A continent? An island? A country? We don’t really know how to define this vast, faraway and mysterious land which is Australia.
Australia is among the most chosen countries as expatriate destination. Due to the high quality of life, its great climate and beautiful environment. It’s a top destination for foreign students and young professionals to go on a working holiday visa. It might be ideal for families to raise children. With a good educational system and many recreational outdoors activities. And it’s very popular for pensioners to spend their retirement years under the sun. There’s a large community of British there, and also New-Zealanders, Chinese, and Indians.
This guide will help you go through all the steps to immigrate to Australia. And feel at home as quick as possible when you arrive in the country. From the visa process to your finance management, it will explain all you need to know. Without forgetting the Australian lifestyle you’re about to get in!
- Choose where your new life begins – Find a location
- Get your entry ticket to Australia – All about the visa
- Put a roof over your head – About the housing
- Move yourself in Australia – Transportation
- Know what to bring in your luggage – The weather
- Buy sausages for a barbecue – the Aussie food
- Find new friends
- Discover the cost of living
- Manage your finance
- Be healthy – Sport
- Get healthcare insurance
- Pay your taxes
Choose where your new life begins – Find a location
A few weeks ago you took a decision. You move to Australia. Good choice! You won’t get disappointed. You may have already thought of your destination city if you have a job offer or a relative there waiting for you. Or you visited the country during your last vacation and you liked it so much. But you don’t know yet where to go. Then you have to know where to settle before preparing for the big move.
For the geography course, Australia has six states; New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. What is important to know is that the most popular expat destinations are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. Here is a quick overview of these cities.
Sydney: the country’s financial and economic center. There’s all you can expect of a city in Sydney. Many job opportunities. Many educational institutions. Many leisure activities, outdoor sports and nightspots. The weather is nice. The only con is that the city is expensive and it’s hard to find a nice and affordable accommodation.
Melbourne: the ‘cultural’ city of the country. Melbourne has an ‘indoor’ lifestyle with many cafes, bars and restaurants. The weather can be cold and rainy in the winter contrary to other Australian towns. Not your best choice if you come to Australia to profit from outdoor activities. A good choice if you have a ‘cultural’ mindset. The city is the world’s sporting capital and one of the world’s best comedy festivals. It has a vibrant art culture. You never get bored in this city as there is always something to do or see. Good job opportunities there.
Brisbane: the best choice if you come to Australia to combine weather and environment. Brisbane has an unbeatable weather with sun every three days. It has beautiful countrysides and beaches. Near the Great Barrier Reef, it’s a major tourist destination for bathers, surfers, and divers. Living in Brisbane is about outdoors like beaches, mountains and barbecues in the parks. Reputed to be the best dining and nightlife of the country. Less work opportunities than in Sydney and Melbourne. Don’t get surprised of the early darkness in summer (the sun goes down before 7 p.m).
Perth: the city earned its place among the favorite destinations for expats. Thanks to its Mediterranean climate and booming economy. It has wonderful beaches, wineries and places to visit. Yet, the cost of living is very high and it’s hard to find an accommodation. Perth is good for people who already have a job there. If not, you’ll spend a lot before finding a job and a place to stay.
Adelaide: Australia’s most affordable major city. With a great climate and relaxed lifestyle. With its 1 million population you feel a ‘country town’ atmosphere. Adelaideans are very friendly. The city has many beautiful beaches, mountains, valleys, and vineyards. Good weather. Top destination for both families and students with several universities. It also holds arts and musical events. The Fringe (the second biggest arts festival in the world), WomAdelaide (world music festival), guitar festival, and others.
There is no big difference in friendliness between the different Australian Areas. Australians are welcoming to foreigners. Many expats (especially Europeans) would say that you feel everyone as your friend there. But it has the ‘perverse’ effect that you don’t know if there’s a real friendship behind.
Get your entry ticket to Australia – All about the visa
Before moving, first you have to get a work permit or a visa. As many people come to Australia either for visit, study, live or work, Australia has adapted. A wide range of visas exist to go to Australia. You’ll find here the most popular visas and situations you can be in.
First, the work visas.
If you already have a job offer in Australia, then your future employer applies for the visa on your behalf. This could be for a Temporary or a Permanent visa. The Temporary Work (skilled) visa is for a maximum period of 4 years.
The Employer Nominated Scheme Visa allows employers to hire qualified expats to fill vacancies within their company.
If you plan to move to Australia but don’t have a job offer yet, then you should apply for the Skilled Select program.
You need to prove that you have skills, qualifications or the experience necessary to occupy a position on the Australian Skilled Occupations list.
At last, the famous Working Holiday visa for people who want to travel and take a temporary job in Australia. For people between 18 and 30 years old. This visa is valid for twelve months under the condition you can’t have the same employer for more than 6 months.
There’s also the business visas for entrepreneurs willing to experience the Australian market.
Then the students visas. A wide variety of visas for different kinds of studies. A popular one is the ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students). Reserved for overseas students who want to take intensive English classes.
The family visas if you join a child, a parent, a partner already living there.
Finally the retirement visas. If you wish to spend your retirement years in Australia, you have to meet three conditions. You are at least 55 years old, able to support yourself in Australia, and no dependents other than a spouse.
To help you find which visa or work permit you should ask for, here is a visa finder from the Australian government.
Finally no matter the type of visa you apply for, you need to meet the following conditions:
- an English Language level. If English is not your mother tongue, you need a certain score on a English test or sign up for classes before your arrival.
- Skills, qualifications or work experience. The requirements depend on the visa you apply for.
- A health certificate. You may be asked to attend an examination before coming to Australia. If it happens you should look for a government approved doctor. To find one, consult the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate.
- provide a penal clearance certificate.
- approve the Australian values statement.
Put a roof over your head – About the housing
What you need to know about rental contracts in Australia. Ask for a tenancy agreement when renting a house or an apartment. You are usually required to commit for at least 6 or 12 months with an option to renew. Two possibilities if you wish to quit your apartment earlier than the end of the lease period. Either you find someone to take over the lease, or give the landlord an acceptable notice of termination (one month). This way he can find a new tenant.
Australia is one of the most expensive country in the world. It is no surprise that housing will be costly and your first source of expenses there. Especially in big cities like Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. Moreover, like in any major city it is not easy to find an accommodation.
A good option is to find a lodging in a private house, a boarding house or, share an accommodation. In Australia, it is not uncommon to rent a room in a private home. It’s like a bed and breakfast accommodation. You pay a rent, your meals are all included (from breakfast to dinner), except you’re part of the family. It means you have fix times to eat and you cannot do whatever you want. But at least you have company. And it’s a great way to immerse yourself into the Australian lifestyle and culture. A boarding house is the same concept except you’re not in a family but in a house with other lodgers. Sharing an accommodation is another alternative to high rents. Particularly in big cities where it is hard to find some place nice and still affordable. Besides many landlords ask for references in Australia, which you don’t have as you’re new to the country. It’s a good option for young people without children.
If you don’t want to share anything with someone else, a good option would be to look for a serviced apartment. No need to worry about the apartment’s furniture and cleaning.
If you come to study in the continent, some options are available. The Student Housing Australia can help you find a student accommodation.
Get more information on how to buy a house in Australia.
Move yourself in Australia – Transportation
Due to long distances in the country, it is common to travel by air through the country. Every major city has an airport and frequent connecting flights between them.
Same as big countries like the United States or Australia, most Australians have a car. Except if you live and work in a city center, you can’t do without a vehicle in Australia. About the driving license, laws and regulations vary from one state to another. Some states require an International Driving License to carry with your foreign license. Other states require your foreign license with a formal English translation of it. See the requirements per states here.
Know what to bring in your luggage – The weather
Due to its size the continent experiences a variety of climate. Some areas are very hot and humid. Others have cool temperature. Others have warm summers and cold winters with four seasons.
We see two main seasonal patterns. A four seasons’ pattern in the major party of the country (in the desert, west and south). A Wet and Dry pattern in the tropical and equatorial north of the country. A wet season between November and March, between 30 and 50 degrees Celsius. A dry season from April to October, around 20 degrees Celsius.
Buy sausages for a barbecue – the Aussie food
Nothing is more Australian than joining friends or family for a barbecue. Each meal is an occasion to barbecue some sausages. From traditional pork and beef to those with herbs and spices. Besides BBQ, Australian food is a lot about snacks, fishes and seafood. They don’t eat a lot of veggies. For an European used to healthy meals with a lot of fresh vegetables, you may find hard the food diet in Australia. But it’s up to you to cook your own meal.
Let’s discover some Australian traditional dishes!
First the famous Hamburger with beetroot: Aussie beef with a slice of beetroot (they love it!). Find it on local pubs. A famous winter meal is the pea and ham soup. The meat pie is very famous and on the menu almost everywhere. Chicken parmigiana is an Australian pub classic. It’s fried chicken with Italian-tomato sauce and melted cheese. Perfect with a beer. Another dish is the sausage roll which is sausage meat wrapped in pastry and baked in oven.
Due to the plenty and freshness of seafood, they eat a lot of snacks around that. The salt and pepper calamari served with a salad and chilli sauce. Also the famous fish ‘n’ chips and prawn cocktail. They like seafood pizza too.
Australians also love Asiatic food, especially the Chinese and Thai food. You’ll see a lot of Chinese restaurants. Their green chicken curry pie is the Aussie variant of the Thai green curry.
You can also find crocodiles and kangaroos meat on the menu.
Find new friends
On Facebook, you’ll find plenty of expats and students groups in the big cities. There are also the indispensable applications which are Tinder, Happn and Once. It is actually a great way to meet people like you abroad.
Discover the cost of living
Plan your budget by discovering how fast you’ll spend your budget and what is the cost of living on numbeo.com. Costs of housing, food, restaurants, transportation, utilities, sports, leisures, clothing, and average salaries.
Manage your finance
Get a bank account: as soon as in the continent you’ll need Australian dollars and a bank account. To ease transactions between your home country and Australia. The famous banks in Australia are Suncorp, Westpac, and ANZ. Know more about how to open a bank account in Australia.
Manage your money transfers: as a foreigner in Australia, you’ll need to move money between your home country and Australia. It might be for different reasons. Send money back home, repatriate savings, pay bills abroad, buy a house in Australia. As a student, receive money from your parents. As a retiree, convert your pension funds into Australian dollars. Have you already thought about how to handle that not to be screwed up by ridiculous fees?
As you know, sending money via your bank makes you lose a lot of money. Banks take huge fees when it comes to move money overseas and they offer a poor exchange rate. Withdrawing money with your international card costs a lot. And paying by card in shops and restaurants also costs a lot. The best solution is to use a company specialized in sending money between countries. Plenty exist with each their own prices. You should compare them and find THE one thanks to a comparison platform.
Get more information on how to send money to Australia.
Consider the Australian dollar exchange rate: watch the exchange rate before converting your money. A favorable rate allows you to have more Australian dollars for the same amount sent.
Track the Australian dollar exchange rate with Neomy.
Be healthy – Sport
You’ll find something to do as many outdoor activities are possible in Australia. The country offers so many great landscapes and environments that it is easy to do sports. From diving, surfing, to climbing, biking, horse racing.
For long Cricket, Australian foot, rugby and horse racing dominated the Australian sports. Now it’s a lot of ‘footy’ sports like football, rugby and soccer. Melbourne became the world’s sporting capital. We attend national events such as the Ashes, the Melbourne Cup, and the America’s cup.
Get healthcare insurance
Australia has a great healthcare system. The island ranks 11th at the world scale. The country’s population has one of the highest life expectancy (around 81 years old). The healthcare provided by the government is Medicare. It is available for Australian citizens and for permanent residents. It is paid through taxes on salaries and gives access to free public hospital and medical expenses.
As an expat, you’ll have to pay to get access to medical care. And it is very expensive (count around Australian $ 500 per month). There are sometimes queues and waiting lists for care in the public system. You better take a private insurance than to use the public system. In both cases you need to pay.
Exceptions made for the following countries with whom Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care System (RHCA): New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Malta, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Pay your taxes
Two options are possible. As an expat resident in the country, you pay taxes in Australia on money earned anywhere in the world. By resident, it means living in Australia for more than half of the tax year. If you have a main home in Australia or a temporary resident visa, you are also considered as resident for taxation purposes.
As an non-resident expat in Australia, you pay taxes on money earned only in the country.
The tax calendar in Australia runs from the 1st July to 30th June each year. You have until the 31th October to make your declaration of the previous year. Tax declaration can be done online.
Income tax rates are progressive in function of the person’s income level.
Get more information on taxes in Australia.
Now you’re all set to embrace your new Aussie life. Hope it was helpful, feel free to let your comments below. And enjoy! Or if you’re already there, let us know what surprised you most when landing in the country.