Moving to Australia – The Ultimate Guide (2021 Update)

Sydney, Australia - Moving Guide Cover

When you think of Australia, undoubtedly you will have sun, barbecues and the beach on your mind. Although these are definitely a few of the things that would tempt you to up sticks and move to Australia, this amazing place does have a lot more to offer, as well as a few things that may even make the move less tempting… Read on to find everything you need to know about moving to Australia from the UK including topics such as Visas, Jobs, Pros and Cons, Shipping to Australia and much more.

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Australia Travel Update (October 2021)

Since March 2020, Australia has had some of the strictest border controls in place in the world, to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. But recent reports suggest that Australia is set to reopen its international borders to vaccinated citizens and their relatives from November 2021.

Currently, the number of travellers allowed into Australia is limited, and new arrivals are required to be quarantined in a hotel for 14 days. Under new rules, for Australian citizens and permanent residents that are fully vaccinated, the need for an expensive quarantine period in a hotel will be replaced with a 7-day quarantine at home.

This is based on vaccination rates being 80% for people over 16, which was hit nationally in Australia on 6th October. But it will also be determined by the vaccination rate in individual states. Discussions are still ongoing for non-Australian citizens, and there is also opposition from some states in Australia, so watch this space for updates.

Can I Move to Australia?

With vaccination levels on the rise in the UK and Australia, if your plan is to move to Australia then please be assured that Australian Visa applications are still being processed. Some of the Visa options can take up to 6-8 months of preparation before the application can be lodged, and others have 12 months expiry, so beginning the process now could be preferential to waiting.

Australia is becoming much more strict in terms of its stance on immigration. It is likely, however, that it will still have a large number of immigrants allowed to enter the country after COVID restrictions are lifted, to help fill gaps in employment for skilled workers and to help the economy.

Types of Visa for Australia

There are quite a few options for Australian Visas, depending on your specific needs and situation. Your starting point for information should be the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs as they have a list of the Visa options available as well as a Visa Finder that should help you explore the options.

For shorter-term visits, there are various visitor Visas such as a work & holiday visa, transit visitor or Electronic Travel Authority as well as student and training Visas. But we will concentrate here on the longer-term immigration options such as family and partner or working and skilled Visas.

For details as to how to apply for a Visa to Australia, take a look at the Department of Home Affairs or UK Australian High Commission websites. The application process and costs differ based on the type of Visa required.

Australian Family and Partner Visas

If you are an Australian citizen, permanent resident or Visa holder moving to Australia, you can apply for your partner or family to join you in your move. For Visa holders, you will need to check the details of the Visa that you hold and whether it allows subsequent entrants and whether you have previously declared the members of your family. Even if your Visa does not allow other entrants, your partner or family would need to apply for a Visa based on their own circumstances and intentions.

To look at your options for your partner or family to join you in moving to Australia, the Australian Home Affairs website has a simple survey to help you find the most suitable option for you.

If you are returning to Australia with children that have been born overseas, you will need to apply for an Australian passport for them. The application would be for Australian citizenship by descent but if this is not possible they will need to apply for their own Visa, again based on their own intentions.

Australian Working and Skilled Visas

As with most countries with a healthy interest in immigration, Australia offers Visas to certain skilled workers to help with specific employment sectors. The Australian Skilled Occupation List shows all eligible skilled occupations, that individuals who are qualified to work or train in may be able to apply for a Visa. These range from Accommodation and Hospitality Manager to Zoologist and plenty of other choices in between.

There are numerous “subclasses” of Visa that you will need to trawl through as well to match your circumstance and skill level, with some temporary or requiring sponsorship from an employer.

Occupations on the list are also broken down into further classifications, based on whether they are on the “Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL)”, the “Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), the “Regional Occupation List (ROL)” or the “Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) List”.

For some Visa programs you may also be required to take a skills assessment or points test, with your points not only based on your employment experience and skills but also English language skills.

Working in Australia

As explained above, there are certain occupations that the Australian government will allow working Visas to non-Australian citizens. This is a very long list, and there are many different stipulations and state variations, so for more details we’ll give you the link to The Australian Skilled Occupation List again.

According to the latest reports for 2021, the below shows the top jobs in demand in Australia, with a comparison salary (in GBP) for the UK;

RankJobAU Salary                   (£ equivalent)UK Salary
1Registered Nurses£39,000£33,000
2Secondary School Teachers£39,000£30,000
3Software Programmers£45,000£40,000
4Electricians£44,000£33,000
5Construction Managers£70,000£67,500
6Carpenters and Joiners£40,000£28,000
7Metal Fitters and Machinists£26,000£33,150
8Plumbers£40,000£32,000
9Motor Mechanics£46,500£30,000
10University Lecturers£54,000£40,000

So, for many of the jobs in demand for expats in Australia, the salary you might expect is higher than in the UK with recent growth industries such as construction and education being good examples of this.

The Australian Government has a Labour Market Information Portal and this has individual sections based on the types of jobs available on a national and local basis. Each “dashboard” has details on unemployment rates as well as a section on online job advertisements by occupation. 

So, if you are planning on moving to Australia to work this would be a good starting place to see if your particular skill set is in demand in the state that you are planning to relocate to.

The below are examples taken from the dashboard for the state of Victoria;

The Best Places to Live in Australia

As well as looking at the parts of Australia that would suit your personal skillset or employment experience, there are other things to take into consideration. The UK is around 3% of the size of Australia, but with three times the number of people living here. So, basically, there is a lot of choice about where you’d like to live.

Which part of Australia is the best fit for you is subjective and based on your own needs. Below we give details of the most populated cities in Australia and what makes them attractive (or not) for immigrants.

Sydney – New South Wales

Just over 20% of the population of Australia live in Sydney, and with Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach it is a hot tourist destination. Sydney is known for its outdoor lifestyle, with great beaches and a clean environment. Being a popular area for immigration it is very cosmopolitan with a diverse culture, but laid back atmosphere. The weather is favourable, with the sea breeze making it a very comfortable temperature on the coasts. With an accessibility to jobs, Sydney is a choice destination for expats.

As with most major cities, however, Sydney is not the cheapest place in Australia to live, although according to livingcost.org the cost of living in Sydney is still less than living in London, with a higher average salary.

Melbourne – Victoria

If you want to upset someone from Melbourne, call it Australia’s second city! It does have slightly less than 20% of the population, but the people that live in Melbourne are highly competitive with their Sydney neighbours.

In the past, Melbourne has been voted the world’s most liveable city in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability ranking, and on more than one occasion. As with Sydney, Melbourne is a cosmopolitan city and it is known for its nightlife and “coffee culture”. It’s Australia’s sporty city, with the Australian Football League being a big part of its culture, as well as holding the Australian Grand Prix and the Melbourne Cup horse race.

If you would ask an Australian their opinion on the weather in Melbourne they would tell you that it was a joke. The cooler weather of the winter months seem to last a lot longer compared to some of the other key destinations, and it is said that Spring and Autumn often only exist on paper. Once the summer hits, it can hit hard with heat waves and bush fires, so it sometimes could seem that there is no comfortable middle ground.

Brisbane – Queensland

If it’s hot weather you are looking for, Brisbane is the second hottest state capital in Australia (behind Darwin). It has a humid subtropical climate, which gives it short, warm winters and long, hot (although wet) summers. Queensland is known as the “Sunshine State” and for good reason.

Australia’s 3rd largest city by population is generally thought of as having a much quieter lifestyle compared to Sydney and Melbourne. But career opportunities in Brisbane are on the rise, bringing with it a much more diverse and outgoing culture, and it actively supports the Skilled Working Visa program.

Brisbane is a vibrant city with a big local music scene, if that’s your thing (if so, we would suggest heading to The Zoo or The Brightside!) and the South Bank has museums, galleries and the performing arts centre. 

What Brisbane doesn’t have though, are any beaches as it is situated inland. But it does have the man-made lagoon known as Street Beach, where you can enjoy the sunshine. Or you can take the hour-long trip to the Gold Coast.

Perth – Western Australia

Being the capital city of Western Australia, which is Australia’s largest state, what Perth has got is plenty of  R O O M. This gives it a relaxed pace of life and helps with the warm, friendly atmosphere. Perth has the most hours of sunshine than any other Australian capital city, so if you’re looking for long, hot summer days, it is the place for you.

Perth also has beautiful beaches to enjoy the warm weather, and being on the west coast means you get some spectacular sunsets as well. For the rest of your leisure time, Perth is fighting with Melbourne for the title of Australia’s Coffee Capital and is thought to have the most affordable quality fresh food available compared to other state capitals. 

For those working hours, the Perth government has really worked on the transport infrastructure meaning more public transport being available, as well as roomy freeways and highways resulting in a better commuting experience.

Although some job sectors are growing, Perth does have a limited employment market compared with the East Coast capitals, so bear this in mind before settling on moving there. There can be a sense of isolation as well, and due to the long distances to other major cities and landmarks, it can work out expensive to see the sites of Australia.

Adelaide – South Australia

In The EIU’s Global Liveability Ranking for 2021, the highest-ranked Australian city is the capital of South Australia, Adelaide. The other good news is that it is one of the most affordable of the state capitals, with rent costs on average around 49% lower than Sydney.

The self-styled “20-minute city” has a small-town feel, and it is said that you could easily hit the coast or the city centre in 20 minutes from anywhere. The climate has a Mediterranean feel, although there can be some extremely hot days, especially in the summer, during Christmas.

Adelaide also has some of Australia’s best schools, universities and colleges as well as some top culinary and hospitality schools. It is also the home of a large proportion of Australia’s defence industries, and research institutes.

However, in comparison to other state capitals, Adelaide does have higher unemployment and, on average, lower wages. This can make it difficult to find a first employment position for an expat.

What Are Schools Like in Australia?

Education in Australia

School education in Australia is compulsory between certain ages, depending on the state or territory, and ranges from five or six to fifteen to seventeen years old. The schools and other education centres are very similar to UK schools in respect of average class size and university qualified teachers, who specialise in subject areas. There are programs for high achievers as well as for students who require specialist support. The school term and holiday times are also similar to the UK (although the 6 weeks holiday is during the UK winter, being the Australian summer).

Although the majority of pre-university students in Australia go to publicly funded schools, around one third attend private schools. This is much higher than in the UK, where less than 10% of students attend fee-paying schools. The cost for a fee-paying education in Australia is also on average less than in the UK, and the most expensive Australian private school costs around AU$35,000 per year, which is less than the £35,000 a year for the top UK fee-paying schools.

According to the Times Higher Education rankings, the University of Melbourne is the best university in Australia. It is also ranked number 33 in the top 50 overall in the world. This is followed by the Australian National University, in Canberra, and the University of Queensland in joint 54th place.

Australia has the third-highest number of international students in the world behind the UK and the US and seeing as it has a much lower population than both, this shows that it is a popular place for international students to study. You can apply for a Student Visa if you have enrolled in a course of study in Australia, and you may also be entitled to take family members with you.

Healthcare in Australia

Doctor's surgery

When moving to Australia, or anywhere else for that matter, one consideration would need to be healthcare. In the UK we have the publicly funded NHS to look after us, in Australia their version of this is called Medicare. All Australian citizens and permanent residents have access to Medicare, and it is funded by the Medicare levy, which for most people is a 2% tax on their income.

Unlike the NHS, however, not all medical costs are covered by Medicare. For example, unless you are in Queensland or Tasmania, medicare does not cover you for the cost of an ambulance to get you to the hospital. It also does not cover dental care. For this reason, the majority of the population of Australia have some form of private medical insurance in place.

The cost of private health cover in Australia varies greatly depending on the type of cover you take up, and what state you live in. But another benefit is that, if you have an appropriate level of medical cover in place, you may be able to have a tax rebate from the Australian government every year. 

The Australian government has also implemented the Lifetime Health Cover to encourage Australians to take out private healthcare policies. This could mean an increase of 2% of your insurance premium every year that you do not take out private hospital cover, for all years after your 30th birthday. This is to avoid people only taking out private cover later in life. There are, however, some exemptions to this rule, so before deciding whether or not you take out private cover we suggest you check this out ASAP.

Australian Government

The Australian government is based in the capital, Canberra and is also known as the Commonwealth government. It is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy and shares a head of state with the UK, The Queen.

The head of government in Australia is the Prime Minister, this is the leader of the political party in government. The maximum term between elections is three years, although the Prime Minister can request an earlier election. Each member of the House of Representatives represents 1 of 151 electorates, which are areas of Australia all with approximately a population of 100,000 people.

On a ballot paper, you must mark your candidates in order of preference. So number 1 for your first choice, 2 for the next and so on. If a candidate in an electorate does not have an absolute majority, with more than 50% of the total number of votes, then a second count is done based on the lowest supported candidate being removed and their votes distributed to the second preferred candidate on the paper. This is then repeated again if needed.

Scott Morrison, who is currently the Prime Minister in Australia, is the leader of the Liberal Party of Australia. They are in a coalition government with the National Party of Australia. The opposition is the Australian Labor Party, with other seats taken up by the Australian Greens, Centre Alliance, Kattler’s Australian Party and the United Australia Party.

One major difference in the voting process between Australia and the UK is that, in Australia, voting is mandatory. If you don’t vote in an election, you will be sent a letter asking for the reason why and potentially face a fine!

What Is It Like to Drive in Australia?

You are only able to drive in Australia with a UK licence for up to 3 months, after this, you will need to get yourself a local Australian driving licence. Depending on the state of Australia that you are driving in, you may also need to carry an International Driving Permit with you.

As with the UK, but unlike the vast majority of other countries, in Australia, they drive on the left-hand side of the road. Drink driving penalties can be harsh, and random breath testing is commonplace. The legal limit is 0.05% of blood alcohol concentration (compared to 0.08% in the UK other than Scotland, which is also 0.05%)

Speed limits are comparable to the UK, generally 30mph in urban areas but a lower speed limit around schools and other areas at certain times. It’s illegal to use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving.

There are a few differences to UK driving laws to bear in mind. For example, in New South Wales you could be fined AD$325 for splashing someone with mud as you drive by (quite right too!) and, legally, you must lock your car door if you are more than 3 metres away from it or risk a fine.

Something to bear in mind as well, for parts of Australia you will need to look out for the wildlife. In the UK, a pheasant vs car incident will mostly always end in your favour, but you can’t say the same for a kangaroo or emu car incident in Australia! 

Can I Ship My Car to Australia?

There are regulations that vehicles must comply with to import into Australia, and you will also need to apply for a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) from the Australian Department of Infrastructure and Transport. The VIA can take 4-6 weeks to be processed and returned so please bear this in mind when organising your moving dates.

You will also have a quarantine inspection on arrival in Australia, so need to make sure your car is fully cleaned inside and out. Depending on the age, and other vehicle specifications, you may need to pay import duties and taxes, this can be as much as 33% of the value of the vehicle if it is deemed applicable for Luxury Car Tax.

For the shipping of your car, you need look no further than our sister company, Autoshippers. They have been exporting vehicles worldwide for over 20 years, for both private and commercial customers. There is a lot of information on the website, specifically for Australia take a look at their Australia Destination Page, Australia Car Import Guide and for more general questions go to the Car Shipping FAQ page.

For a car shipping quotation, you can visit the website or call the sales team on 0800 389 0874 / +44 117 982 8123 and they will be happy to assist with a free, no-obligation quotation.

Moving to Australia with Pets

Australia is very strict in regards to the animals that you are allowed to import as pets. Currently, you can only import dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and some types of birds. No insects, reptiles, or fish I’m afraid.

It is recommended that you begin preparations for moving your pet around two to three months before you plan on actually moving. This is because you need to arrange an import permit and other paperwork. On arrival in Australia, your pet will also need to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days, and this will be extended if there are any biosecurity risks found, such as a tick. They will also need to be microchipped and will undergo a Rabies test.

Something important that you need to be aware of is that your pet will only be permitted to fly directly into Melbourne, they cannot tranship internally in Australia. They will not be permitted to fly in the cabin with you either.

The cost for a minimum of 10 days quarantine is AU$2000. This can increase if any additional care or quarantine is required. On top of this, you have airline transport fees, which vary, as well as vet’s fees and import permit fees. All in all, it could cost you upwards of GB£3,000.

The Australian Government website has a very in-depth Cats and Dogs shipping FAQ page which should have most of the answers that you would need.

The Cost of Living in Australia

As we’ve shown in the above Working in Australia section, some employment types take home a higher salary than their counterparts in the UK. But does this equate to more disposable income once your bills have been paid? Let’s break it down into sections and see how the cost of living in Australia compares to the UK, using London and Sydney to compare (we know that Canberra is the capital, but for these purposes, the comparison is better with Sydney)

Cost of Living in Australia - Moving to Australia

Housing

Whether you are planning on renting or buying, the cost is lower for both in Sydney. You could save between 15% – 24% on rent in Sydney compared to the UK with a one-bedroom apartment at GB£1,450 in Sydney compared to GB£3,150 in London. To buy your own place in the City centre you are looking at a saving of around 30%. Other large cities in Australia will also give you more space for your money as well.

Utilities

For your basic utility bills, such as electricity, heating etc again Sydney would offer you a saving. This time you could expect to pay half as much per month in Sydney (GB£95.00) compared with London (GB£350.00) But your tech bills, such as mobile phone tariff and internet costs are cheaper in the UK.

Food Bills

If you are planning on eating in, then London is cheaper for the majority of your grocery shopping compared to Sydney. There would seem to be many reasons for this, being an import-based market, the higher wages to pay the shop assistants or simply, as I’ve seen it put, that Australians have just got used to paying more, and they can afford it!

For eating out, London is marginally more expensive for a three-course meal on average, but if McDonald’s is your thing then Sydney is slightly more expensive than its UK counterpart.

Transport and Travel

An import cost to look at is your petrol prices. In Australia you are more likely to use your car for longer distances, depending on the area you are living in of course. Petrol prices are around 65% higher in London compared to Sydney, with GB£1.30 per litre vs GB£0.79 per litre. Public transport is also more expensive in London, with a taxi costing around a 3rd more in London too.

Leisure activities

We’ve already found out that eating out in Sydney is comparatively less expensive than in London, but what about other ways to spend your free time? If you like musicals, the cost of a show in Sydney will cost you around AU$190 (GB£102) for a stalls ticket to Moulin Rouge, with the same seats costing around GB£174 for the same show in London.

If sport is your thing, a season ticket for Sydney FC will cost you around AU$295 (GB£160) for the cheap seats. At Tottenham Hotspur, the least you will pay is GB£807 for an adult season ticket. Even the Sydney Swans AFL season tickets will only set you back around AU$245 (GB£130) for an adult.

One sporting obsession we do share with Australia is cricket. To watch an international game in Sydney you could expect to pay as little as AU$10.00 (GB£5.40) with the cheapest tickets at Lord’s in London start at GB£25.00

The other difference is that in Sydney you have the close option of the beach, and with the warmer climate potentially more of your leisure time can be spent outside soaking up the sun for free.

Australian Lifestyle and Culture

It’s safe to say that Australians love to spend time outdoors, and why wouldn’t you? The warmer climate, the beaches and the beautiful landscape are just shouting out to be enjoyed. This helps to ensure the laid-back, easy-going attitude that Australians are known for, along with a belief in equal opportunities.

Australia has a diverse culture, formed from many years of immigration. But it also has a connection with its indigenous past, it has been inhabited for around 65,000 years and there are roughly 650,000 indigenous people in Australia.

One thing Australians do take seriously is their sport. The Australian Football League (Australian Rules Football), the National Rugby League (NRL) and cricket are all avidly followed and well supported.

There are two words that sum up the Australian attitude, “No worries”.

Taxes and Finances in Australia

Image of a golden piggy bank - Finances in Australia

We’ve looked at the cost of living and salaries in Australia compared with the UK, as well as the cost of private healthcare. But would you expect a higher percentage of your potentially higher salary in taxes in Australia?

Both tax systems operate with progressive rates of tax, as well as potential adjustments. But these progressions and adjustments vary between Australia and The UK so a direct comparison is difficult.

Looking at a like-for-like comparison, based on an annual salary of GB£40,000 (approx AU$74,000) the total tax due for both countries is almost the same. Income tax is generally lower in the UK, with the medical contribution taxes higher in Australia. 

In both Australia and The UK, there is a capital gains tax, at differing levels, but Australia does not have an inheritance tax where the UK does.

If you are planning to retire to Australia, as long as you have accumulated enough credit to qualify for a UK state pension, you can claim your pension once you have reached pensionable age. It’s also possible to transfer a private pension, with a minimum of £20,000, if you are over 55 and can find a scheme in Australia that allows it.

Australia has a non-contributory state pension that is financed by general tax revenues rather than separately in the UK. To be eligible for this you must be 66 or over (depending on when you were born) be an Australian resident who has lived in Australia for at least 10 years and meet certain income and asset tests. If your income or assets are above certain limits you may receive a lower pension amount or nothing at all.

The Pros and Cons of Moving to Australia

We’ve gone through a lot of detail in regards to certain aspects of relocating and living in Australia in comparison to the UK. But if you’re still on the fence about moving to Australia, below is a more succinct list of pros and cons to help you make your decision;

Pros

  • The Weather – Compared to the UK the climate in Australia is much warmer, with long summer days with average temperatures around 29° C.
  • The Beaches – With the warmer weather, there are lots of beaches to enjoy. With the majority of the population living on the coast they are usually very accessible as well.
  • Laid back and Friendly People – The warm climate helps, but the people of Australia are known to have a laid back attitude and the diverse culture aids the friendly and accepting atmosphere.
  • Top Class Education System – High standards for schooling aided by the government focus on education, and for the expat university student there are many good options for higher education. You also won’t be alone, as Australia has the third highest number of international students in the world.
  • Higher Average Wage – For some key employment sectors, you would enjoy a higher average wage, and the minimum wage rate is also higher than it is in the UK.

Cons

  • Isolation – Due to the size of Australia in comparison with the number of population, there can be a sense of isolation as it is often difficult to visit other parts of the country.
  • Internal Flights Are Expensive – If you do want to tour a little, then it is difficult to navigate by road due to the sheer distance involved. This matched with the cost of internal flights mean that internal Australian tourism can be expensive.
  • High Cost of Groceries – We’ve shown in this article that, despite other areas of the cost of living being lower in Australia, you would generally pay more for your groceries in comparison to the UK.
  • Critters – Although some of the wildlife in Australia such as the Koala or Kangaroo would be something that we’d like to see, there are other less desirable wildlife. For example, six of the ten most deadly snakes can be found in Australia, along with crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, spiders and other things that can give a nasty sting or bite.

Shipping Your Furniture and Household Goods to Australia

So you can see that there would appear to be many benefits to moving to Australia, and each of the main cities have their own key selling points. Now you have decided to move, found a job, applied for your Visa and started the process of shipping your pet or your car, it’s time to arrange the moving of your furniture and other household goods to Australia.

For this part of the process, you should get in contact with us at 1st Move International sooner rather than later. We can discuss your best options, give you pricing based on the amount of belongings that you want to take, and help you through the shipping and Customs requirements.

With our unique Shrink-Fast palletising technique we can use commercial consolidators with regular departures, meaning that your personal effects are securely shipped from door-to-door minimizing delays and damages. For more information take a look at our previous article “How Does Palletising Your Personal Belongings Make Moving Overseas Safer?”

You can either give us a call on 0800 389 0784 / +44 117 982 8123, or you can visit our Australian Personal Effects Shipping page and request a quotation based on your specific needs.

That about sums up our definitive guide for moving to Australia! We hope you’ve found this guide useful and if you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to get in contact. Safe travels!