Making the move to Australia may seem like a daunting mission. By the end of this article, you’ll see it only takes 5 steps to get there.
When it comes to popular ex-pat countries in the 21st century, Australia surely takes the crown.
There’s little hiding from the fact that the land down under has been attracting the masses for many years.
Half of Ireland is there now, leaving rural areas such as my own a ghost-town largely bereft of a generation.
The economic crash in the late 00’s sent the 20-something population scurrying for the airports. Whether they were fresh out of uni or veterans in construction trades, they all faced a long spell without work and decided to jump off what many perceived to be a sinking ship.
You’ll be hard pushed to find a construction site or hospital that doesn’t have some Irish staff as the beautiful weather and great pay makes a return home seem almost too tough to bear.
Meanwhile in Ireland, children are getting drunk just to keep the bars open, while grandparents do handbrake turns in the town square at 3am just so the people have something to give out about.
It’s not only Irish though. People from all over the world are flocking in their droves towards this modern-day land of opportunity.
It really isn’t hard to see why anybody would want to go to Australia. Once there, many find it hard to leave. As the good news travels home, the attraction and allure grows and those restless with life in their own country start to feel the pull. It’s a big jump, no doubt about it. The thought of it puts many off as they fear taking the leap.
How can they do it? It’s so far? What do they do? How will they get set up? Full of worry, many people let their anxiety defeat them at the first hurdle.
They just need to slow down and take it one step at a time. Getting a house and job and making friends will all happen in good time. First things first though…
How do you make the move to Australia?
Getting from A to B is going to be a little different depending on each person’s situation. We’ll look at that in greater detail in step 4. However, the same basic steps must be walked by everybody in the end. Once you’ve decided that you’re going to move to Australia, you need to follow these steps to make it official.
Step 1 – Talk to the people who matter
Before you jump in and start investing money or rashly sell your house, you may want to talk to a few people first. The move to Australia is more than a holiday – it could well be the start of a new life. That means the end of the current one.
Perhaps a tough conversation or two lies ahead. It could spell the end of a relationship. Perhaps there will be a teary farewell to your aging parents or a heart-wrenching goodbye to your kids.
In all cases, while permission isn’t something you may need, having the blessings and best wishes from all is important if you want to move forward to a happy new life in Australia.
Your boss and work colleagues will need a heads-up in advance. Though, you can wait til a reasonable period out before handing in notice. It’s best to wait until you have a flight booked before going this far. Don’t quit your job and break your kid’s heart until you know you’re definitely going!
Also, if you have any medical condition, getting the all clear from the doc is wise. Ensuring you have all the required medicals could be pretty crucial so don’t forget that!
Once everyone at home has given the green light, you can find out if Australia wants you…
Step 2 – Get a visa
As things stand, if you are between 18 and 30 (inclusive), then you may well be eligible to apply for a one-year working holiday visa. You’re 31 tomorrow? Quick, get online before it’s too late!
The Australian government regularly updates the visa regulations for visitors and are considering extending the eligible age for working holiday visas to 35. A big factor on deciding whether this will go ahead is whether or not there is reciprocity from other nations (ahem, listen up Donald!)
Australia are keen to strengthen the ties with other countries but it remains to be seen whether the age limit will be increased yet.
If you are older, don’t despair. Check out the available options for skilled migrants. Your years of experience may score you a longer-term visa straight out of the gates!
At present, citizens of almost 40 countries can move to Australia on one of two working holiday visas.
In a nutshell:
Class 417 is for many EU nations including Ireland and the UK and also is the one that citizens of Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan and Korea should apply for.
Class 462 is the correct visa for people from the USA and China as well as some South American & Middle Eastern nations.
(For full details on which visa your country is eligible for, check out the Australian Immigration page)
The Australian immigration website has the current cost of each working holiday visa listed as A$ 440.
To activate the visa, you must enter Australia within 1 year of the visa being granted. Once activated, it is valid for 12 months from the date of arrival.
The Australian immigration process 75% of applications in 14 days and 90% in 34 days.
To speed up the process, you want to have all your ducks in a row before making the application.
If your passport is going to expire soon, get a shiny new one first. If you’re out on bail for abducting the neighbor’s donkey, perhaps you should wait until the court has their say before you try leaving the country.
Once you’ve dotted your t’s and crossed your i’s, hop online and apply for your visa.
Personally, I’d recommend you apply to Visa First. They’re quick and easy, plus as part of the service they’ll organize your bank account, tax file number and mobile sim card before you arrive in Australia! When I was going, I filled out the application and made the payment online within 5 minutes. I got a call back and two days later I had my visa!
Step 3 – Pick a city
With the visa sorted, the doors are open. Now you have the luxury of choice. Where should you go? Australia is a huge country with a landmass close to 7.7 million km² – bigger than most of Europe combined (not including the behemoth that is Russia).
However, a great deal of this is deserted, arid land, which may not be of great attraction to anyone who doesn’t work in the mining industry or enjoy sleeping in a bush.
Smaller locations such as Adelaide and the administrative capital Canberra are often overlooked for the bigger cities but each of these offer a city life relatively free of the mass waves of tourists and hectic atmosphere prevalent in the larger metropolises.
In the Northern Territory lies Darwin and to the north-eastern corner of the island is Cairns. Both these small cities are home to approximately 140,000 residents and are massively popular with tourists and the young backpacker crowd that arrive for seasonal work on fruit farms. They enjoy a tropical climate, with Darwin feeling more akin to South East Asia. Indeed the city is heavily influenced by Asian and Aboriginal culture and is quite unlike any other in Australia.
Both these cities are great spots to visit and stay for a season of picking bananas or partying in the sun, enjoying Asian-influenced night markets and going wild on water-sports and adventure activities. However, as a long-term option, they may not be the most conducive to anyone looking to settle in for the long-haul.
Typically, unless a pre-arranged job dictates the point of arrival, many people on a working holiday visa will find themselves choosing between one of these four cities:
The world’s most isolated city
Out on the West coast, there is a growing ex-pat population in Perth as it is the jump-off point for many jobs in the mines. The word is out that the lesser-traveled west coast is a beautiful scenic drive full of gems that many visitors to Oz miss out on. Perth has been booming for a few years now and shows little sign of slowing down.
I arrived in January and found the heat incredible, even after Thailand. I recall running from one shaded area to the next as the summer morning heat sapped the energy from me on our job hunt. If you want regular BBQ’s and days in the pool, you’ll get plenty of sunny days here!
Western Australia has a lot of opportunity of regional work on farms in nearby towns, just be sure to arrive at the right time. Unfortunately, due to the isolation, Perth does tend to have slightly steeper prices. Many people come here and eventually move out to smaller mining towns.
Construction is ultimately the best job to have to maintain a comfortable lifestyle here and many young men and women make a fortune in the mining industry as electricians or truck drivers.
The gateway city with a big-country town feel
The east coast of Australia is a well-trodden path as many travelers work their way down from Cairns, hitting up all the famous stops along the way including the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Island and Fraser Island among others.
The main city on the east coast is Brisbane. Despite being a city of 2 million people, it retains a large country town atmosphere and is often called the friendliest city in Australia. Even Saturday nights have a somewhat low-key vibe around parts of the city centre and there is a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere in most places.
Often described as a gateway city, Brisbane is the perfect base to visit the aforementioned places as well as being a short drive from other wonderful weekend jaunts including Noosa, Byron Bay and the famous Surfers Paradise.
With a sub-tropical climate, summers are sticky and the thunderstorms epic. Grab a beer from the esky and watch the show unfold as the sky lights up and clouds tumble over each other in the blink of an eye.
Most livable city in the world?
If the annual polls and gushing articles across the web are to go by, Melbourne and Vancouver are the best two cities in the world to live in. They regular duel it out for the #1 spot each year.
I haven’t been to Vancouver (yet!) but everything I’ve heard gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Considering I’ve only been to Melbourne for a few days, I can’t claim to be an expert but that short break did give me a peep at probably the most charming city in Australia.
Perhaps it was the romantic notion of the tram travel or the bustling café culture and buzz around the Yarra river. There is an undeniable allure about this cosmopolitan city that continues to ensnare newcomers for a long time. With approximately 4 million residents, it is the 2nd largest city in the country. Even the notorious weather – you should expect four seasons in one day – isn’t enough for Melbourne to lose its aura.
Slick metropolis with bustling beaches
Sydney was my home for the better part of 18 months and having lived in several suburbs in and around the city as well as working a ridiculous number of jobs, I got to know the place pretty well. With a population of roughly 5 million and a large CBD area, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the biggest city in Oz. No doubt, the rat race is very much alive here, which may not be to everyone’s taste.
But, escaping from the tower blocks, you can find the beautiful waterfront area near the Opera house. Areas around the Harbour bridge such as The Rocks are home to fantastic nightlife and social dining and entertainment that is largely unrivaled throughout the country.
Throw in a embarrassing wealth of great beaches and you have a wonderful place to live that can cater to both those who seek a fast-paced jet-set lifestyle and a chilled-out surfer vibe.
Picking your destination city can be a tough choice. Research wisely.
Obviously, you can move around once you’re there. However, it will save a lot of hassle and money if you do your homework and find the city that best suits your needs. Decide what it is that is most important when you move to Australia. Find the city that enables you to have your dream lifestyle.
Step 4 – Get rid of EVERYTHING!
Okay, so you’ve got the visa and narrowed it down to your favorite city. You’re going to Australia and there’s no stopping you!
But what about your life here? Do you just press a pause button?
If you’re only intending on going away for the year or less, perhaps that’s not a bad decision.
However, if this is just the beginning of a life abroad, then you will have some loose ends to tie up.
Everyone’s situation will be different in regards to owning property and possessions, their responsibilities to people and pets and how long they intend to stay in Australia.
Hopefully, a good friend or family member will take care of your beloved pooch or moggy. If all else fails, you may have to take your furry friend to a shelter to be re-homed.
In the case that this move to Australia is for life or at least several years, then it may be best to sell up.
The car, the house, the lawnmower, even those fancy china teacups that you never use. If it isn’t coming in your suitcase, then it’s something you can sell. The move to Australia and your new life can be financed by the remnants of the old.
Of course, some of this will be easier said than done. Houses and cars aren’t always easy to shift. Once again, loyal friends and family may come to your rescue and take on the responsibility of negotiating any deals in your absence.
Another option is to keep your house and rent it out while you’re away. This way, the mortgage continues to get paid and should you decide to return home, there is a home waiting for you. (You may have to kick somebody out first though!)
Downsizing your old life is probably the most arduous and stressful of making the move.
It’s best to tackle it logically by brainstorming separate lists of everything that needs to be sold, shipped, rented or trashed.
Start with the big items (e.g. putting the house on the market) and work through to the less significant items at the end (e.g. cancelling your subscription of Stamp Collectors Monthly)
After making your lists, determine an estimated time of how long it will take to get everything wrapped up. Add a month to your estimate and you’ll have a target date.
Look at that target date and get online. It’s time…
Step 5 – Book a flight
Ideally, you should book a flight well in advance. You’re going to move to Australia so you be sure the flight is going to cost a few microwave dinners.
Incidentally, microwave dinners may be your staple diet should you sell your house too quick. You could find yourself living on your friend’s sofa for the final month! (But that’s better than underestimating and leaving home stressed and worried about everything you didn’t wrap up!)
There are countless views on the subject of the best time to book flights and umpteen theories of the perfect window of opportunity. It’s definitely not a science and playing the waiting game too long could perhaps save you 50 bucks or maybe cost you hundreds.
For a moment, I’ll assume you’re travelling from the US, Canada or Europe and want to fly six months from today.
Obviously, there will be quite a differential in prices dependent on your departure and arrival points, but generally speaking, you will do very well to find a flight much under £500 (As of time of writing that is US$621, CAD$829, €578)
People departing from Asia or South America should be able to find cheaper options and those lucky devils in New Zealand will surely nab a flight for little more than the cost of a wild night out.
For those further afield, anything under the figures above is a reasonable deal. Many other routes such as New York to Sydney, London to Melbourne or Toronto to Perth will cost considerably more – expect 50% or higher for such long distances.
The journey is a long one so it’s important to prepare well for it. Consider the flight duration carefully as well as the times for departure and arrival and the number of layovers.
Many people like to gun it and get a direct flight or one with a short layover. They simply want to just get through it as soon as possible.
I’m of another school of thought in believing it’s less taxing on your body to break the journey up.
Rather than enduring a marathon 24 hours, consider looking for flight options of doing two legs of 10-12 hours each with a few days rest in between. That way, you arrive much fresher and invigorated. Plus you also get a nice city break in a great city like Singapore, Dubai or Hong Kong.
Once the flight is booked, it’s really official. You’re going to move to Australia.
Your new life awaits you now and those months before your flight (yes, months, you booked well in advance, right?!) should be used to tie up all those loose ends and prepare yourself for the new life down under.
In the next post in this series, we’ll look at what you need to do to prepare yourself for the move to Australia.