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Moving to Australia

If there is an ideal expat location, Australia would certainly be a competitive choice for the title. In fact, it consistently ranks amongst one of the safest and happiest countries for expats to live in. Expats moving to Australia can expect a lifestyle driven by outdoor pursuits featuring elements of multiculturalism, especially when it comes to cuisine and traditions.

The fundamentals of family and friends are important to Australians, and the nation’s strong spirit of egalitarianism has drawn a steady stream of immigrants from the UK, Europe and Asia to its ideal climate and naturally beautiful environment. 

Australia is divided into six states: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The country is made up of two territories: the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Popular Australian expat cities include SydneyMelbournePerthBrisbane and Adelaide.

Australia has long been a destination of choice for students and young professionals from all over the world who move to the country to spend a few months taking up employment on a working holiday visa. It is also popular with expat families looking for a better environment to bring up children, as well as pensioners who move to Australia to spend their retirement years in the sun.

The government places a high premium on skills and enforces equally stringent measures to keep Australian immigration levels under control. So while Australia is a popular destination for expats, a strict screening process picks out those professionals with the skills desired to keep the economy in good health.

A large number of expats who move to Australia do so with their children. The country is an excellent place to raise a family as properties are often large, there is more scope for children to spend recreational time outdoors and there is a good range of schooling options. Furthermore, expats living in Australia will also have access to exceptional healthcare facilities in both the public and private systems.

The diverse, striking scenery and rugged beauty of the vast landscape, the easygoing nature of the local people, and the sense that a new beginning is available to anyone with the skills and energy to make it happen are what make Australia an incredibly attractive expat destination.

Essential Info for Australia

Population: About 25 million

Capital city: Canberra

Neighbouring countries: Islands surrounding Australia include Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor to the north, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the northeast, New Caledonia to the east and New Zealand to the southeast.

Geography: Due to Australia's size, the country has a variety of landscapes. There are tropical rainforests in the northeast, while the southwest, east and southeast are made up of mountain ranges. In the centre of Australia is dry desert, known as the outback. The outback makes up the largest portion of land in Australia. 

Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Major religions: Christianity

Main language: English

Money: The Australian dollar (AUD), divided into 100 cents. ATMs can be found throughout Australia and expats should be able to open a bank account with relative ease.

Tipping: If a service charge is not added to the bill, a tip is always welcomed, but not expected. 

Time: Australia has three time zones. Eastern (GMT +10), Central (GMT +9.5) and Western (GMT +8). Daylight saving time is observed.

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin flat blade plugs, different from those found in most other countries, are the norm.

Internet domain: .au

International dialling code: +61

Emergency contacts: 000 for the police, ambulance and fire services.

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side. The national transport system in Australia is excellent, and for long journeys, expats have the option of travelling by plane, train and inter-city bus within the country. 

Weather in Australia

Due to the country's vast size, the climate in Australia can vary from place to place, although expats living down under are unlikely to escape the heat.

The southern coast, which includes Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, possesses the best climate by far, with mild winters and warm summers. Winters tend to be wet, although Australia has been known to experience severe droughts caused by insufficient rainfall.

The interior of the country, often referred to as ‘the Outback’, is dry and barren and experiences more extreme weather conditions than the coastal regions; during the day temperatures can soar to scorching only to drop at nighttime, sometimes to below freezing.

Meanwhile, northern Australia has a tropical climate, and heavy rainfall and even monsoons are known to descend between December and March. This is also the hottest time of year in northern Australia, making for uncomfortably humid conditions.

Above all else, when it comes to the weather in Australia, expats should respect the tenacity of the sunshine. Be sure to apply sunscreen with a respectable SPF factor when outside, and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. 

 

Embassy Contacts for Australia


Australian embassies

  • Embassy of Australia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 797 3000

  • Australian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7379 4334

  • Australian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0841

  • Australian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 423 6000

  • Australian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 664 5300

  • Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 6411


Foreign embassies in Australia

  • Embassy of the United States, Canberra: +61 2 6214 5600

  • British High Commission, Canberra: +61 2 6270 6666

  • Canadian High Commission, Canberra: +61 2 6270 4000

  • South African High Commission, Canberra: +61 2 6272 7300

  • Embassy of Ireland, Canberra: +61 2 6214 0000

  • New Zealand High Commission, Canberra: +61 2 6270 4211

Public Holidays in Australia

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Australia Day

26 January

26 January

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

Anzac Day

25 April

25 April

Christmas Day

25 December 

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*Listed above are the national holidays celebrated country-wide. States and territories in Australia celebrate individual holidays, therefore it is best to check local official sources.

*If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday. 

Working in Australia

Expats working in Australia may not have sky-high salaries to boast about but, for the most part, they seem to be happy with their job, their work environment and their work-life balance. This is a statement that arguably stands as the most underestimated advantage of moving to and living in Australia. 

Furthermore, those who do decide to relocate to Australia will find themselves within a national economy that is known for being strong and stable. 


Job market in Australia

Expats interested in working in Australia would do well to explore opportunities in mining and construction – although the mining boom has begun to decline, the country is still one of the world's top exporters of minerals such as iron, aluminium, gold and copper.

Manufacturing, agriculture and tourism are also potential industries that expats can look into.


Finding a job in Australia

Most expats will need to find and secure a job prior to entering and working in Australia. The government’s immigration department is as strict as it is efficient, and those employed without a work permit will be promptly deported.

Most expats come to work in Australia on an employer-sponsored visa. The hiring company must prove that a position exists for the expat and that no local candidate is qualified to assume the responsibilities required by the position. This can actually prove quite difficult given that a large chunk of Australia’s workforce has a tertiary qualification, and that many senior managers and technical staff have international experience. 

As a result, though skills shortages have produced a crucial need for certain kinds of workers, the stringent permit eligibility rules often hamper attempts to import foreigners from abroad. 

Expats on the job hunt should start by joining industry associations and by perusing the career centres maintained by regional governments. National newspapers also regularly publish job listings and advertisements in employment sections. 

Similarly, if an area within Australia that an expat wishes to work in has been narrowed down, local and community newspapers can also be good resources. It should be noted, however, that it’s easier to find jobs in rural Australia than it is to find jobs in urban Australia. 

Online job portals are also a convenient and easily accessible way of searching for jobs.


Work culture in Australia

Generally speaking, those working in Australia are likely to notice that there's a distinctly relaxed atmosphere in the workplace. However, this doesn't mean that less work gets done – Australians are hard workers, but the country is better at maintaining a good work-life balance than many other nations around the world.

As swearing is a famously prolific part of Australian dialect, expats can expect this to extend to the workplace too, although it's probably best not to follow suit. Socialising with co-workers outside of work is common and expected, so if invited to after-work drinks, expats should be sure to accept the invitation and take the opportunity to get to know their colleagues.

Doing Business in Australia

Expats anticipating doing business in Australia are sure to find that the friendly yet professional corporate atmosphere of the country will provide an exciting opportunity for business dealings. Being predominately a market economy in the throes of embracing internationalisation, Australia has evolved into one of the easiest and most interesting countries in which to do business in the world.

Australia ranked 14th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey for 2020. The country did well in categories like enforcing contracts (6th) and starting a business (7th) but fell short in the ease of trading across borders (106th) and protecting minority investors (57th).

The approach to management in Australia is consultative, pragmatic, and strictly non-hierarchical. Those in positions of relative power are accorded respect in virtue of their human and interpersonal qualities, not simply because they happen to be the boss.

In Australia, managers mustn't appear aloof from or out-of-touch with the members of their team – all members are equally important to the collective wellbeing of the group. Everyone is encouraged to air their opinions and ideas regularly. A wonderful feature of the Australian business world is that this egalitarian ethos provides opportunities for colleagues to form close personal bonds with each other.


Fast facts

Business hours

8.30am or 9.30am to 4.30pm or 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Business language

English

Dress

The dress code is smart, formal and conservative for men and women. 

Gifts

Gifts are not usually exchanged during business meetings; however, if invited to a colleague's home, it's a good idea to take along some wine, chocolate or flowers.

Gender equality

Female expats looking to do business in Australia will find little or no gender bias. Australia is very progressive in terms of gender equality in the workplace, with many top-level positions being filled by women.


Business culture in Australia

The business culture of Australia claims a bit of a hybrid character, incorporating the trappings of British formality and conservatism, the egalitarian ethos of Scandinavian countries, and the dynamic, innovative approach to business that is generally thought of as American in origin – rounded out, of course, with characteristic South Pacific warmth and friendliness. While individuals need to be smart, punctual and professional at all times, it is equally vital that one is willing to be 'part of the team', and to interact with colleagues in an engaged, interested and respectful manner.

Greetings

Business etiquette in Australia further reflects the egalitarian ethos. Though it's best to use titles initially, one will almost certainly be told to drop them, at which point first names can be used. Maintain eye contact when speaking to associates, as this is regarded as a sign of forthrightness and trustworthiness – qualities which Australian businesspeople tend to favour over showiness, self-aggrandisement or empty promises.

Communication

Do not be surprised to hear colleagues talking bluntly and frankly to one another – try to remember that in Australia, direct communication is valued far more highly than diplomacy. A good general rule for business etiquette in Australia is to always try and 'get along' – the last thing one wants to be considered is a loner or a malcontent.

Meetings

Business meetings in Australia should be scheduled a week in advance, and then confirmed a few days before they are due to take place. Be punctual, as lateness can be seen as a symptom of flakiness or indifference. Expect a little small talk at the beginning of the meeting. Business meetings in Australia do not generally proceed from a set agenda – rather, they are viewed as open forums, in which ideas are to be debated and discussed. In fact, over-preparing for a meeting can make a person seem pushy – as though they wish to bully others into adopting an opinion on the issue at hand.

Attitude towards foreigners 

Australia is a famously friendly, welcoming society – and foreigners should experience no xenophobia in the workplace whatsoever. Remain as friendly and open to colleagues and all will be fine.


Dos and don'ts of business in Australia

  • Do be honest and forthright – look to really get to know Australian colleagues on a personal level

  • Do get involved in 'team-building'; egalitarianism is the backbone of the Australian work ethos

  • Do make an effort to get to know colleagues outside of office hours

  • Don't try to prove credentials by talking about them – rather, show qualities by working hard

  • Don't be insulted if colleagues address someone in a blunt or plain-spoken fashion – this is simply the way Australians communicate with one another

Visas for Australia

Expats looking to live and work in Australia will need a visa. The good news is that the Australian government makes it easy to understand the visa application process, providing easily available information about how to apply for a specific class of visa, the associated costs, where to apply and more. 

That said, though the application process may be streamlined and easy to navigate, it certainly doesn’t guarantee entrance into the country. 

Australia claims an intimidating number of visa categories, and requirements vary immensely. Some merely require a passport from a certain country, some evaluate a person's skill level and education level, and some are based on familial connection. 

Regardless, it’s always best to do as much research as possible prior to applying for a visa for Australia to simplify the process and avoid complications.


Tourist visas for Australia

There are a number of primary categories of tourist visas for Australia, each suitable for a specific time period and for individuals of a specific nationality. It is advised that those applying for tourist visas do so at least two weeks prior to their intended date of travel. 

There are visas which allow a person to visit Australia for business or visiting purposes. These can be valid for up to three, six or 12 months. 

There are also visas for European passport holders or UK passport holders who wish to visit Australia for three months or less. These allow a person to visit Australia for business purposes. They can be valid for three months at a time, over a 12-month period. They can only be applied for online, and the application must be made outside of Australia. There is no charge associated with an application.


Working holiday visas for Australia

If expats have a dream to live and work in Australia, there are many different temporary working visas that one might be eligible for. 

Australia has a partnership with several countries which allows young people to visit Australia and work temporarily to fund their travels. This type of visa is not intended for those interested in permanent relocation, but for those who want the experience of living abroad in Australia for several months to a year so that they can supplement their travel funds with short-term work. It must be proved that travel is the primary reason for the visit, with working as a secondary intention to support the travel. 

The duration of the visa is for 12 months, but visa holders are generally not allowed to work for more than six months with one employer. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30 and can be from a number of accepted countries.

Applicants must have a passport which has at least a year of validity left on it as well as showing proof that they have enough funds to support themselves upon first arriving in Australia. Applicants must also not have any prior criminal convictions or any serious medical issues. 

If working holiday visa holders complete at least three months of regional work, they may be eligible to apply for an extension to their original visa. Make sure to keep evidence of employment as this will be needed for those trying to extend the permit.

Those not eligible for the Working Holiday Visa may be eligible instead for the very similar Work and Holiday Visa. 

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Australia

In recent years, Australia has become known as an expat destination with a high cost of living. While this is generally true, most expats find that a higher quality of life makes up for it. However, those considering moving to Australia should be aware of what their potential expenses will be.

In the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Sydney ranked as the 50th most expensive city out of 209 cities surveyed worldwide. It is Australia's most expensive city to live in, followed by Melbourne (79th), Perth (87th), Canberra (96th) and Brisbane (103rd).

As a result, expats should ensure that the salary they receive is enough to cover all of their expenses as Australians frequently complain about stretched household incomes. The famed social welfare and benefit systems in Australia, like Medicare and superannuation, seem to do very little to mitigate the financial discomfort.


Cost of housing in Australia

Shortages of rental properties and continuous landlord rate rises have established surging rental costs in Australia. While economists predict that the rising prices will come to a halt, and perhaps even recede slightly in the next few years, expats will have to be wary that over 30 percent of their monthly income might need to go to financing the roof over their head. 


Cost of healthcare in Australia

Many expats living in Australia won’t be permanent residents and therefore won’t qualify for Medicare, the national universal health insurance coverage. Those who have waded through the red tape to obtain this documentation will, however, find that healthcare in Australia is of a high standard and is extremely affordable.

Medicare is financed by individual tax deductions and allows permanent residents to take advantage of free comprehensive hospital care, as well as free or highly subsidised doctor’s consultations. Some expats may be formally required to prove to the Australian authorities that they are adequately covered by a minimum level of private health insurance to initially be granted their visa. 

Private health care costs in Australia can be expensive and, unfortunately, there is no way for temporary residents to escape these fees aside from forking out for private insurance, which can be a costly venture in itself. 


Cost of education in Australia

Expats moving to Australia with kids can rejoice in the knowledge that the public school system is reputable, and in many cases, cheap. However, in some states, temporary residence holders are required to pay tuition to enrol their children in the state system. 

For those who prefer to have their children enrolled in a private school or international school, tuition will naturally be required and will tend to be expensive.

Alternatively, somewhere between the state system and the private system lie faith-based schools. Tuition for these institutions is typically higher than public school tuition but lower than private school tuition – and in some cases, faith-based schools can be even cheaper than public schools.


Cost of living in Australia chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Sydney in February 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

AUD 2,600

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

AUD 1,900

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

AUD 4,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

AUD 3,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

AUD 4.50

Milk (1 litre)

AUD 1.50

Rice (1kg)

AUD 2.75

Loaf of white bread

AUD 2.90

Chicken breasts (1kg)

AUD 11.50

Pack of cigarettes

AUD 35

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

AUD 11.90

Coca-Cola (330ml)

AUD 3.20

Cappuccino

AUD 4

Bottle of local beer

AUD 8

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

AUD 88

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

AUD 0.65

Internet (uncapped – average per month)

AUD 70

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

AUD 185

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

AUD 2.20

Bus/train in the city centre

AUD 4.40

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

AUD 1.50

Culture Shock in Australia

Many expats imagine that culture shock in Australia is mainly related to money, marsupials and mangled accents. While these points may certainly be the most obvious causes of confusion and disorientation upon arrival, it’s important to realise that a move to Australia can be more difficult than initially anticipated. 

In some ways, this notion does hold true. Australia is largely free of the challenges faced by expats in countries with complex language barriers, restrictive religious systems and stifling bureaucracy, but in other ways, it’s entirely misleading. Foreigners often fall victim to the idea that Australia is just an affected cultural mid-point between the US and Britain. The thinking is that with its sophisticated infrastructure, strong economy and English language there’s little preparation that needs to be done prior to relocation and even less effort that needs to be put in to acclimatise once on Aussie soil.

Symptoms of culture shock, like the loss of identity and loneliness, are evident in every transition; and what’s more, though many expats may find aspects of life in Australia familiar, there are still several nuances that those from abroad will find foreign and complex. 


Cultural values in Australia

Though the pointed Australian emphasis on freedom, equality and the egalitarian spirit won’t be a source of culture shock for some expats, it may be a bit surprising to others. 

As a nation that prides itself on its high levels of cultural diversity, Australia is also conscious that there needs to be a cohesive force uniting its populace, and a devotion to shared values has filled that role. 

As a result, the idea of a “fair go” (the belief that everyone deserves a fair opportunity to achieve through talent, hard work and effort, not favouritism or social hierarchy) has become, arguably, the most pervasive underlying cultural current in the country.

In line with this idea, women and men are not only equal but often hold balanced roles in the household; both individuals work and assume certain domestic responsibilities. Australia was, in fact, one of the first places to give suffrage rights to women.


Socialising in Australia

Australia is, generally, an open and friendly destination. People immensely value their relationships, and loyalty to friends and family is highly thought of and commonly practised.

That said, locals don’t feel the need to display this in a formal manner, but rather do so in an informal and easy-going way. Australians are fond of socialising around the barbeque or over a pint at the pub. People will introduce themselves and greet on a first name basis. 

Some expats may struggle with the local tendency to communicate in a direct and open manner, but in Australia, this isn’t taken as rude and is actually seen as more deserving of respect than diplomatic actions that may belie a person’s true opinion. 


Language barrier in Australia

English is the official language of Australia, but nonetheless, some famed colloquialisms have made their way into standard speech patterns, and expats will more than likely have to add quite a few terms to their vocabulary. 

A good rule of thumb is to realise that Australians have a tendency to shorten everything, so if stuck for a definition, just consider what the word could be with a couple more letters and an extra syllable or two. 

Accommodation in Australia

Since Australia is such an overwhelmingly popular expat destination, those wishing to live within a closely-knit expat community will almost certainly be able to do so. However, Australian society is also famously friendly and welcoming – and so expats have no need to worry if their dream rental is located in a predominantly Australian neighbourhood. 

Home security will not be a major issue for expats relocating to Australia. Although minor break-ins do occur in some neighbourhoods, these crimes are hardly ever violent, and more often than not, the installation of a simple alarm system should be enough to deter potential robbers. Time and again, expats report that they feel very safe in their homes, no matter where they happen to live in Australia.


Types of accommodation in Australia

Expats moving to Australia will find plenty of housing options available to them, from furnished or unfurnished apartments to houses, studios and luxury apartments.

The standard of accommodation in Australia varies from area to area, and between types of accommodation, but is generally very high. It is not at all uncommon for houses in Australia to boast family-friendly features, such as garages, big gardens, and swimming pools. Newer, more upmarket houses will probably be equipped with air conditioning, although ceiling fans are far more common. Indoor heating is very rare since it would be completely redundant for most of the year.


Finding accommodation in Australia

Expats relocating on a short-term basis will probably opt to rent property in Australia. This process is reasonably straightforward, although expats might find – at least during the initial stages – that they are required to do most of the house-hunting themselves. Internet searches and newspaper advertisements are probably the most fruitful avenues in this regard.

Expats will be delighted to know that the cost of accommodation in Australia – relative to one's salary and other living expenses – is generally reasonable. Shared housing is also a popular option, especially for single expats, and there are numerous websites that are exclusively devoted to providing listings for room rentals in shared houses.

Renting Property in Australia

Finding a place to call home in a new suburb or city is a daunting task – factor in the added complexity of an overseas move and it becomes a mammoth challenge.

Expats new to Australia will not only need to find a suitable property for their needs but they will also need to choose the right area or suburb to live in. For this reason, most expats prefer renting property in Australia before they buy; a choice that works best for trying on different areas and suburbs for size.

The rental market in most of Australia's major cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, moves quickly, and finding the right rental property isn't always easy. That being said, there are a few tips and guidelines that can make finding a new home in Australia considerably easier.


Step 1: Learn the local lingo

The first step to renting property in Australia is to get a handle on the local lingo that residents and agents use to describe their humble homes or magnificent mansions.

In Australia, properties are either referred to as flats or houses. A flat is a local term for an apartment. Houses are typically larger than flats and come with an outdoor space; thus it's more likely that a two-bedroom flat will cost less than a two-bedroom house, but it's not always the case.

Flats with just one room are called studios.

Expats may also come across the word "unit" used to describe a property. Units are larger flats, often with split levels like a house, but built in blocks like flats.


Step 2: Location, location, location

Next, expats will want to choose which areas they would possibly want to live in. An easy way to kickstart this process is to visit a few neighbourhoods and stroll around to get a feel for the area. Take a few moments to check real estate agent windows and see if the area is within budget. If not, get on the train or bus and ride a couple of stops away and repeat. Those moving to a major city should come up with a shortlist of three or four suburbs or areas.

Part of finding the perfect location is knowing what kind of commute one can expect from home to the workplace or to the children's school. Luckily, in this robust information age, some property websites present their rental properties on maps that show local transport stops and stations so customers can predict travel time and proximity.

Those planning to use a car will also need to make sure that they have somewhere to park it. This is often a factor that expats overlook, but in reality, it can lead to high costs and an even more hectic headache if not addressed appropriately.


Step 3: Start searching

The best way to home hunt in Australia is by enlisting the help of technology; sit down with some property search websites and start looking at what falls within budget in a selected location. Newspapers are another source of property listings, but the market moves quickly and expats are better off looking online for the freshest information.

Many Australian real estate agents manage rental properties, but ironically enough, they're often not particularly helpful to potential tenants. Initially, unless an expat has a large budget, the most attention they'll provide is a list of their properties and a map.


Step 4: Dealing with agents

Once a suitable property has been found that meets the requirements, it's time to arrange a viewing.

Find out who is managing the property, and in the case that it's an agency – which happens more often than not – it's a good idea to find out the name of the individual agent managing the property and ask for them directly by name. The managing agent is the one most likely to be able to answer questions and start the application process.

If they don't answer a phone call, leave a message, but also send them an email. This way they'll have all the necessary details in written form. If the prospective tenant really likes a property they might need to chase the agent – don't be shy, the rental market can often be cut-throat and it's in one's best interest to pursue them.

It's important to note that in Australia most agents will not rent a property without the tenant having viewed it first. Some agents hold opening viewings or open houses, where anyone can view. These can be competitive, so turn up early and be prepared. Bring all the papers necessary to put in an application on the spot.


Step 5: Putting in an application for a property

Real estate agents can take more than one application for a property at a time, so expats should make sure when submitting that they include all the correct information. This can often be the difference between securing a property and losing out to someone else who is better prepared.

Typical applications require:

  • Proof of identity (passport/drivers license)

  • Proof of income, bank statements for the last three months

  • References – one of the most important parts of the application. This will include the applicant's current employer and, possibly, a previous landlord

In some cases, expats might be asked to put down a deposit with their application. This will be returned if they do not get the property. 

Once references have been checked by the estate agent, the whole application will go to the owner of the property for final approval.


Step 6: Signing the lease and moving in

When renting property in Australia, there is no standard for how much rent has to be paid in advance. However, when coming to sign the lease and to pay the first instalment of rent, the new tenant will also need to pay a bond, usually for the amount of a month to six weeks' rent.

The bond, similar to the idea of a security deposit, protects the owner against any damage done to the property or any bills left unpaid by the tenant. The bond is held by an independent government-owned body.

As the tenant is bound to the bond it's important to inspect the property thoroughly for damage before moving in. If existing damage is found, be sure to bring it to the attention of the managing agent or landlord. In the case of a furnished property, an inventory should be kept. At the lease's conclusion, the cost of any items not accounted for on the inventory are deducted from the bond.

Before signing the lease, expats should also ask the managing agent if there are accounts set up with any utility providers. If there are, it might save having to pay a connection fee. 

For additional support with tenant issues, each state has a tenant's association that aims to protect the rights of the renter.

Buying Property in Australia

For many, buying property is synonymous with ticking boxes and filling out forms. Such a large purchase certainly warrants its fair share of red tape, and expats looking to become homeowners in a country other than their own will have to be ready to take on a whole new set of rules and regulations. 

When buying property in Australia, expats should note that the process will vary from state to state, but there are some general steps that apply on a national level. Here's an outline of what to expect.


Step 1: Calculate a budget and arrange mortgage pre-approval 

Before starting the house-hunting process, expats should check whether they need to apply to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) for permission to buy real estate.

When it comes to financing, the ease with which an expat can get a mortgage depends on several factors, but it's largely related to which visa they're on and how good their Australian credit rating is. In the end, the total granted is primarily related to the income of the people applying for the mortgage. Expats will find it easier to obtain a successful mortgage application if they've been working for a couple of months and if they can prove that they've had a sound credit rating in their country of origin.

The good news for expats is that they won't pay higher charges on their mortgage or be offered a different interest rate just because of their visa status, but on the downside, they will have fewer lenders willing to offer them a mortgage.

It's important to consider both the big picture and a smaller cross-section of one's monthly budget when deciding on the duration of a mortgage. While an expat might get a slightly better interest rate if they agree to pay off their mortgage in less time, it will also mean they pay more each month, so both these factors should be considered carefully and the applicant should make sure they look at all the options available.


Step 2: Choose a location

Selecting in which part of the city to purchase property is one of the most important parts of buying a house.

Remember, in addition to buying a property in a location they'll love living in, most people also want to buy a property that's going to retain its value so they can make the most of their money. Expats should research and learn about recorded trends in housing prices and look at the median prices in areas they're interested in to see whether or not they can afford to look for properties in that particular location.

As they are unfamiliar with Australia, it may be best for expats to rent property initially until they have a better handle on which parts of the city suit their priorities best. Resale value is important, but by no means should anyone sacrifice their quality of life for a future sale.


Step 3: Find a dream home

Finding exactly the right property is the most time-consuming part of the process.

Expats should start by doing their homework while house-hunting. One of the easiest, and most accessible, places to start looking for property is online. There are websites that allow people to look at properties listed with multiple estate agents, and give them the freedom to fine-tune their search by the number of bedrooms, price, garden space, parking, and other features that might affect their decision to buy.

Once some preliminary legwork has been done, it's pretty easy to find a real estate agent in Australia; simply walk along any major street in nearly any city and one will more than likely see almost as many estate agents as cafés.


Step 4: Buy buy buy!

Whether bidding for a home at an auction or buying a property from a private seller, the formal purchasing process usually involves mediation through the estate agent managing the property.

The buyer, or their solicitor, will approach the agent with a price and they'll act as the go-between with the seller. They probably won't be starting out offering the asking price, and if they've done their homework they'll hopefully have a good idea of what the property has the potential to sell for.

Once a price has been agreed upon, the legal sale documents will be drawn up. These documents will differ from state to state, but it's a good idea for expats to have their solicitor guide them through the process before signing.

If an unconditional contract or exchange contracts are signed without having one's financing fully and formally approved it is very difficult to back out of the contract. 

If FIRB approval is required then the buyer needs to include this as a condition in the contract. Again, the solicitor will be the best person to ask about these details. If the buyer uses a specialist mortgage provider they'll often provide a solicitor experienced in these sorts of purchases as part of the agreement.

Additional aspects to consider

Expats should note that when buying property in Australia it's necessary to pay Stamp Duty on the purchase price. Expats who are first-time buyers – most often the case – may be exempt, but different rules apply in each state so they should consult their state government website.

Be sure to factor in this additional amount when making an offer.

Other fees that will be incurred over the course of the purchasing process are the lender application fee and lenders mortgage insurance; a mortgage registration fee which goes to the government; a land transfer fee; the legal fees that the solicitor will charge; the cost of the conveyancing; and checks on the structure and pest situation.

Once the sale has gone through the buyer also needs to pay for home insurance.

Expats should also realise that the Australian property market can move fast and furiously. For this reason, even once contracts have been exchanged, until everything is finalised, the buyer could still be vulnerable to another party offering more. This is considered bad form by some but is an unfortunate reality of buying property in Australia.

Healthcare in Australia

The healthcare system in Australia is exceptional, and it comes as no surprise that the country’s population claims one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

Expats will learn that the governing principle behind healthcare in Australia is that it is a hybrid of both public and private service provision.


Public healthcare in Australia

While the public healthcare system in Australia is quite efficient and is accepted internationally as a world-class operation, expats should realise that there are still occasional queues and waiting lists for non-emergency surgery. What’s more, the standards of rural facilities and urban facilities can differ, and for those living far from a metropolis, it may be necessary to travel some distance to receive the right kind of care for complicated or specialised cases.

For these reasons, and because costs for temporary residents not eligible for the Medicare system are on par with that of private facilities, most expats in Australia without permanent residency opt to use private doctors and hospitals. That said, if it does become necessary for expats with temporary residence to use the public system, there is no need to worry about the standard of care administered.

Medicare

The government supported healthcare system is called Medicare; it is available to all Australian citizens and permanent residents and is paid for through taxes levied on individual salaries. The Medicare scheme completely covers treatment in public hospitals and also offers complete or partial coverage of the cost of doctors’ consultations.

Eligible expats wishing to use Medicare will need to register with their passport, travel documents and permanent visa to have a Medicare card issued to them. This process usually takes between three weeks and a month and should be done one week after arrival in Australia. 

Though the Medicare scheme doesn’t make it compulsory to visit certain doctors, expats should realise that in order to see a specialist and have the cost of the consultation and procedures covered, it’s necessary to first get a referral from a general practitioner.

When seeing a medical practitioner it is also important to check that they have been issued with a Medicare provider number.

Doctors either bill Medicare directly or if the patient pays then that individual is able to claim the rebate from Medicare. The rebate is then paid electronically into the claimant's account.

However, even if someone is eligible for Medicare, not all medical care will necessarily be covered. Therefore, it is highly recommended that expats take out some form of private medical insurance.


Private healthcare in Australia

Much of the population in Australia has some form of private health cover, and both locals and expats are actively encouraged to take out such a coverage scheme by the government. 

The majority of private healthcare package options specialise in surgery, particularly non-emergency surgeries such as orthopaedic surgery. As the use of private facilities decreases the demand on public facilities, Medicare does occasionally offer certain rebates to residents who choose to use private facilities.

Expats moving to Australia to live and work on a working visa need to prove to the Australian authorities that they are adequately covered by a minimum level of private health insurance to be granted their visa.

Even if an expat is a citizen of a country with a reciprocal health agreement, they are still required to take out health insurance cover in order to qualify for the visa, as they can only enrol in Medicare from within Australia.

It's important that one understands the level of access to Australian healthcare services that these reciprocal agreements provide. Generally, it is limited to immediate necessary care in the Australian public health system.


Pharmacies and medication in Australia

Pharmacies are easy to find in Australia, especially in the larger cities. Many pharmacies are open late or around the clock.

Expats should note the generic name of any chronic medication before arriving in Australia, as brand names may vary from country to country. 


Emergency services in Australia

The number to dial in case of an emergency is 000. The cost of ambulance rides is not always covered by Medicare, even for permanent residents and citizens of Australia, so it is best to have some provision for this in the form of private insurance.

Education and Schools in Australia

The standard of education in Australia is world-renowned, and many expats even migrate to Australia's sunny shores specifically to become students. The national government places a strong emphasis on diversity and quality and is committed to excellence in research, teaching and student support. 

Expat parents moving with children of any age will find plenty of options for school in Australia and will need to choose between public, faith-based or private and international institutions. Each has their respective pros and cons, and factors influencing decisions tend to revolve around curriculum and cost.

The mandatory ages for school attendance vary from state to state, but generally, attendance is compulsory from the age of five or six to the age of 16 or 17.


Public schools in Australia

Roughly two-thirds of the local population and an impressive portion of foreigners send their children to public schools in Australia.

State schools are open and accessible to expats, but those living in Australia on a temporary residency visa will most likely need to pay the fixed tuition fee associated with their state or territory. Those living in the country on a permanent residency visa can send their children to public school for free, though 'voluntary contributions' may still be expected. Furthermore, additional costs, like school uniforms and stationery, must also be paid.

Children attend the public school that corresponds with their catchment zone, and it follows that expat parents looking to send their child to a stellar state school often choose accommodation based on this fact. Many schools require foreign families to provide proof of residence before actively enrolling students.

Parents with expat children approaching college age will want to carefully consider the curriculum offered by their public school of choice. While some offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, most do not, and it is important that expat parents make sure that credits and certificates earned from an Australian school will be acceptable to tertiary institutions in their home country.


Private and independent schools in Australia

There are plenty of private schools in Australia and, as is the case in most countries, it is assumed these institutions boast better infrastructure, a wider range of facilities, higher-paid teachers and an elevated standard of education.

The majority of private schools in Australia are Catholic schools, though there are also a few Lutheran and Anglican options. While placing a high value on academics, these schools tend to teach from a religious standpoint. The extent to which religious practice and teachings are incorporated into the curriculum varies from school to school. Expat parents should speak to fellow foreign families to find an institution that aligns with their priorities.

Non-Catholic private schools, known as independent schools, include schools that subscribe to other religions (such as Judaism or Islam) or educational ideologies (such as Montessori or Waldorf).


International schools in Australia

Though there aren't as many international schools in Australia as there are in other expat destinations, there is still a selection of IB schools and, in some cities, a small number of independent schools offering the curricula of other countries.

However, expat parents should be warned that fees for international schools can be astronomical. Furthermore, the most popular schools often have long waiting lists, and the most academically selective may require students to pass an exam prior to enrollment. Parents who have their heart set on a particular international school may choose to enrol their child at a local school until a spot opens up.

Transport and Driving in Australia

Getting around in Australia can be quite difficult, especially when considering the vast distances people need to cover between the main cities. Expats who are keen to explore the country should familiarise themselves with the modes of transport available.

National public transport networks are limited and journeys by train and intercity bus are not always the most efficient way to travel. Domestic flights in Australia are relatively cheap and by far the fastest way to travel between cities. There are more than 100 airports nationwide. Although it isn’t necessary to own a car while living in Australia, having a vehicle does offer expats greater independence and freedom when it comes to travelling nationally, especially as the country is so dependent on road transport. 


Public transport in Australia

The long-distance bus network in Australia is extensive and provides a way to reach some of the more isolated places. However, bus travel is only a viable option for those who have a lot of time as journeys are generally long and tedious.

Trains

Australia’s rail network is not as well-developed as the systems one finds in parts of Europe and Asia, and there is a lack of high-speed intercity rail services in the country. Historically, there has been a lack of cooperation between state territories and this, combined with the massive distances and a relatively small population to service, has resulted in Australia’s rail network being slow and somewhat inefficient.

Expats will find that it is usually faster and cheaper to fly between major cities in Australia than taking trains. However, travelling by train often offers a more scenic journey. It is also a good alternative for getting to regional towns and cities that aren’t serviced regularly by flights.

Buses

Bus travel in Australia is a cheap way to get around, although some long journeys will still be cheaper by plane, so it's worth checking flight options before buying a bus ticket. Most expats will opt to fly between destinations within Australia and those who don't tend to prefer trains over buses as they are more comfortable.

The distances covered by these buses are long and journeys often take over 24 hours. Cross-country buses usually have air conditioning and onboard toilets.


Domestic flights in Australia

As a result of the large distances between the major destinations in Australia, flying is the most popular travel option in the country.

Research and booking in advance are the keys to finding the cheapest airfares. Even the larger airlines have great online deals and cheap fares can almost always be found on the busier routes.


Driving in Australia

Most expats living in Australia find it useful to have a car as this gives them the freedom to explore the country at their own pace. Australia's low population density and large size make for long journeys between cities. For example, the distance between Sydney and Melbourne is approximately 560 miles (900km) and takes around ten hours.

Australia has a well-maintained system of roads and highways and signage is generally very clear. The highways between state capitals are excellent and driving on these roads is a pleasure. However, expats travelling to rural parts of Australia will find that they may need to drive on poorly maintained dirt roads. Some states also have toll roads.

As licensing regulations and road rules vary from state to state in Australia, expats are advised to familiarise themselves with the rules within each particular territory before relocating. In most cases, expats moving to Australia will be able to drive using a licence from their home country for the first three months before switching to a local licence. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Australia

Moving to a new country is always a daunting experience, and expats often have all sorts of questions regarding life in their soon-to-be home. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about moving to Australia.

What is the weather like in Australia?

In such a vast geographical area there are significant fluctuations in temperatures between one part of the country and the next. Generally speaking though, the northern parts of the country are warm to hot most of the year. The coastal areas around Sydney experience mild winters and are warm to hot in the summer months.

The seasons are the opposite of those in Europe and North America – Australia's summer is from December to February and its winter from June to August.

How safe in Australia?

The general level of safety in Australia is high and expats who exercise the general precautions they would in any other developed country should be fine.

Crime rates are generally no higher than they are in the US or the UK when it comes to burglaries and other types of crime. It is unlikely that expats will be able to avoid crime completely but the usual security measures are recommended for homes such as good locks and alarms, and alarms are recommended for cars. Poorer areas of cities are usually the areas with the highest crime rates.

Where do I get an Australian driving licence?

Australian driving licences are administered at a state/territory level with varying regulations for each. Expats will normally need to get a state licence within three months of taking up residence in the state and can use their foreign licence in the interim. Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road.

What is the standard of healthcare in Australia?

The standard of healthcare in Australia is very good. The healthcare system is a hybrid of both public and private service provision. Expats from certain countries are entitled to subsidised public healthcare as their countries have engaged in reciprocal healthcare agreements with Australia.

Which city in Australia is best for expats?

Most expats don’t get too much choice in where they are relocated, especially if they need to move for work. Sydney, Melbourne and Perth all have large expat communities. Where expats choose to settle down in Australia will depend on their field of work and personal priorities, but the country has something to suit everyone.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Australia

Australia is a major regional financial hub with a sophisticated banking system, and expats will find there is plenty of professional support available when it comes to educating oneself about and understanding different aspects of financial management in the country.  


Money in Australia

The Australian Dollar (AUD or $A) is the official currency in Australia and is divided into 100 cents. Within Australia, expats will see currency simply abbreviated as $, though this isn’t to be confused with the USD.

  • Notes: 5 AUD, 10 AUD, 20 AUD, 50 AUD and 100 AUD

  • Coins: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents; 1 AUD and 2 AUD 

Both cash and credit/debit cards are readily accepted in most places in Australia. Furthermore, ATMs are ubiquitous; with all services available in English. 


Banking in Australia

Expats wanting to open a bank account in Australia should always investigate all available options, particularly as interest rates can vary between one bank and another. Australia’s major banks are the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank.

As banks are always keen to attract new customers, most have a wide range of services and are keen to provide assistance to expats. Opening a bank account in Australia is a fairly straightforward procedure as long as expats ensure they bring along all the required documentation.


Taxes in Australia

Moving to Australia temporarily for work or to live there permanently means that at some point expats will encounter the Australian Tax Office. Expats will be classified as either a temporary resident, a permanent resident or a non-resident for tax purposes.

Australia uses a progressive tax system and the amount of tax paid depends on how much an individual earns. Aside from income tax, expats may also be required to pay the Medicare levy.

As tax can be a complex issue, it is recommended that expats consult a tax advisor, preferably one that has experience working with foreigners paying tax in Australia.

Expat Experiences in Australia

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Australia and would like to share your story.


Marvin Coleman is a Scottish expat living in Melbourne with his wife, Robin, and their two sons. Together, Marvin and Robin run a mortgage brokering business which specialises in helping expats to secure mortgages and buy Australian property. Read more in his expat experience interview.

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Six years ago, Lara Davis left Cape Town, South Africa, for another vibrant coastal city - Gold Coast.  She has proceeded to fully immerse herself in the sunshine and hustle of one of Australia's most beautiful places. Lara talks to Expat Arrivals about working, studying and navigating expat life in Gold Coast, Australia. Read more about her expat experience of the Gold Coast.

Karen Bleakley moved to Brisbane from the UK in 2014 with her husband, four-year-old twin boys and her two-year-old daughter. She is a travel writer and helps expats navigate their new lives in Australia through her blog. She and her family love their outdoor lifestyle in Australia and can often be found at the local surf club, in the pool, or having fun at one of the many local parks. Read more about her expat experience of Brisbane.

Karen Bleakley

After moving to Australia in 2012 for a working holiday, American Katie Dundas fell in love with life down under and years later, she still calls Sydney her home. Read more about her expat experience of Sydney.

Libby Daniels was born to British parents in Melbourne, but lived and grew up in the UK. In 2012, she moved to Sydney. To learn more about Libby and her perspective on living down under, check out her expat experience of Sydney.

Rajiv Bedse, originally from India, moved to Melbourne in 1997 with his family to provide better opportunities for his children. After a number of years in the corporate sector, Rajiv has capitalised on his experiences of expat life to set up his own life coaching business which is aimed at helping expats further their careers in a new country. Learn more about Rajiv by reading his expat experience of Melbourne.

Mike Hawryluk is a Canadian expat living in Perth. He moved to the city with his wife and two kids to take up a job in the oil and gas industry. He provides a detailed account of some of the pros and cons of expat life in Perth. Learn more about family life in Perth by reading Mike's expat experience of Australia.  

Ed Gillian is a young Pakistani expat who moved to Brisbane in 2002 to pursue a career in Medicine. Other than Australia's high cost of living, Ed loves his host city and the Australian lifestyle. Learn more about Ed and his expat experience of Australia.

Christie Wilkin moved to Melbourne in 2010 with her husband and four young kids. She provides an excellent insight into the challenges faced by a trailing spouse and the children, who follow an expat overseas. Learn more about expat life in down under in Christie's expat experience of Australia

Cosette Palenque moved to Melbourne in 2012 for love. In her interview with Expat Arrivals, she tells us more about the trials and tribulations of settling down in a new country, far from home. Learn more about obtaining a visa, making new friends and adjusting to a new culture in Cosette's expat experience of Australia.

Tara Foster moved to Sydney in 2005 after a chance encounter on a flight which resulted in her being made a job offer in Australia. Today, 8 years on Tara is enjoying her expat experience in Sydney. Read more about the pros and cons of expat life down under in Tara's expat experience of Australia.

Nene Davies is a writer who traded her home in Wales for the capital of Australia's 'Sunshine State', Brisbane in 2002. In her interview with Expat Arrival's Nene gives you her take on expat life in Brisbane and her love of the Australian 'can-do' attitude. Read more about Brisbane in her expat experience of Australia.


Kathryn Brewer is an Australian expat, who after living in China for four years, has decided to return to Australia. Here she shares her experiences of moving back to Australia and offers an interesting comparison between the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai and her new home, Adelaide. Read more about her repatriation to Australia.

Kathryn Brewer - An Australian expat

Francesca is a British expat living in Australia. She moved to Sydney when her husband was transferred there by his company. Although she misses her family and friends and London fish and chips, Francesca is enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Sydney and the quality of life that it offers. Read more about her expat experience in Australia.

Francesca - A British expat living in Australia

Jo Toumazou is a young British expat, originally from London, who moved to Australia five months ago on a working holiday visa. While she misses her family, friends and a decent cup of English tea, she has adjusted well to her new life in Sydney. She loves Australia's great weather and the range of exciting activities that Sydney has to offer. Read her interview with Expat Arrivals on her expat experience in Sydney.

Henno Kotzé is a 27-year old South African who moved from the winelands and grey-blue mountains of the Western Cape, South Africa to the frenetic buzz of Saigon, Vietnam. He now finds himself under the endless blue skies and red dust of Australia. Read all about his expat experience in Vietnam and Australia.

Danielle Duffey is an American expat living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, her five and three year old sons, and two cats. Her husband inspired the move after being posted to Australia for a two year work contract. Read her interview with Expat Arrivals regarding her experiences of living in Australia.

Lara Green is a mother, blogger, writer and English expat making a new life with her family in Perth. She is enjoying the sunshine and laid-back rhythms of the west coast while facing up to the challenges of relocating to a new country. Read about her insightful take on life as an English expat in Australia.

Aubree Keys moved to Melbourne from Denver Colorado with her husband. She was a teacher back home but is so far concentrating on the expat experience and soaking up life in Australia. She keeps a busy blog on her progress and is looking forward to uncovering the strange land of Oz for her readership. Read about her take on expat life in Melbourne.

Tonia Warren has lived in Australia for nearly a decade after moving from the US as a 20-year-old. She loves the lifestyle, safety and friendly Melbournians. Get her impressions of expat life in Australia in her interview with the Expat Arrivals team.

Marcus Forster left life in the States to return to his rural roots in Victoria, Australia – wife and toddler in tow. Though repatriation after over a decade abroad can be difficult, past connections and Oz’s strong state amenities (healthcare and schools) has put a positive spin on his homecoming. Read what he has to say about life in country Australia

Marcus and Ashley Forster - an expat and a repat living in Australia