Interested in moving to Australia? Here’s what you need to know:
Australia: Quick Facts
- The 6th largest country in the world (7.6 million sq. km), with a population of around 26.1 million.
- 91% of Australia is covered by vegetation. Home to unique flora and fauna that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
- More than 200 different dialects and languages spoken, 45 of which are indigenous.
- Has the highest percentage of migrant settlers (vs. other developed nations), with well over 25% of the population born in another country. Case in point: Melbourne is home to the largest Greek population (outside of Greece).
- Equality among sexes is important in Australia – in 1902, it became the second nation in the world (after New Zealand) to give women the vote.
- Australia is known for its wine industry – over a billion bottles are exported annually.
- Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
- Spoken languages: primarily English.
- Major races: European, Aboriginal, Asian, and Greek.
- Major religions: 61% Christian, 22% non-religious, 2.5% Buddhist, and 2.2% Muslim.
- Largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, and Perth.
Why move to Australia
- There are plenty of job opportunities (across many industries) with competitive pay. Australia has a low unemployment rate (relative to most developed nations). The economy is strong and exhibits solid growth. Very few live below the poverty line.
- The Australian government is actively developing the country’s desert areas – due to lack of skilled workers in the country, special visas are offered for those in the trades.
- Australia is chock full of unique indigenous wildlife. Native species include: kangaroo, koala, platypus, kookaburra, Tasmanian devil, and the dingo. The country is a heaven for lovers of nature (and the outdoors).
- Australians enjoy a laid back lifestyle, and there is a low rate of anxiety-related illnesses and suicide.
- The work culture is great – employers offer competitive benefits/incentives, and Australians enjoy more time off than most (4 weeks vacation and 13 days sick leave are standard). Women are entitled to one year of maternity leave.
- Australia has one of the highest minimum wages in the world (an entry level unskilled job pays approximately $18 per hour).
- Australia is a melting pot of cultures and full of diversity. The country has a long history of immigration, and is truly a multicultural society.
- Cities such as Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide are desirable retirement destinations. Australian cities consistently rank at the top of world live-ability rankings.
- The beaches of Australia are some the best in the world.
- Australia has a great climate, with many parts of the country experiencing tropical weather (southwestern Australia boasts a Mediterranean climate).
- Australians are very sociable people and enjoy their time hanging out with friends at bars, cafes, bistros, restaurants, and clubs. People generally lead healthy lifestyles, taking advantage of fresh produce and clean air.
- Some of the best wines have come out of Australia, and wine is relatively cheap.
- Healthcare is solid, with standard medical treatment provided free to all residents.
Reasons not to move to Australia
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- Perhaps there is such a thing as too much sunshine – the sun’s rays are especially strong in Australia, and it’s very important to stay covered up. Australia has higher rates of melanoma and other skin related cancers.
- While Australia is home to some beautiful native animals, it is also home to a many dangerous (often venomous) animals – such as poisonous spiders and snakes. This can be a turn-off for those used to a cozy life in the city.
- Australians are known to love their alcohol and are often viewed by foreigners as excessive drinkers. Most of the violent attacks that take place in Australia are alcohol related.
- With its great lifestyle and high life expectancy, Australia has an aging population which puts pressures on the government and welfare system.
- For most, Australia is on the “other end of the world” – flying just about anywhere from Australia is time-consuming (and often expensive).
- Australia has strict immigration laws, and it is difficult to obtain an initial visa.
- There have been numerous reported cases of racism in the country, especially towards Aboriginal people and Asian immigrants.
- Australia has been criticized for its lack of compassion for refugees – there have been a number of incidents where refugees died on overcrowded boats off the coasts of Australia.
- While Australia is enormous and parts of the deserts are being developed, much of the island continent is uninhabitable. It takes a long time to drive between cities and towns.
- Despite being surrounded by sea, Australia often has water shortages and strict restrictions are put on water usage (especially inland).
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
Australia (like New Zealand) is not an easy country to get into for new immigrants. All visa applications need to be carried out from the applicant’s place of residence, and visa approval is known to take a long time. Depending on the purpose of the visit, there are a range of visas to be had, including: Tourist visas, Working Holiday visas (WHV), Business visas and Student visas. It is important to determine exactly which visa you need beforehand.
Visas for visitors
There are a number different subcategories that fall under the Visitor’s visa and applicants need to take care when applying, stating their true intention to visit.
- 405 Investor Retirement: for self-funded retiree applicants wishing to visit Australia. In order to be eligible, visa applicants must be over the age of 55, have no dependents, meet the strict income requirements and able to invest in Australia. This is a temporary visa and a way to bridge the gap while looking to settle permanently.
- 416 Special Program: for those wishing to take part in cultural exchange with the purpose of improving international relations. Applicants are allowed to apply for this visa if they have been officially invited to take part in a special cultural exchange program.
- 417 Working Holiday Visa: for youth wishing to temporarily work and live in Australia (for up to a year). Applicants must be between 18-31 years old, have no dependent children and have a passport from the list of eligible countries.
- 488 Superyacht crew: allows for a stay of up to one year while working on a super-yacht.
- 600 Visitor: for temporarily stay in Australia (for tourism or temporary business purposes). For a certain number of countries, this visa can be applied for online and for those not on the list it can be done in paper format through an embassy. Note: be sure to apply for a visa in advance before busy tourist periods such as Christmas to allow time for processing.
- 602 Medical Treatment visa: for those wishing to undergo medical treatment or have medical consultations in Australia. To be eligible for this visa, applicants must show proof of a current illness through medical records. Alternatively, applicants must prove that that they are traveling to Australia to donate an organ or to visit a person who needs medical support.
Bridging visa: Applicants already in Australia who want to bridge the gap from one visa to another must apply for a temporary bridging visa until the new substantive visa is processed.
- 124 Distinguished Talent: for applicants talented in a recognized area (e.g. in sport, arts, high-skilled profession, or academic research). If an applicant is internationally recognized, they may be eligible for this permanent living visa.
- 132 Permanent Business Talent: for those wishing to set up a new business, or further develop an existing one. Financial requirements for this visa are strict: applicants must prove $1.5 million AUD in personal assets, and a yearly turnover of at least $3 million AUD.
- 186 Employer Nomination Scheme: for skilled migrant workers. In order to be considered, applicants must have been nominated by an official Australian employer. Applicants must be under the age of 50 and meet the English language requirements.
- 189 Skilled Independent Visa: granted on a points system, this visa is for skilled migrants who have not been sponsored by an official Australian employer. To be considered, applicants must have an occupation listed on the Australian government skills shortage list, have suitable qualifications, be under the age of 50, and be competent in the English language.
- 400 Temporary Short Stay Visa: allows for a stay of up to 3 months to undertake short-term specialized work, or to participate in cultural activities by invitation of a relevant Australian club or organization. Applicants must have a special talent or skill that can help Australian businesses.
- 403 Temporary Working Visa (International Relations): for those temporarily visiting to represent a foreign government, teach a language in an Australian state school, or carry out domestic work for diplomats and government officials.
- 476 Skilled, Recognized Graduate Visa: allows recent graduates of engineering of certain educational institutions to travel to Australia for up to 18 months work experience. To be eligible for this, applicants can be no older than 31 years and must have graduated from a recognized engineering institution.
- 888 Business Innovation and Investment Visa: This permanent residence visa allows business entrepreneurs to either continue to manage or own a business in Australia with the interest of investing in the country. To be eligible for this visa applicants must already hold the subclass visa 188 (Provisional Business and Investment Visa).
- 890 Business Owner Visa: This visa allows the business owner to continue doing business in Australia and to travel in and out of the country without restriction for up to 5 years. To be eligible, applicants must already hold a temporary Business visa and have already managed their own business in Australia for a minimum of 2 years.
- 891 Investment Visa: allows businesspeople and investors to to travel freely in and out of the country for a period of 5 years. To be eligible for this, applicants must already hold a subclass 161 visa (Provisional Investment Visa) and have invested at least $1,500,000 AUD in the last 4 years.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
- When immigrants decide to make the move towards becoming an Australian citizen, they are making a commitment to the country and its beliefs. Australian citizens are expected to uphold the law, defend Australia in times of war (if needed), serve as a member of a jury (if necessary), pay taxes, and vote in provincial and federal elections.
- As an Australian citizen, a person is entitled to vote, work for the state, gain entry into Parliament, hold an Australian passport, receive help from Australian officials when abroad, and register any child born abroad as an Australian citizen (by descent).
- To be eligible for Australian citizenship, applicants must have held a permanent residence visa for at least 5 years and have satisfied all the residential requirements. All applicants need to prove good character and good health. All applicants must prove knowledge of good written and spoken English through interviews and written examinations.
Starting a Business in Australia
- Note: while many expats view the Australians as idle (compared to Europeans or Americans), Australians actually have a good strong work ethic. While their approach to work is more laid back, they value professionalism and efficiency, and are know to have an entrepreneurial spirit.
- Doing business with an Australian is relatively easy – if prospective entrepreneurs comply with the rules, they very rarely face problems as Australians are known to be honest and accepting people.
- It is arguably easier to enter Australia for business purposes than for any other reason, as the Australian government actively encourages business immigration.
- Once a person has been approved for a business visa, the visa holder is entitled to the same rights as an Australian and therefore there are no additional steps to take when setting up a business. Setting up a business in Australia is relatively easy and straightforward. Applicants must follow a number of steps to ensure the business is legally recognized as an entity:
- Apply for ABN or GST: all business owners need to be registered with the local tax office. To be able to so, applicants must have a business bank account and a residential address.
- Register a business in your name: This can conveniently be done online through ASIC.
- Register for a trademark: while this is not a compulsory, an application with a trademark will be taken more seriously as it shows the applicant’s genuine interest in protecting his/her own company. This can be done either online or by post at IP Australia.
- Register for payroll tax: if a company plans on employing others it must register for payroll tax. Although a company registers for payroll tax, it does not necessarily mean they will have to pay it. Only those companies that exceed the thresholds will be liable for tax. Note: each state has different laws and policies.
- Obtain a business license: prospective business owners can look online and type in their business details on the ABLIS (Australian business license information service) website to see what license or permit is applicable to their business.
Links & Resources
- Immigration and Visas – official government overview of visas
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