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Moving to Australia

From the dazzling lights and the buzz of big cities to the sweeping isolation of the Outback, Australia is a land of contrasts. Thanks to the country's vast size and diverse landscapes, expats will have plenty to explore in the Land Down Under.

Living in Australia as an expat

Australia consistently ranks among the safest and happiest countries for expats to live in. It has long been a destination of choice for expats from all walks of life, including students looking to take advantage of the country’s excellent education, young professionals, families looking for a better environment to raise their children, as well as pensioners who move to Australia to spend their retirement years in its lovely climate.

There are many opportunities for work in Australia, particularly in mining, engineering, IT, healthcare and marketing. That said, the government places a high premium on expertise and enforces a strict screening process to find only professionals with the desired skills and experience.

Properties in Australia are often large, affording more space to raise a family. Accommodation can be quite expensive, though, and expats often rent before buying. Popular Australian expat cities include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.

In terms of getting around, the public transport infrastructure in Australia is world class, but when it comes to inter-city travel, the sheer distance between cities means flying is preferred. Most Australians own a car, and we’d recommend that expat families follow suit, as it allows more convenience and freedom to explore.

Healthcare in Australia is excellent, affordable and accessible. The country has a government-supported public healthcare scheme called Medicare, available to all permanent residents and citizens.

Cost of Living in Australia

Australia has a high cost of living, but an equally high standard of living. Housing is particularly expensive in Australia, but this can be circumvented by living in outlying areas and commuting. Fortunately, healthcare and schooling are both fairly affordable.

Expat families and children

Government schooling in Australia is government-funded for residents and citizens, but non-resident expats may have to pay tuition fees. Parents can also choose to enrol their children in private, independent or international schools, though the latter can be extremely costly.

The Australian lifestyle is driven by outdoor pursuits and is truly multicultural, especially when it comes to cuisine and traditions. Outdoor entertainment such as sports are highly popular and can make for great family outings. The beautiful landscape is also a big attraction, offering expat families the chance to explore nature and learn about a rich new environment.

Climate in Australia

The inescapable heat and intense climate of Australia can be startling. Winters tend to be mild and bearable, but summers often reach scorching temperatures. Expats should stay hydrated and avoid heatstroke.

Australia’s diverse scenery, sophisticated cities, the easygoing nature of its people, and the sense that a new beginning is available to anyone with the skills and energy to pursue it, all make the country an expat destination well worth considering.

Weather in Australia

Due to the country's vast size, the climate in Australia varies tremendously, although one thing is certain: expats living down under are unlikely to escape the heat.

The southern coast, which includes Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, has the best climate by far, with mild winters (June to August) between 41°F and 50°F (5°C and 10°C) and warm summers (December to February) between 77°F and 86°F (25°C and 30°C). 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. Summer (October to mid-March) temperatures during the day can soar to a scorching 104°F (40 °C) only to drop at nighttime, sometimes to between 66.2°F and 32°F (19°C and 0°C). In winter (June-August), temperatures are usually around 60.8°F and 75.2°F (16°C and 24°C).

Meanwhile, northern Australia has a tropical climate, with average temperatures in the dry season (May to October) of around 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C). Heavy rainfall and even cyclones are known to hit between December and March when the temperature rises slightly to about 77°F to 91°F (25°C to 33°C). This is 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 harsh and relentless sunshine. Be sure to apply sunscreen with a high 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

 

2022

2023

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Australia Day

26 January

26 January

Good Friday

15 April

7 April

Easter Monday

18 April

10 April

Anzac Day

25 April

25 April

Christmas Day

25 December 

25 December

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

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

Pros and Cons of Moving to Australia

With a number of Australia's cities frequently rated as some of the world’s most desirable destinations, it’s no surprise that many people make the move Down Under. It's all too easy to see a country through rose-tinted glasses, though, so here's a list of the pros and cons of moving to Australia to help expats get a fuller picture of the country.


Accommodation in Australia

As with most developed countries, accommodation in Australia varies with location. Compact apartments and townhouses in the city offer easy access to the hustle and bustle of city life, while suburban dwellings further from the city centre afford more space and a sense of community.

+ PRO: Lots of choices

There is a wide array of real-estate options throughout Australia to suit an expat's requirements and budget. Renting is popular in cities and, in most cases, it is possible to find a reasonably-priced rental.

- CON: Property is expensive

On the other hand, while purchasing a property in an Australian city will offer plenty of choice, home buyers need to be aware that real-estate law in Australia favours the seller, so plenty of research is essential before making an offer on a home. Also, competition against other investors can be fierce, so expats should be prepared to fork out for their perfect Aussie home.


Cost of living in Australia

Gone are the days of Australia being a cheap place to live in comparison with the UK or US. In recent years Sydney has been reported as being significantly pricier than many other popular expat destinations, but it’s not all bad news.

 + PRO: High minimum wage and a great standard of living

The cost of living in Australian cities may be high but so is the standard of living, and many residents feel it is worth paying a bit more to reside in Australia.

- CON: Groceries and utilities are expensive

The price of food and utilities has risen dramatically over recent years and show little sign of slowing.


Lifestyle and culture in Australia

Australia is a friendly and accommodating country. The cities, especially, house a wide diversity of people from all over the globe. The outdoor lifestyle in the country encourages people to come together, whether around a barbecue, at sporting events or just at a gathering of like-minded individuals.

+ PRO: Great climate and lots of sports

Outdoor activities are popular in Australia, making it easy to stay healthy. Australian cities host many sporting events throughout the year with something to suit every sports fan. Running and cycling are especially popular in cities and can be kept up throughout the winter months thanks to the warm climate.

- CON: Lack of activity in small towns

Outside of Sydney or Melbourne, cultural activities such as opera and ballet may be difficult to find. The cinema might be the best option for artsy types, as the main weekend attraction in rural areas is likely to be a football match.


Healthcare in Australia

Healthcare in Australia is a mixture of private and state-provided care. Those eligible for Medicare, either as a resident or a citizen of a country for which there is a reciprocal healthcare agreement, are able to access subsidised essential treatment. For those who cannot access Medicare, private health insurance is recommended.

+ PRO: Good-quality public and private healthcare

The standard of healthcare in Australia is high, and both public and private hospitals are well equipped and provide top-notch service. Both systems can be used by expats and it is easy to get to grips with what is and what isn’t available publicly.

 - CON: Private health insurance is expensive

Private health insurance is pricey, and is an expense most expats will have to budget for. In some cases, expats not eligible for Medicare are required to take out private health insurance as a condition of their visa.


Education and schools in Australia

Education in Australia is generally excellent with good services and teaching staff. Schools are a mixture of public and private, with parents being able to choose which suits their situation best.

+ PRO: Some reasonably priced private schools

Private schools have a reputation for being exorbitantly priced. Australian private schools, on the other hand, are mostly Catholic schools that are reasonably priced and offer students a wider range of activities and subjects than most public schools.

- CON: High fees at independent and international schools in Australia

The higher-end, non-Catholic private schools are referred to as independent schools. These are often prohibitively expensive, and so are most international schools. Tuition fees for university-goers without Australian residency are also high.


Driving and transport in Australia

Australia is a massive country and, with the majority of the population living in coastal areas, transportation between states can be expensive. The most popular way to travel between states is by air and there are regular flights between Australian cities. In sparsely populated areas, transport can be problematic, with buses being the main mode of transport.

+ PRO: Great travel opportunities within Australia and good city transportation

Australia offers a diverse climate and a wealth of unique wildlife, meaning that only a short trip can feel like landing in another country. Although cities do vary, urban transport in Australia is generally good, offering trams, trains and buses.

- CON: Travelling to isolated places is difficult and journeys between cities can be long

Domestic flights are often fast and cheap. Any other form of transport between major cities can be time-consuming and can turn out to be expensive. Many isolated areas don’t have airports and only offer bus routes.

Working in Australia

Expats working in Australia may not have immense salaries to boast about but most report that they’re nevertheless happy in their jobs and enjoy more work-life balance here than in their home countries.


Job market in Australia

Expats who have qualifications and experience in growing sectors with skill shortages stand a good chance of finding work in Australia. Industries such as healthcare, IT and marketing are well worth looking into.

Another industry in Australia worth considering is mining, and 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. Construction is also a strong and continually growing industry, with construction managers particularly sought after.


Finding a job in Australia

Most expats will need to find and secure a job before entering Australia. That said, 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 work in Australia on employer-sponsored visas. The hiring company must prove that a position exists for the expat and that no local candidate can fill the position. Given that a large chunk of Australia’s workforce has tertiary qualifications, and that many senior managers and technical staff have international experience, Australian citizens are often chosen over expats.

Even 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 hunting for jobs should start by joining industry associations and perusing the career centres maintained by regional governments. Employment sections in national newspapers and online job portals are also convenient ways of searching for jobs.


Work culture in Australia

There is often a distinctly relaxed atmosphere in the Australian workplace. This doesn't mean that less work gets done – Australians are generally hard workers – but it does mean there is a good work-life balance in the country.

Swearing is a famously prolific part of the Australian dialect, and 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 accept the invitation and take the opportunity to get to know their colleagues.

Doing Business in Australia

Expats hoping to do business in Australia are sure to find that the friendly yet professional corporate atmosphere of the country provides good opportunities for business dealings. In fact, expats often report that Australia is one of the easiest countries in which to do business.

The approach to management in Australia is consultative, pragmatic and egalitarian. Those in positions of power are given respect because of their interpersonal and decision-making skills, not simply because they happen to be ‘the boss’.

In Australia, all employees tend to be seen as equally important to the collective wellbeing of the group. Everyone is encouraged to share their opinions and ideas regularly, and this egalitarian ethos often leads to colleagues forming close personal bonds with one another.


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, but if expats are invited to a colleague's home, it's a good idea to take some wine, chocolate or flowers.

Gender equality

Female expats looking to do business in Australia will find that women are generally treated as equals. While female leadership is becoming more commonplace, most high-level jobs are still occupied by men.


Business culture in Australia

The business culture of Australia incorporates British formality and conservatism, the egalitarianism of Scandinavian countries, and the dynamic, innovative approach to business that is generally thought of as American in origin – rounded out with South Pacific warmth and friendliness. While individuals need to be smart, punctual and professional at all times, it is equally vital to show willingness 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 that generally pervade the Australian workplace. 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 business people tend to favour over showiness, self-aggrandisement or empty promises.

Communication

Expats shouldn’t be surprised to hear colleagues talking bluntly and frankly to one another, and should remember that, in Australia, direct communication is valued far more than diplomacy. A good rule of thumb for business etiquette in Australia is to always try and 'get along' and integrate socially.

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 debated and discussed. In fact, over-preparing for a meeting can make a person seem pushy as though they are trying to force their opinion onto others.


Dos and don'ts of business in Australia

  • Do be honest and forthright – try to get to know Australian colleagues on a personal level
  • Do get involved in 'team-building', since 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. Australia has a large number of visa categories, and requirements vary widely, but the government makes it easy to understand the visa application process, providing comprehensive information on how to apply for each specific class of visa, the associated costs, where to apply and more.

That said, the application process doesn’t guarantee entrance into the country and can take a long time to finalise.


Tourism, business and transit visas for Australia

Australia has many different visitor’s visas, each valid for different durations depending on nationality. The standard Australian visit visa and its subtypes are categorised according to tourism, business, or visiting family. Visitor visas may grant stays of up to 12 months.

Visitor visa for Australia

Tourists or expats intending to study or change visas once in Australia should apply for the Visitor visa first. It allows travellers to enter Australia as a tourist only and allows a stay of up to 12 months. Applicants must apply before travelling to Australia, and prove that they can fund their stay in the country. Holders of this visa cannot legally work in Australia.

eVisitor visas for Australia

Some nationalities are eligible for a free eVisitor visa. Holders of this visa may visit Australia for up to three months at a time in a 12-month period. These visas can only be applied for online and only from outside Australia. Expats only need a passport to apply.

Working holiday visas for Australia

Young people between 18 and 30 (35 in some cases) who hail from one of the eligible countries on the Australian Home Affairs website, can visit Australia and work temporarily to fund their travels. The Working Holiday visa is not intended for permanent relocation and is only valid for 12 months.

Applicants must have a passport valid for at least a year after their arrival, and enough funds to support themselves initially.

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. A record of employment is often necessary for an extension.

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

Transit visas for Australia

When travelling through Australia, expats will need a Transit visa. These are relatively easy to get and have few requirements. Travellers must apply from outside of Australia and have a confirmed booking to another country within 72 hours of entry. Documents supporting these claims are necessary, so travel documents should be kept handy. Expats joining non-military ships also need Maritime Crew visas.


Student visas for Australia

Studying in Australia is only possible with a Student visa. This visa allows a stay of up to five years with proof of enrolment. It allows students to participate in studies, bring over family members and work unlimited hours in any sector.

To apply, expats must be enrolled in any course of study in Australia, have Overseas Student Health Coverage (OSHC) and hold at least a Visitor visa.

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

Work Permits for Australia

Australia’s economy is robust and predicted to continue growing, so it comes as no surprise that more and more expats are looking to relocate Down Under to find lucrative employment. That said, expats will need to have a work visa to legally work in the country.

The application process may initially seem intimidating. There’s an incredible assortment of working visa categories and subclasses, each with its own complex requirements.

Luckily, the Australian government’s online portal is a useful and up-to-date tool that prospective expats can use to find the visa that suits their field of expertise.


Employer-sponsored visas for Australia

Employer Nomination Scheme

If an expat is hoping to work in Australia and they can find an employer to sponsor their visa, they could apply for a professional visa to live and work in the country. There are many visas available across a wide spectrum of professions and occupations. The employer must first submit their nomination and sponsorship forms before the visa can be applied for.

Permanent residence is obtainable through employer-sponsored visas. The three main classes include Direct Entry stream, Labour Agreement stream and Temporary Residence Transition stream. While these visas may seem similar, each has certain unique requirements. The Australian Home Affairs website can elaborate on each visa type.

Expats should note that the process to get a visa can take a long time, in some cases more than a year.


Business visas for Australia

For foreigners wishing to relocate and start a business in Australia, invest in a business or who anticipate playing a primary role in operating a new business, it’s necessary to first obtain a business visa.

Business Innovation and Investment visa

A permanent Business Innovation and Investment visa is necessary for any non-resident with an eye on business investment in Australia. The visa allows for permanent residence in Australia and can take anywhere between 19 to 26 months to process. To qualify for this visa, applicants must have a provisional Business Innovation and Investment visa. As with most visa categories in Australia, there are a number of subclasses and we recommend researching each visa type thoroughly before applying.

Business Owner visa

Any expat hoping to own a business in Australia requires a Business Owner visa. A provisional Business Owner visa is needed to apply for the permanent version. Expats need also to have lived in Australia for at least 12 months on the provisional visa in the two years immediately before the application for the permanent one, and expats must have owned a business for two years on the same provisional license. The permanent Business Owner visa allows expats to continue owning their business, sponsor relatives for permanent residence and apply for Australian citizenship.

Temporary Activity visa

The temporary Activity visa allows foreigners to stay in Australia on a short-term basis while participating in a temporary job or business venture. The maximum amount of time visitors are allowed to stay is up to four years. To qualify for this visa, expats must have the relevant skills required to do the job, be sponsored by someone eligible already in Australia and meet the requirements of the specific subtype of Temporary Activity visa they are applying for.
Each subtype qualifies for different types of work, so expats should ensure they have applied for an appropriate class of 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

Although Australia is a popular expat destination, it does have a rather high cost of living. That said, most expats find that the high quality of life makes up for it. Nevertheless, we recommend that prospective expats do their research and find out exactly what their potential expenses will be.

In the 2021 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Sydney ranked as the 31st most expensive city out of 209 cities surveyed worldwide. It is Australia's most expensive city to live in, followed by Melbourne (59th) and Perth (63rd).

Expats should therefore ensure that their salary is high enough to cover all of their expenses, as Australians frequently complain about stretched household incomes. The famed social welfare and benefit systems in Australia, such as Medicare and superannuation, seem to do little to ease the financial discomfort of many Australian families.


Cost of accommodation in Australia

Accommodation in Australia is notoriously expensive, though this can be mitigated somewhat depending on where one chooses to live. Location and convenience are largely responsible for high prices, with the more coveted destinations such as Sydney being pricier than smaller towns or cities such as Adelaide. Likewise, living further away from the city centre and commuting, while perhaps not convenient, can also reduce rental costs.


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 healthcare 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 rest easy in the knowledge that the public school system is reputable, and in many cases, cheap. However, in many 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 March 2022.

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 4,900

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

AUD 3,100

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

AUD 4.80

Milk (1 litre)

AUD 1.70

Rice (1kg)

AUD 2.70

Loaf of white bread

AUD 2.70

Chicken breasts (1kg)

AUD 11.20

Pack of cigarettes

AUD 35

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

AUD 12

Coca-Cola (330ml)

AUD 3

Cappuccino

AUD 4

Bottle of local beer

AUD 8

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

AUD 100

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

AUD 0.70

Internet (uncapped – average per month)

AUD 70

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

AUD 190

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

AUD 2.50

Bus/train in the city centre

AUD 4.50

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

AUD 1.60

Culture Shock in Australia

Many expats imagine that culture shock in Australia is limited to marsupials, massive spiders and mangled accents. While these points may certainly be among the causes of confusion and disorientation upon arrival, it’s important to realise that a move to Australia can be more difficult than initially anticipated. Symptoms of culture shock, like the loss of identity and loneliness, often befall new expats.

Foreigners often have the misconception that Australia is just a cultural midpoint between the US and Britain. The thinking is that, with its sophisticated infrastructure, strong economy and English language, little preparation is needed before relocation, and even less effort is required to acclimatise once on Aussie soil.

Ultimately, even though many expats may find aspects of life in Australia familiar, there are several nuances that those from abroad might find complex and that will take getting used to.


Cultural values in Australia

Some expats may be surprised at the extent of the pointed Australian emphasis on equality and the egalitarian spirit. For example, anything that can be construed as bragging or boasting tends to provoke a negative reaction from Australians. This can be attributed to what is known as ‘tall poppy syndrome’ – the tendency to value unity and uniformity over individual achievements. Anyone perceived as considering themselves better than others is often thought of as a ‘tall poppy’ that needs to be cut down to size.

Another related and closely held cultural value is the idea of a ‘fair go'. This is the belief that everyone deserves a fair opportunity to achieve success through talent, hard work and effort, not favouritism or social hierarchy.


Socialising in Australia

Australia is generally an open and friendly destination. People value their relationships immensely, and loyalty to friends and family is paramount.

As a result, Australians generally come across as easy going, which may be misconstrued by some expats as being overly friendly or too informal.

Australians are fond of socialising around the barbecue or over a pint at the pub. People will introduce themselves and greet on a first name basis. Even walking down the street, it's not unusual to be greeted with a ‘g'day’ from a total stranger or to engage in small talk with a fellow shopper in a grocery store.


Language barrier in Australia

English is the official language of Australia, but 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, meaning confusion is not unusual at first. Luckily, Australians are friendly and obliging people and are generally willing to ‘translate’ a few phrases for their foreign friends.

Accommodation in Australia

Australia is a popular expat destination, and those looking to live in a close-knit expat community will certainly be able to do so. However, Australian society is also famously friendly and welcoming, and expats will have no problems fitting into a predominantly Australian neighbourhood.


Types of accommodation in Australia

Australia has plenty of housing options available, from furnished or unfurnished apartments and condominiums, to freestanding houses.

The standard of accommodation in Australia depends on area and type, but is generally excellent. Houses in Australia often have family-friendly features such as garages, big gardens and swimming pools. Newer, more upmarket houses are usually equipped with air conditioning, although ceiling fans are far more common. Indoor heating is rare since it is completely redundant for most of the year.

Home security is not a major issue for expats relocating to Australia. Although minor break-ins do occur in some neighbourhoods, more often than not, the installation of a simple alarm system should be enough to deter potential intruders. Most expats report that they feel safe in their homes, no matter where they happen to live in Australia.


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 that they are required to do most of the initial research and enquiries themselves. Internet portals and newspaper advertisements can be helpful in this regard. When searching, note that prices are often quoted per week. Rent is paid either every two weeks or every four weeks.

Expats should ensure they arrive at property viewings on time, as these are usually well attended. Viewings during working hours tend to have fewer attendees than on weekends, and expats should opt for weekday viewings, if possible, to get a jump on the competition.


Renting accommodation in Australia

Making an application

The rental market in Australia moves fast, leaving little time to deliberate or prepare documents. Applications are looked at on a first-come, first-served basis, and we recommend expats have all necessary documents ready ahead of time. These include proof of identity (passport/drivers license), proof of income, bank statements for the last three months and references – one of the most important parts of the application. Ideally these would be from previous landlords but this can be a problem for those moving from overseas. In such cases, the expat's employer may be able to act as a reference instead.

That way, when the ideal home pops up, house hunters can submit their application right away.

Documentation requirements are stringent and are determined by a country-wide system known as the 100-point identification check. This process is used for everything from applying for a driver's licence to opening a local bank account.

Various types of identification documents are assigned a specific number of points. Primary proof of identity documents (such as a passport, visa or Australian residency status certificate) earn more points than secondary proof of identity documents (such as a health insurance card or local bank card).

Leases

The typical lease length in Australia is 6 or 12 months, although shorter or longer leases can sometimes be negotiated with the landlord. 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.

Deposits

A deposit (or ‘bond’) of four to six weeks' rent must be paid when signing a lease. This deposit protects against any damage beyond normal wear and tear caused by the tenant during their stay, so expats should inspect the property well before moving in. At the end of the lease, costs of any damage repair are deducted before the deposit is returned to the tenant.

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

Utilities

In most cases, all utilities are paid separately by the tenant. This includes electricity, water, gas and internet connections. Some landlords cover the cost of water, but this varies, so be sure to check.

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

Healthcare in Australia

The healthcare system in Australia is praised as one of the world's best, and it comes as no surprise that the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. A hybrid of both public and private service provisions, Australia's healthcare system is affordable and accessible.


Public healthcare in Australia

While the public healthcare system in Australia is an efficient and world-class operation, there are still occasional queues and waiting lists for things like non-emergency surgery. The standards of rural facilities and urban facilities may also differ, and for those living far from a metro, it may be necessary to travel some distance to receive care for complicated or specialised cases.

For these reasons, most expats in Australia without permanent residency opt to use private doctors and hospitals. Temporary residents are also not eligible for the public healthcare system – Medicare – and without it, medical costs are on par with that of private facilities.

Medicare

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

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

Doctors either bill Medicare directly or, if the patient settles the bill, they can claim the rebate from Medicare.

The increased use of private facilities decreases the strain on public facilities, which means Medicare does occasionally offer certain rebates to residents who choose to use private facilities.

With that said, not all medical care will necessarily be covered on the Medicare programme. We therefore recommend that expats take out some form of private medical insurance.


Private healthcare in Australia

Much of the population in Australia have some form of private health coverage. The majority of private healthcare package options specialise in surgery, particularly non-emergency surgeries, such as orthopaedic surgery.

Expats moving to Australia need to prove to the Australian authorities that they are adequately covered by a minimum level of private health insurance to be granted their working 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 coverage to qualify for their visa, as they can only enrol in Medicare once inside Australia.

Reciprocal health agreements only provide limited access to Australian healthcare services, and expats should research the extent of coverage these provide. Generally, it is only limited to immediate necessary care.


Pharmacies and medication in Australia

Pharmacies are easy to find in Australia, especially in the larger cities. Many pharmacies are open late or even 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 usually covered by Medicare, even for permanent residents and citizens of Australia, making private insurance essential in case of emergencies.

Education and Schools in Australia

The standard of education in Australia is world renowned, and many expats migrate to Australia's sunny shores specifically for the country’s excellent education. The national government places a strong emphasis on diversity and is committed to excellence in research, teaching and student support. 

Expat parents moving to Australia with school-age children will have plenty of options, and can choose between public, private and international schools. Each has its respective pros and cons, and factors influencing decisions tend to revolve around curriculum and cost.


School system in Australia

In Australia, the school system can broadly be divided into government (public) and non-government (private) schools.

The mandatory age for full-time school attendance varies from state to state but is generally from age 5 or 6 to age 15 or 17. After this, students can choose to leave academic schooling to take up a professional apprenticeship, attend a vocational course or start working full time.

The performance of both public and private schools is monitored by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). This information can be viewed on the official My School website along with other detailed data such as the school's income and expenditures, its attendance records and details about the student body, including the percentage of English and non-English speakers.


Government schools in Australia

Roughly two-thirds of the local population and a sizeable portion of expats send their children to government schools in Australia.

Government 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. Government schooling is free for anyone on a permanent residency permit, though ‘voluntary contributions’ may still be expected. Additional expenses such as school uniforms and stationery are not funded by the state.

Children attend the public school that corresponds with their residential catchment zone, and expat parents looking to send their child to a stellar state school often move to that school's zone to guarantee placement.

Expats with children, especially those who may return home later, should carefully consider the curriculum offered by their government school of choice. While some offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, most do not. Parents should be sure that credits and certificates earned from an Australian school will be accepted at tertiary institutions in their home country.


Non-government schools in Australia

There are plenty of non-government schools in Australia and these institutions often have better infrastructure, a wider range of facilities, higher-paid teachers and an elevated standard of education. These schools are not state-financed and the tuition fees can be costly.

Private schools

In Australia, the term ‘private school’ is used to refer solely to private Catholic schools. While placing a high value on academics, these schools do teach from a religious point of view, but 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.

Independent schools

Non-Catholic schools run by non-government entities are known as independent schools. This includes 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 in other expat destinations, the country does have a selection of IB schools. The major cities also have independent schools that offer foreign curricula, including that of the US, the UK, Germany, France and others.

The fees for international schools can be astronomical, and popular schools often have long waiting lists. Students are often chosen based on academic performance, and an entrance exam may be required.

Parents sometimes opt to enrol their child at a local school until a spot in an international school opens up.


Special-needs education in Australia

Australia has an inclusive approach to special-needs education. The government encourages mainstream schools to keep special-needs students in regular classes, providing additional support to the student. That said, some special-needs students are placed in separate, smaller classes to afford them more individual attention.

Australia also has special schools for students who need more support than a mainstream school can offer.


Homeschooling in Australia

There is a large and active homeschooling community in Australia. Homeschooling is legal and regulated, though regulations and requirements vary across states. To homeschool, parents must register with the government as home educators. Each state’s homeschool registration authority inspects the child’s home study programme and monitors academic progress.

Expats looking for advice, support or resources can get involved with local homeschooling groups or larger country-wide homeschooling organisations.


Tutoring in Australia

Tutoring is a growing industry in Australia, with about a third of families opting to employ a tutor at some stage. Tutors are frequently used to prepare for major exams or to assist with particular subjects. Tutors may also be useful in helping expat children adjust to a new curriculum, brush up on English-speaking skills or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.

There are several large tutoring companies in Australia with good reputations. Some of the most prominent tutoring companies include LearnMate and The Tutoring Company.

Parents should ensure their tutors are accredited by local organisations such as the Australian Tutoring Association.

Transport and Driving in Australia

Getting around in Australia can be quite difficult, especially considering the vast distances between major cities.

National public transport networks are limited and journeys by train and intercity bus are not always the most efficient way to travel. But domestic flights in Australia are relatively cheap and by far the fastest way to travel between cities.

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

Public transport services in Australia are managed by state and territory governments. The Australian government’s website provides region-specific information regarding transport.

Trains

Australia’s rail network is not as well developed as the systems in parts of Europe and Asia, and there are no high-speed intercity rail services in the country. The historical lack of cooperation between state territories combined with the massive distances and a relatively small population has resulted in a slow and somewhat inefficient rail network.

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

Buses

The long-distance bus network in Australia is extensive and reaches some of the more isolated places, such as Canberra and Darwin, that only have bus services. Buses are efficient and some even feature WiFi and USB charging for mobile devices.

While bus travel in Australia is a cheap way to get around, some long journeys will still be cheaper by plane, so it's worth checking flight options before buying a bus ticket.


Domestic flights in Australia

As a result of the large distances between the major cities in Australia, flying remains a popular travel option in the country, and there are more than 100 commercial airports nationwide. The four domestic airlines are Qantas Domestic, Virgin Australia, Rex and Jetstar.

Travellers should research the cheapest airfares and keep an eye out for specials. 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 with which they can explore the country at their own pace. Australia's low population density and large size make for long journeys between cities, though.

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. Some states also have well-maintained toll roads. Expats travelling to rural parts of Australia, on the other hand, will find these roads are often poorly-maintained dirt roads.

Licensing regulations and road rules vary from state to state in Australia, and 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.

Shipping and Removals in Australia

Many reputable companies offer shipping and removal services to and from Australia, and expats relocating to the country can import their belongings duty-free, provided they’ve owned them for 12 months. Many of the country’s major cities are positioned on the coast, and most have ports that are efficient and well managed.

That said, shipping to a country as far removed as Australia can be expensive and can take a long time.


Shipping furniture to Australia

Furnished housing is less common in Australia, but it’s relatively easy and affordable to kit out unfurnished accommodation – much cheaper than shipping over goods and furniture from abroad, in any case.

Expats who do decide to ship their goods to Australia will have to jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops and spend quite a bit of money.


Shipping cars to Australia

A Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) is necessary to ship a vehicle into Australia and a customs duty will also have to be paid. If the owner of the vehicle is staying in the country for less than 12 months, they may be exempt from these requirements.


Cost of shipping to Australia

Shipping, both by sea and air, can be incredibly expensive. In many cases, expats’ employers foot the shipping bill, or at least provide a relocation allowance.

Shipping by sea is generally less expensive than by air, but it takes much longer. We recommend using a combination of both, shipping essential goods by air and other possessions by sea.

Costs are dependent on the volume of goods shipped or their weight, and the distance the cargo must travel. It’s a good idea to solicit at least three quotes from various service providers to get an overview of the going rates before deciding which to use.

Expats should be aware that shippers often tack on additional expenses for certain packing materials, handling and hoisting of excessively large items, and certain processing requirements.

We recommend buying insurance from a company other than the shipping company, to ensure reliable coverage on broken cargo.

Expats may also be asked to prove ownership of certain items by presenting receipts or insurance papers. For new electronic goods especially, it’s best to have these on hand.


Shipping pets to Australia

Shipping pets to Australia can be a complex process and requires careful planning and documentation. Pets must be microchipped and have certain vaccinations. Only cats, dogs and horses from selected countries can be brought into Australia, while rabbits and birds can only be brought into the country if they are from New Zealand. Pets from some countries may also be quarantined. Dog owners should note that some dog breeds, such as pit bull terriers, are considered dangerous and cannot be brought into Australia at all.

Frequently Asked Questions about Australia

Moving to a new country can be a daunting experience, and expats will have many queries and concerns regarding life in their future home. 

Below are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about moving to Australia.

What is the weather like in Australia?

The weather in Australia varies. In such a vast geographical area there are significant fluctuations in temperatures between different parts of the country. 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 hot in the summer months.

How safe is Australia?

The general level of safety in Australia is high and expats should merely exercise the same precautions as in any other developed country. The usual security measures, such as good home and car alarms, are recommended. Higher crime rates are usually more common in poorer areas of cities.

Do I need to get an Australian driving licence?

Australian driving licences are administered by each state/territory and regulations vary. 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 meantime. Note that 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 excellent. The healthcare system is a hybrid of both public and private service provision. Expats are entitled to subsidised public healthcare if their home countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements with Australia.

Which city in Australia is best for expats?

Sydney, Melbourne and Perth all have large expat communities and come recommended, but Australia has a wide range of options. 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.

Articles about Australia

Banking, Money and Taxes in Australia

Australia is a major regional financial hub with a sophisticated banking system, and expats will be able to seek out professional support to understand the finer points of financial management in the country. 


Money in Australia

The Australian Dollar (AUD) is the official currency in Australia and is divided into 100 cents.

  • Notes: AUD 5, 10, 20, 50, 100
  • Coins: 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents; AUD 1, 2 

In Australia, the currency is simply abbreviated as $, not to be confused with the USD. Both cash and credit/debit cards are readily accepted all over Australia, and ATMs are widespread.


Banking in Australia

Expats who want to open a bank account in Australia should investigate all available options because interest rates can vary between banks. 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 happy to assist expats. Opening a bank account in Australia is a fairly straightforward process as long as expats ensure they bring all the required documentation.


Taxes in Australia

Moving to Australia means that, at some point, expats will encounter the Australian Tax Office. Expats can be taxed as residents after being in Australia for 183 days of a tax year.

The country 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.

Tax can be a complex issue, and it is recommended that expats consult an advisor that has experience in handling the tax of foreigners 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 interview about his expat experience in Melbourne.

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Six years ago, Lara Davis left Cape Town, South Africa, for another vibrant coastal city in Australia. 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 from America 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 interview about her 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, eight 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 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 about 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 with 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 as an expat in rural Australia

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