Your Guide for Moving to Australia
Australia has always been a country for making a new start, and that’s just as true today as it’s always been. Whether you’re travelling to further your career, to relocate your family to a new life, or as someone with no ties who wants to try something new, Australia will have something for you.
Moving abroad is never a simple process, though, and this is especially true when you’re moving to the other side of the world. There are many things you’ll need to remember to avoid your dream becoming a nightmare.
Planning Your Destination
So you’ve decided to move to Australia. Well and good, but it’s a very big and very diverse country. There are vast distances between the major cities, and vast differences in climate and ecosystem between, say, Hobart and Darwin. And are you hoping to live in a cosmopolitan city like Sydney or Melbourne, or a picturesque town in the outback?
There are various ways of learning about the region of Australia that’s taken your fancy, or where you’ve been offered a job. The ideal way of researching a new area is to go there, perhaps on a holiday, but this isn’t as easy with Australia as if you’re moving, for instance, to France or Spain.
There are ways of researching from the UK. You shouldn’t rely on Australian TV programmes, of course, although they aren’t entirely useless. Try and find websites about the area, above all accounts by people who’ve moved there. You may find an expat forum online, where people will be happy both to point out the advantages and to warn you about any mistakes they made.
If you’re considering a job offer, of course, it’s going to be a matter of taking or leaving it. For a move on spec, on the other hand, even if you find your original destination unsuitable, you may learn enough to realise there’s somewhere else in Australia that would be ideal for you.
Permission to Enter Australia
Unless you have Australian nationality, you can’t just show your passport at the airport and walk into Australia. Immigration is carefully controlled and, while being a UK citizen is certainly not a disadvantage, it doesn’t give you preferential treatment either. You’ll still need to apply for a visa.
There are dozens of different types of visas to enter Australia, and you’d be well advised to study the list on the government’s website well in advance of making a decision to find out which applies to you, and what the requirements are.
If you’ve been offered a job by an Australian company, or one with a strong presence there, they should support you through the process, but it’s not completely guaranteed that you’ll be successful. If, on the other hand, you’re a young person wanting to go and find short-term work (a gap year, for instance) you have a fair chance of success, as long as you’re considered a suitable person. Australia loves young backpackers, after all.
Whatever kind of visa you need, make sure you find out exactly what the requirements are and whether you’re likely to meet them before making too many commitments.
What to Take and What to Leave
How much you take with you to Australia depends very much on your circumstances and your reason for moving. A single young person trying their luck out there will probably want to travel light, but even if you’re moving out as a family, you won’t necessarily want to take all your worldly possessions.
Transport of heavy items is expensive, and it could be worthwhile to investigate whether it would be cheaper to replace items when you get to Australia. This is especially true of electrical appliances such as TVs, fridges etc. The Australian power supply uses 250V (50Hz), so your UK appliances would need an adaptor anyway.
Australia doesn’t impose unreasonable customs restrictions on what you can import, but those it does have in place are stringently policed. In particular, importing organic material may be disallowed or require a permit, so check up well in advance if you’re in doubt.
Remember also that, as Johnny Depp recently discovered, rules for importing pets are strictly enforced. Most common pets can be imported, but you’ll need to apply for a permit well in advance and carefully follow rules. There may be a period of quarantine, although the UK isn’t generally considered high risk.
Choosing Your Removal Company
If you’re moving with more than a backpack, choosing the right removal company is even more important than usual when you’re moving to the other side of the world. It’s vital not only to pick a company with a good reputation, but also to make sure its website specifies experience in moving to Australia.
Specific things to check for include whether they offer comprehensive insurance for a removal to Australia, and what help they give you with customs documentation.
Since road transport between the UK and Australia is obviously out of the question, you have a choice between sea and air freight. Your removal company should be able to advise you on your best option, but broadly it’s best to go for sea freight for bulk items, and the quicker but more expensive air freight for any specific items you can’t do without for long.
Packing for Your Move
Most good removal companies offer a professional packing service, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of this to get your possessions safely to Australia and through customs. Whatever you choose, though, each box should be numbered with a list of contents to make it easier to get through customs. Also, keep together any items that might be queried on the grounds of organic content. Make sure everything is clean, and in particular free from insect infestation.
Sea freight takes time to reach Australia, so be sure you know when to expect your possessions and plan to be without them for that long.
Checklist for Moving to Australia
Even if you’re just moving to the next town, there’s a long list of things to remember, from redirecting your mail to finding a new GP. If you’re moving to Australia, though, there are some more specific matters to remember. Here are a few of the most important:
- You’ll need an Australian bank account. Find out whether your bank operates in Australia — if so, you can arrange to transfer your account, but otherwise you can research Australian banks before you leave.
- You’ll have to register either for Medicare or for a private health scheme. Make sure you take all your health records, and also take a supply of any essential medication. You may not be able to get a new prescription straight away.
- Cancel your UK accounts for phone and utilities from the date you leave. You can research Australian companies before you leave and arrange for accounts to be set up.
- If you have children of school age, make sure you arrange schools for them before you leave. Take all their school records with you.
Moving abroad can be a huge culture shock. Australia has the big advantage of being an exotic country that’s familiar through both media exposure and shared heritage, but it would be a mistake to think there’s nothing to learn.
As before, using expat forums can give you valuable tips about what to expect, but the best approach is to be very open to new experiences when you get there and dive into your new life. In general, Australians are very hospitable, and if you make an effort to fit in you’re likely to make new friends who’ll help you adjust.
Unless your employer is arranging accommodation, it’s advisable to rent a home at first. That way, you’ll be able to look around and decide the best location for your work and interests before committing yourself to buying.