How To Successfully Become an Expat in Australia

by Einat Mazafi

Australia isn’t all kangaroos, boomerangs, and rugby. It is actually a democracy of magnificent natural wonders, friendly people, boundless economic opportunities, optimal weather, and quality affordable education. For years, moving to Australia to start an international career has become a favorable option for those looking for greener pastures. Relocating overseas for career opportunities is both literally and figuratively a big step. There is a lot to consider and a lot to prepare, but let the experience of others guide you and you’re on the way. 

What To Consider Before Your Move To Australia

We often think of Australia as a small, faraway land. Though it may require a 14 hour flight (Los Angeles to Sydney), Australia is not as small as we imagine. The United States is over 5.9 million miles, making it the world’s third largest country. In comparison, Australia’s more than 4.7 million miles makes it number six on the list: larger than India, Mexico, Egypt, France, and Spain – combined! It may be comparable in geographic size, but the population of the land down under is only one-fifteenth that of the United States! That leaves a lot of space for walkabouts. 

Where To Move In Australia

Queensland beach. Photo by Victoria MIta

Queensland beach. Photo by Victoria MIta

The options are vast and the right decision is dependent on your preferences. Much like in America, some may love the hustle and bustle of New York City or Sydney, while others prefer the quiet life and surf of Hawaii or the Gold Coast.

Sydney. Australia’s largest and busiest city, Sydney is the financial hub with many job opportunities, but also crowds and congestion. Sydney also boasts a multitude of universities, offering world-class education. Like any metropolis, Sydney does have its quiet neighborhoods too; within convenient reach of Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD), there are beaches, national parks, and peaceful suburbs, each with its own distinct flavor.

Melbourne. Also a popular choice among expats, Melbourne is a city rich with creativity, culture, and history. Compared to the rest of Australia, Melbourne has colder winters and a less mild climate year round; for those considering the Australian sun as a chief motivator to move abroad, this may not be a favorite.

Melbourne cityscape. Photo by Victoria MIta

Melbourne cityscape. Photo by Victoria MIta

Perth. If you are drawn to the concept of working abroad in Australia because of its remoteness, Perth is the city for you. Summers (December through March) are very hot and dry, while winters are mild and wet. This climate makes Perth an ideal choice for those seeking a Mediterranean climate, in a beautiful and isolated locale.

Adelaide. Also boasting a Mediterranean-like climate, Adelaide is a small city with many great beaches nearby. It is smaller, quainter, and easier to get around (though, for some, that makes it more boring). If you are seeking a quiet life abroad, working in Adelaide is for you.

Most easterly point. Photo by Victoria Mita

Most easterly point. Photo by Victoria Mita

Rural & Remote areas. Of course, with a sparse population and so much outback, there are plenty of rural areas you can choose from for work in Australia. Beware though, living there may make it harder to find health care providers and job hunting more difficult. But it is a peaceful, beautiful life.

Working in Australia: What You Need to Know

Australian working conditions are considered some of the best in the world. The minimum wage is Australia is equivalent to $15.30 (compared to $7.25 federal minimum wage in the United States), but the cost of living is also comparatively higher. The average working week is 36 hours. A standard working day for a trade occupation is typically 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., while working hours in most offices are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with rest and meal breaks. The average retirement age for Australians is 57 years old. The current unemployment rate is 5.8 percent (in California, for example, it is 8.1 percent).

Where The Jobs Are & How to Find Them

Jobs in Australia are most readily available in the larger cities, such as Sydney or Melbourne. Rural areas may present more of a challenge; of course, those who work online or have their own company can probably live just about anywhere in Australia they want and be given the resources and infrastructure needed to conduct business.

As a job seeker, you can get some accurate information about specific positions in your industry, or find information on jobs in Australia that match your qualifications. If you wish to broaden your marketability, you can look into improving your skills and education through Seek Learning, which assists with career development and vocational training too.

Paying Taxes

The tax system is very different in Australia than what Americans are used to. Expect a large portion of your pay (30 to 40 percent) to be automatically deducted from your paycheck. In addition, 10 percent will be deducted to a pension fund. When you negotiate your salary, be sure to take these taxes and the higher cost of living into account.

While Australia does have some universal health care coverage, you will likely need additional private insurance to cover specialists, medications, and dental care. Medical insurance can cost several hundred dollars per month, but some companies do offer private medical insurance as a benefit.

Moving to Australia: The Logistics

Your situation will determine which visa is required for your job in Australia. Be sure to look at Australia’s government site for up-to-date information, but the options for visas to live and work in Australia include:

  • Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457)
  • Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189)
  • Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) visa (subclass 888)
  • Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)
  • Temporary Work (Long Stay Activity) visa (subclass 401)
  • Business Talent (Permanent) visa (subclass 132)

Your employer will also likely help you determine which is necessary. 

Housing While Working in Australia

Melbourne City.

Melbourne City. Photo by Victoria Mita

You can either rent or buy property in Australia, though non-residents must have special permission from the government to buy housing. The reason for this is that the Australian Government believes that investment in the housing sector should not be speculative in nature, but rather increase the supply of new homes. 

Depending on your work and family situation, you may want to start out renting before you invest; however, if you do decide to invest, you should keep in mind that despite Australian media coverage of “decade highs in housing affordability”, Australia was recently declared the third least affordable country in the world, right behind Belgium and Canada. 

What To Leave Behind

Some things should not be brought with you when you move to Australia. For example, do not bring food or alcohol (food is not allowed, alcohol may be heavily taxed). Do not bring genuine leather or unprocessed wood (you may be charged for the government to clean and disinfect them). There's also no need to bring your vehicle as Australians drive on the “wrong” side of the road. The option of importing left hand wheel cars is open but it makes the driving experience complicated. It may be better to buy a car locally and sell it later.

Moving to Australia: In Conclusion

At the conclusion of your move to Australia, you will find yourself in the land of Oz. Will you be happy there? Will you succeed? A lot of these questions depend on your level of preparation. Be sure to research all aspects of your relocation to Australia. The Internet offers great resources, access to advice from other people who have successfully made the move, and statistical information about locations, climates, educational opportunities, health care, and virtually everything you need to know about moving to Australia and working abroad. Prepare yourself and your family emotionally, financially, and logistically. 

Australia offers endless job opportunities. Whether you want to get away, start anew, find new opportunities, or build an exciting new home for your family – Australia can be the perfect solution!