Emigrating to Australia from the UK
Australia — the place many British people have dreamed of moving to, thanks to its reputation for laid-back lifestyles and sunny beaches. In fact, thousands of UK citizens have upped sticks and moved to the other side of the world in search of the life promised by the lure of Australia.
The trend continues today – although it’s not quite as easy in the 21st century to get a visa as it was then, as you’ll discover when you pop along to your local Australian High Commission to pick up the necessary paperwork to get started.
Acquiring permanent residency
By far the majority of people emigrating to Australia do so via a General Skilled Migration visa. This is based on a system that gives you points based on your age, education, work experience, English proficiency, state sponsorship and whether or not you already have a relative living in the country.
Every state has different occupational requirements so you may find you’ll get more points from Queensland, for example, than Victoria. Once you achieve permanent residency, you can look into becoming an Australian citizen.
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Expect to wait around a year for your application to be processed. Yes, it really does take that long for medical and police record checks, not to mention references, the gathering of bank statements, etc.
Some people find the whole process so frustrating and confusing that they pay a migration agent to do it for them. The agent guides them through the process, checks that their paperwork is in order and submits the application. This option could cost you thousands of pounds.
Other visa options
If you’re tired of the UK weather or just want to go to Australia first on a temporary visa basis, then take a look at our guide to Australian visas to see which one best suits your situation.
Adjusting to your new life in Australia
Medicare, which you should sign up for on arrival, is Australia’s national healthcare insurance scheme. It’s funded by the government for hospital and GP care. Every Australian employee pays 1.5% of their income towards Medicare.
Prescriptions, along with dental, physiotherapy and opticians’ bills, have to be paid for. Around 53% of Australians have insurance policies to cover their health bills.
That’s why we’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in Australia. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.
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Australian summers are scorching and winters are mild, even in coastal resorts. It tends to rain more on the east coast (think Queensland), whereas wind is more of a problem during winter on the west coast.
You can expect winters (June-August) of around 15°C in Melbourne and Sydney, while summers (December-February) can reach anywhere from 30°C into the upper 40s, especially in Perth, one of the warmest cities in Australia.
Make sure to stock on the sun cream when you get to Oz, you’ll be needing it year round.
Finance and spending
Australian citizens calculate their tax bill for 1 July every year. Individual states set their own stamp duty, payroll tax and increase in petrol while property tax is paid to the local council. A personal tax number (like an NI number) is needed for work and opening a bank account.
Those with experience in accounting will find it easier than some other occupations to find jobs in Australia.
Before your move to Australian, you’ll probably need to convert some of your savings into Australian dollars. However, it’s best to avoid using high street banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with TransferWise, an online international money transfer service which uses the real exchange rate, and charges low fees. How much could you save? Well, its service can be up to 8x cheaper than high street banks.
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Australia consists of large cities with an abundance of suburbs, and then there’s the outback, which is massive. Australian cities are very impressive and multicultural, with Melbourne voted again in 2015 as the best place in the world in which to live by the respected Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU); other Australian cities in the top 10 were Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide.
Australia is home to one of the oldest surviving cultural traditions in the world, that of the Aboriginals which comprise of several hundred different languages and groups. The relationship at the moment isn’t the best, especially after the actions of the government agencies and missions in the first half of the 20th century.
While less than 3% of the Australian population is of Aboriginal descent, over a third of the population claimed UK ancestry in the last Census. Other European influence can be seen all over the continent, especially in cities like Melbourne, which has been named the largest ‘Greek city’ outside of Greece.
As it is geographically close to Southeast Asia, you can find plenty of different types of Asian foods, art, and influences in Australia, particularly in the nation’s focus on foreign language education.
Eating out is a popular pastime in Australia, particularly in the foodie city of Melbourne, but is expensive compared to the UK. A three-course meal for two in a nice restaurant in any Australian city will come to around £45. Go to a café and you’ll pay £2.50 for a cappuccino.
Catering at home isn’t necessarily going to save you a lot of money either, considering one bottle of wine will cost on average £8. Basic grocery costs can be a bit stiff—a litre of milk will cost you 80p, a loaf of bread, £1.50 and a kilogram of chicken, £7.
If you’re planning to go to the cinema prepare to pay twice as much as you would in the UK with a ticket costing £12. A tennis court is £10 to rent and a monthly gym membership will set you back £45.
Education is compulsory in Australia from age 6 to 16, and enrolment for state education is based on a scheme similar to that of the UK catchment principle. A year’s preschool is voluntary, as is kindergarten (nursery).
State schools in Australia
Australian school systems are very similar to that of the UK, more so than Canada, so your children will not have much difficulty adjusting.
There are rarely school uniforms, but parents are often asked to pay for their children’s stationery, as well as to make a ‘voluntary’ contributions towards the school’s expenses.
Private schools in Australia
Fee-paying schools, denominational and boarding schools (for rural catchment areas) make up alternative schooling. There are also many international schools in major cities where your children can learn amongst other expat children.
There are different rates depending on Australian residency (the cheaper option), so keep that in mind when looking at different private schools.
Australia has several high ranking, world-class universities from which to choose, in particular, the University of Melbourne, Australian National University in Canberra, and the University of Sydney are among the top 60 world universities.
Like in the UK, drivers take the left-hand side of the road. Migrants who’ve applied for permanent residency can use their existing driving licence for a period of three months before applying for the Australian version. Motors in Australia are expensive to buy – typically £20,000 for a Volkswagen Golf – while petrol is £1.30 a litre.
Rail links are good between all cities in Australia (with the exception of Tasmania where no railway exists). Domestic flights are also frequent and a popular means of travelling between cities due to Australia’s vastness.
Bus transport within cities and the suburbs is good with a one-way ticket costing around £3; most of the larger cities have excellent underground systems. Melbourne, in particular, is known for its efficient public transport including rail, tram and bus networks.
Home ownership in Australia is similar to that in Britain pre-recession (around 70%). It tends to be of good quality, large (the average home has at least three bedrooms) and with its own swimming pool in the back garden.
If you’re looking for cheaper housing then it’s best to live in the suburbs where property costs £3,000 per square metre. The same property in the city would cost an additional £1,500 per square metre.
If you prefer to rent, you can expect to pay around £1,600 a month for a three-bedroom house in the suburbs. Add £500 to this if you choose to live in a city.