Moving to Australia

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A comprehensive guide to moving to Australia

As Australia is a very popular expat country, chances are that you may also consider moving to Australia. Congratulations on this great choice! This guide briefs you on the most important aspects of preparing your move to Australia, such as popular expat destinations and visa requirements.

Relocating to Australia

  • Australia’s cities are consistently ranked in the top 30 cities for quality of life worldwide.
  • Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth are becoming more affordable destinations for expatriates paid in US dollars. However, for expats earning their salaries in AUD, the cost of living is increasing due to a rising inflation rate.
  • Where you decide to live in Australia may depend on the local weather. Since Australia is so expansive, it has a variety of climates to choose from.
  • All visa applicants must meet English proficiency, proper skill qualifications, health requirements, character requirements, and sign the Australian value statement.

The Dream Destination

Moving to Australia has been a dream for generations of people from Europe and Asia, who form a large portion of the nation’s foreign residents. Moreover, it has traditionally been the destination of choice for students and young professionals from all across the globe, who move to Australia for a couple of years on the Working Holiday visa.

The country’s natural beauty, beaches, and relaxed lifestyle are not the only factors pushing so many people relocate to Australia. Some come for business, and many more come for a new and better life. Whatever your motivation is for moving to Australia, you will be pleased to know that many of its major cities consistently rank in the top 30 for quality of life in internationally held surveys. Additionally, the country itself ranks seventh for best expat destinations in our own 2016 Expat Insider Survey.

Moreover, you will be even more pleased to hear that while these same metropolises once ranked in the top twenty when it came to living cost in comparable studies, this is no longer the case. In the 2015 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, all of Australia’s cities continued to drop from their position as some of the most expensive places to live on earth. To give you an example in the 2015 survey, Sydney fell from 26th to 31st, Melbourne fell from 33rd to 47th, and Perth’s standing also fell drastically from 37th to 48th place.

However, this change is primarily due to the depreciation of the Australian currency against the USD. Hence, for expats earning their salaries in AUD, this is irrelevant because the cost of living is actually increasing due to a rising inflation rate.

Where to Go

If you are moving to Australia on an expat assignment or already have a job offer in a specific city, please skip this section.

People moving to Australia face one important decision; where to go? While there are no traditional expat destinations, immigration to Australia tends to focus on the big cities, in particular the capitals of the six states and two mainland territories.

This makes sense for variety of reasons. First and foremost, given the size of the country, if you don’t move to Australia’s major cities, you might find yourself in the middle of nowhere. Furthermore, for those still hunting for a job, moving to Australia’s big cities seems like the better option anyway.


Recent expats and immigrants have often picked Perth as their new home. Even in 2016, Perth is one of the most isolated metropolitan areas in the world, but this Australian city is increasingly attracting new residents from overseas. This is probably due to its agreeable, temperate Mediterranean climate.

With the surrounding territory rich in resources like gold, oil and iron, Perth has a very prolific mining industry employing significant numbers of workers. This, in turn, leads to a high demand for skilled professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, etc.

Indeed, the shortage in the workforce has resulted in Perth being deemed a ‘city of regional hardship’, meaning it is easier for migrants to secure temporary visas and begin to work. Although these visas are easier to get, they are only available for low population growth areas. Hence, expats looking to receive this visa would need to live and work outside the metropolitan area of Perth.

In the past years, the Australian economy was flourishing. However, recently the Australian economy has been having issues. This is mostly because of its depreciating currency against the USD, ultimately resulting in its natural resources declining in value on the global trade market. These issues have impacted the mining industry dramatically, creating a slump after the once bustling mining boom. Despite the downfall of the mining industry, the Western Australian economy has remained stable. This is mostly because of its large service sector, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of the country’s GDP.

Below, we will provide further overviews of other popular expat destinations: Sydney and Brisbane.

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More Expat Destinations in Australia


Brisbane in Queensland has been popular with expats and international business for many years. In addition to a dynamic service economy, Brisbane is home to Australia TradeCoast, one of the country’s fastest growing economic development areas. More recently, Brisbane has become famous for its science and technology research centers. In an attempt to leave behind its “big country town” stigma, it has also fostered a vibrant arts and culture scene.

Some more leisure-minded expats might be lured to the city by its laidback atmosphere and subtropical climate; Brisbane is surrounded by a beautiful countryside and several magnificent beaches frequented by bathers and surfers alike. Aided by its relative proximity to the Great Barrier Reef off the Queensland coast, Brisbane is also a major tourist hotspot.


Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and Australia´s largest, most populous (and most densely populated) city. As the country’s financial and economic center, Sydney attracts many foreign banks and investors and has a large finance, insurance, and business services sector.

Very popular with expats from all over the world, it is also Australia’s most expensive city. In the Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2015, Sydney ranked as #31 out of more than 200 destinations. Finding nice and affordable accommodation can be challenging.

However, Sydney’s educational institutions and leisure activities may be worth the high expense. The city is home to Australia´s oldest university, an exciting nightlife, and is an important center for the arts. Its manifold opportunities for outdoor sports and recreation ensure that Sydney caters to all tastes.

Practical Issues

When it comes to choosing a city or area to live in, the Australian climate might play a considerable part in your decision. Australia can be divided into six climatic zones:

  • the hot humid zone in the northern coastal regions
  • a thin strip of warm humid climate on the eastern coast
  • a hot dry zone with warm winters in the northern inland areas
  • a hot dry zone with cooler winters in the southern inland areas and parts of the west coast
  • the temperate zone with warm summers and cool winters on the south coast
  • the cool temperate zone of Tasmania and small parts of New South Wales and Victoria with warm summers and cold winters

Another point worth considering is whether to make use of the services offered by one of the many professional migration agencies or consultancies. Migration agents in Australia need to be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority. It is therefore advisable to search for one via the MARA website.

Please continue to the next page to learn about the Visa Requirements for Australia.

Visa Requirements for Australia

Visa Requirements

A traditional immigration country, Australia offers a variety of visa types. While it would be impossible to deal with all of them here, we will provide a short overview of the three main categories relevant to expats and people planning to work in Australia.

To begin with, there is a list of basic requirements which all applicants, no matter the category, should meet. These conditions include:

  • English language proficiency: everyone whose native language is not English must achieve a certain score specified for their visa category and/or sign up for English classes in Australia before arrival.
  • Skills, qualifications and/or work experience relevant either to an occupation nominated on Australia’s Skilled Occupations List, or to the employer who sponsors you.
  • Health: all permanent visa applicants and some temporary visa applicants (depending on their profession) must meet certain health requirements. These will be specified in your visa application form. If you are asked to attend a health examination before coming to Australia, consult the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate for a list of government-approved doctors.
  • Character: visa applicants are assessed according to the character requirement and may have to provide a penal clearance certificate.
  • Australian Values Statement: by signing the Australian Values Statement, you signal that you are willing to accept the Australian way of life and obey the local laws.

Visas for People with Job Offers

If you already have a job offer in Australia, you will apply for an Employer Sponsored Migration visa your prospective employer will apply for this visa on your behalf. Types in this category include temporary and permanent visas.

The most common temporary visa is the Temporary Work (skilled) visa; employers use it to sponsor an overseas skilled worker for a maximum period of four years. This visa is tied to the employer who acts as a sponsor and to your general occupation, but not to one particular position within the company.

One type of permanent visa in this category is the Employer Nominated Scheme Visa. This type of visa allows employers to sponsor qualified expats to fill vacancies within their company that cannot be filled by Australian applicants.

Visas without a Job Offer

The SkillSelect program is for people who want to move to Australia in order to seek employment. They do not need a sponsor, but they have to prove that they have the skills and qualifications necessary to work in an occupation on the Australian Skilled Occupations List.

If you possess skills that are currently in demand on the Australian labor market, you will also need to pass a test by scoring a minimum number of points. The points are awarded based on the level of English language skills, specific work experience, or other skills that your partner might bring to the country.

It used to be the case that a good point score automatically qualified you to apply for a permanent immigrant visa on a national or regional level. However, this is no longer the case. For information on the new application scheme, please read the paragraph below carefully.

The New Skilled Migration Program

If you are interested in a Skilled Migration Visa, you should know that the Australian government has changed its General Skilled Migration program to the Skill Select scheme mentioned above. As of 1 July 2012, every potential immigrant must follow these steps:

  • They need to have their professional qualifications recognized.
  • They must pass an English test.
  • Their data has to be entered into the SkillSelect immigration database.

According to immigration quota for various occupations, the Australian government then invites the candidates with the highest number of points to lodge a visa application. If you are not selected immediately, your entry will remain in the database for two years, and you may receive an invitation at a later point. The SkillSelect database is also accessible to state governments and individual employers, who can support you as a potential visa candidate as well.

Working Holidays

The young and adventurous might want to consider the popular Working Holiday (or Work and Holiday) visa. This is for people aged between 18 and 30 who would like to support themselves while traveling in Australia by taking on temporary jobs. The visa is valid for a maximum period of twelve months, but you cannot work for the same employer for more than six months. If your primary reason for going to Australia is to take up employment, this might not be the best option.

More detailed information on living and working in Australia, plus a very useful “visa finder” that helps you find the right type of visa for your purposes, can be found on the website of the Australian Government Department for Immigration and Citizenship.

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
02 July 2019

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