not surprising that it has fallen in popularity with British expats in the last few years. Cities such as Perth and Brisbane are experiencing higher numbers of arrivals. In fact, the cost of living in Sydney has risen so much in recent years that it has encouraged a spate of what have become known as “ping pong Poms” - Britons who have headed back to the UK, unable to afford the city any longer.

However, it is not all bad news: Australian cities (even Sydney) are all still cheaper than London, and Australia’s economy is robust compared to much of Europe. For a detailed breakdown of day to day living costs, take a look at the figure-crunching website Numbeo - you can filter by city to get a really good idea of prices.

Setting Up Your Finances

Anyone used to banking in the UK is unlikely to be fazed by banking in Australia. Some banks even allow you to set up an account before you arrive. The biggest institutions are the Commonwealth Bank; Westpac; Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, and National Australia Bank. All of these offer branches throughout the country and comprehensive consumer banking.

Once you have your set up your account in Australia, register with TransferWise in order to transfer money between your UK and Australian accounts without having to pay hefty bank fees.

Finding And Getting Work

Most long-term expats will move to Australia on a 457 Business Visa, which is for skilled workers who have sponsorship from an Australian employer. The other popular option (for those under the age of 31) is the Working Holiday Visa, which allows a visitor to work for six months. Mining, engineering, oil and gas, renewable energy, construction, operations and commercial management are all shortage areas which will make getting a 457 visa easier, though the process can still be arduous.

Cities such as Perth are experiencing a mining boom, attracting huge numbers of qualified Brits. Culturally, Australian business culture is very laid-back, and a social environment as well as a work one. Workplaces can be surprisingly informal for those coming from a more suit-and-tie British business environment.

Finding Somewhere To Live

In the popular cities, the rental market moves swiftly. The process is similar to the UK - find a flat or house that you like the look of, view and apply. You will need proof of income, and references are very important - ideally one from your previous landlord stating that you paid the rent on time. If you don’t have a rental or credit history in Australia, you might be asked to put a deposit down with your application (which will be returned if you are unsuccessful).

It is illegal for a rental agent to favour one application over another - except in the order in which they were received, so get in fast.

Education And Schools

State education in Australia is free and of a high standard. Sport is big in Australian schools, and your children will be playing everything from cricket to softball - and of course surfing if you are living near the coast.

One major difference to the UK is that the school year runs from January to December rather than September to July. Each state is responsible for regulating its own public (state) and private schools, so look at the education website for the particular area you are thinking of moving to. If you are interested in enrolling your family into an international school, you can get a comprehensive list here.

Healthcare

The Australian healthcare system is a mixture of public and private, and is run through a system called Medicare. Australian taxpayers contribute 1.5% of their income (2.5% for high earners) and the rest is made up from central government funding. The quality of care is extremely good, reflected in the fact that Australia boasts one of the world’s highest life expectancies. Although expats are entitled to use the system as they need to, you will need to pay via private health insurance. If you are applying for the 457 visa, you will have to prove that you have minimum adequate cover in order to receive your visa.

Other Useful Resources For Expats In Australia

Before moving abroad, take a look at our handy time-sensitive checklist to remind yourself of everything you need to do to get organised.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more