Australia is a popular destination for immigrants, with nearly a third of its residents born outside of the country. Whether you want to move there temporarily to work or study, or relocate there permanently, there are plenty of reasons to call Australia home. But with its high cost of living, it’s worth doing some research before moving to Australia.
Here’s what you need to know before moving to Australia, including how to prepare for your Australian visa application, and what to do when you arrive.
What to know before moving to Australia
First, let’s go over a few basic facts about Australia. As of March 2022, Australia had a population of just under 26 million people, of which around 30%, or 7.6 million people, were migrants who were born overseas. Meanwhile, Australia’s indigenous peoples have lived on the continent continuously for more than 50,000 years.
Australia’s climate varies. In the north, it’s tropical, while the south is more temperate. The majority of the population lives on the east coast—in the states of Victoria and New South Wales—because large parts of the country are dry and inhospitable.
Australia was once part of the British Empire, but it’s now a sovereign country with a parliamentary government and its own currency, the Australian dollar (AUD).
The official language is English, and free language lessons are available for migrants who need help learning English. However, some Australia work visa applications may require you to show proof of English language proficiency already.
4 things to do before moving to Australia
Before moving to Australia, you’ll need to consider your visa options, how long you plan to stay, and how you’ll pay for living expenses. Some work visas require you to have a job offer before you start the application process, so you may need to complete these steps in a different order depending on what type of visa you’re applying for.
Here are four key things to consider before moving to Australia.
1. Apply for a visa.
Most overseas arrivals, except for New Zealand citizens, need an Australian visa to live and work in the country legally. Some visas can lead to permanent residency and even Australian citizenship, while others only allow for short-term employment.
- Working holiday visas are for young people (primarily under 30) who want to visit Australia for a year and perform seasonal or temporary employment.
- Student visas allow you to enroll in an accredited course of study and work for up to 40 hours per fortnight when classes are in session.
- Skilled work visas typically require sponsorship from an Australian employer or for your line of work to be on the skilled occupation list.
- Partner visas are for applicants who want to live with a spouse or partner who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
These are just a few of your visa options, so be sure to consult a migration agent if you have a more complex case, such as multiple family members applying together.
2. Calculate the cost of living.
Australia’s minimum wage is $21.38 per hour, which is higher than many other countries in the world. But Australia’s cost of living may be higher than in your home country. It’s a good idea to put together a budget before moving to Australia.
Major cities like Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne are more expensive, while smaller or more remote cities like Perth and Adelaide tend to be more affordable. Finder.com.au estimates that housing in Sydney is 43% more expensive than housing in Hobart or Adelaide—as high as $2,540 AUD per month for a furnished studio apartment.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping things to your new home. International moving costs can be pricey due to Australia’s remote location, especially if you’re moving from somewhere on the other side of the world like the USA.
3. Explore healthcare options.
Australia’s healthcare system is a hybrid system with both public and private options. All Australian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for Medicare coverage, which the Australian government funds through taxes.
Australian residents also have the option of purchasing private health insurance, which may cover additional services like private hospital care and ambulance rides.
Some visa applicants may have to purchase private health insurance before moving to Australia. For example, student visa applicants need Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), unless they’re from a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.
4. Find a job.
According to Seek.com.au, most Australians are happy with their work-life balance, with 63% of professionals in Melbourne and 59% in Sydney reporting a positive score.
However, job opportunities can vary widely between industries, so it’s important to get a headstart on job applications before moving to Australia.
Employment options include full-time, part-time, casual, and contract work. In addition to wages, employers must pay 10.5% into a “superannuation fund,” which is essentially a retirement fund that Australians get access to when they retire.
4 things to do after you arrive in Australia
Once you have your Australian visa and a job lined up, it’s finally time to start moving to Australia. Here are four more things you’ll need to do once you arrive.
1. Open a bank account.
In order to get paid, you’ll need to have an Australian bank account. All of the four major banks, including Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank, offer online banking options and mobile apps so it’s easy to keep tabs on your finances.
If you’re a new arrival, you may need to visit a branch in person to set up your account, so it’s best to get this taken care of right away to avoid any hassles.
2. Get a driver’s license.
If your overseas driver’s license is in English, you can use it to drive in Australia; if not, you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit or a certified translation. Some states require you to convert your overseas license within several months of establishing residency, so you may want to apply for a local license sooner rather than later.
3. Make new friends.
Australians (or Aussies, as they call themselves) are a friendly and welcoming bunch, but it can take some time to pick up on Aussie slang and expressions or get used to Australian-style sporting events or Christmas traditions.
Fortunately, Australia is home to so many expat groups and multicultural communities that it shouldn’t be hard to find things that make you feel at home.
You can join Meetup groups to find people with similar interests or check out cultural events like the Melbourne Fringe Festival or Sydney’s LGBTQ+ Mardi Gras.
4. Send money home.
Finally, get familiar with the AUD exchange rate so you know when and how to send money back home. The Australian dollar is fairly stable, but its value can go up and down over time compared to other currencies.
By using an international money transfer service with a competitive exchange rate, you can send money home to your friends and loved ones without breaking the bank.
Send money home the easy way
Australia’s banking system is fast and convenient, so it’s rare that you’ll need to send or cash a check. Instead, connect your bank account to an international money transfer app so you can send money from Australia straight from your mobile phone.