Moving to Brisbane
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What to know if you're moving to Brisbane
Settling in Brisbane, you will be able to enjoy the beach life in Queensland, the “Sunshine State”. But a move to Brisbane requires more than just a surfboard and some swimwear: The InterNations GO! Guide on moving to Brisbane provides info on the city, visa options, housing, and more.
All about Australia
Relocating to Brisbane
- Brisbane is the capital of Queensland and has a metropolitan population of 2.3 million people.
- This city has a subtropical and humid climate, with warm winters and hot humid summers. Unfortunately, there is also a risk of severe weather events, such as cyclones or floods.
- The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website offers a visa finder that helps you determine the visa category you need.
- Brisbane’s five local governmental areas feature a variety of options to choose from for housing arrangements.
Natural Disaster Precaution
When relocating to Brisbane, you have the opportunity to settle down in a highly livable city that is often called one of Australia’s economic engines. Unfortunately, due to the city’s subtropical climate, Brisbane has often made headlines around the world for having frequent floods and other natural disasters.
Floods occur regularly throughout the summer season, from November through March, because the city is built on a floodplain. However, this should not deter anyone from moving to Brisbane. In case of an emergency, Brisbane’s City Council website has organized evacuation routes and public safety information available online.
Although natural disasters — like the severe flooding back in December 2010 and January 2011 — can curb the region’s economic growth, Queensland’s economy and infrastructure have proven resilient to the past struggles with Cyclones and flooding. Hence, Brisbane remains an attractive option for both expatriates and immigrants alike. Brisbane’s metropolitan area offers employment in such fields as finance and commerce, IT and bio-technology, ship-building and logistics, as well as the many amenities of living in Australia’s “Sunshine State”.
Like quite a few Australian metropolises, such as Sydney and Melbourne, the history of Brisbane — today a flourishing city — began with brutality and violence. The first European settlers moving to Brisbane were convicts by the British Empire, becoming inhabitants of a 19th-century penal colony founded near the shores of the River Brisbane and Moreton Bay. This region on the east cost of the continent, rather remote from Sydney back in the day, seemed to be an ideal location for one of the strictest prison settlements in the colonial era.
Moving to Brisbane, those deported from Great Britain squatted on land of the Jagera and Turrbul clans. Sadly, the Aboriginal populace was soon decimated by imported diseases and violent clashes with the colonists. So, when the penal settlement became a self-governing town in 1859, more people from the mother country came to Brisbane in search of “uninhabited” land. One and a half centuries later, Brisbane has turned into an enormous urbanized area.
Located in the southeastern corner of Queensland, about 100 km from the border to New South Wales, Greater Brisbane includes the City of Brisbane and the local government areas of Ipswich, Logan City, Redland City, and Moreton Bay. Together, they are home to over 2.3 million residents.
If you have a look at the entire “Southeast Queensland conurbation”, otherwise known as the 200-kilometer city, this urban sprawl spreads from the booming holiday resorts of the Sunshine Coast in the north to the Gold Coast in the south. South East Queensland, made up of 18 cities and towns, is often noted as one of the fastest-growing parts of Australia. More than 3.4 million people — over 60% of the state’s entire populace — are concentrated here. Today, Aboriginal Australians only make up 3.6% of Queensland’s population.
However, for the original settler population, moving to Brisbane from the British Isles, has long turned into a multicultural mix of various residents. Depending on the local government area surveyed in the 2011 census, between 16% and 24% of all Brisbanites were born overseas and six neighborhoods in the area had a greater foreign-born population than Australian-born. Up to 15% of new residents from abroad came from a non-Anglophone background.
The birthplace countries of Brisbane’s overseas residents include China, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Samoa, South Africa, the UK, and a variety of other nations, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. After moving to Brisbane, you’re likely to run into residents speaking Cantonese or Mandarin, Spanish or Tagalog, German or Dutch, Khmer or Lao. As an expat or migrant, you might be interested in the multicultural resource directory of all foreign communities represented in Queensland.
When preparing for your move to Brisbane, don’t forget to pack accordingly. The city has a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot humid summers. Throughout the winter months, maximum temperatures rarely ever drop below 20°C. In the summer, daily temperatures are typically above 30 °C. Hence, Brisbane is definitely a city for people who enjoy summer temperatures all year round.
If you remember to take your sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, you can enjoy the beaches of the “Miami of Australia”. Keep in mind that Brisbane is a risk area for cyclones. However, there is usually a fair amount of time for the population to be warned and at-risk areas to be evacuated. That being said, it is always good to know the emergency hotlines of your consulate and the local authorities, just in case.
Brisbane, Australia: Visa Options
The most typical choice of visa for expatriates sent to Brisbane on an intra-company transfer or taking up temporary employment with an Australian company is the Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (457). This kind of visa is usually valid for up to four years. A successful visa application requires a confirmed job offer from a company based in Australia.
Migrant Visa Categories
If you are planning to settle in Brisbane permanently, you can try for the Skilled Independent Visa (189). It gives you the right to stay in Australia for as long as you want, to live anywhere you like, and to take up any kind of work. To obtain such a visa, you usually have to achieve a certain minimum score in a points test. Points are distributed according to whether you have an occupation currently in demand, your professional experience, your age, your English language skills, and other factors.
In case that your occupation is not on the list that would qualify you for the Skilled Independent Visa, there is always the Skilled Nominated Visa (190) or the Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa (489) as a potential alternative. The government of a specific state or territory sponsors 190 visa applicants, mainly because their professional skills are needed in that particular area, for example in Queensland. Immigrants can obtain a permanent visa for Australia in this way.
A Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa, though, is only temporary at first. Moreover, it obliges you to live and work in a specific region for a certain minimum period. After that, you may be able to apply for a permanent visa if you want to stay.
Please note, though, that the Immigration Department introduced some major changes to the Skilled Migration program. As of 1 July 2012 onwards, people wishing to apply for such an occupation-based visa must not only pass the points test and prove their English language proficiency. They also have to enter their data into the SkillSelect database.
Potential immigrants may only apply for a migration visa if the Australian government explicitly invites them to do so. These invitations are issued on the basis of an annual quota system that includes the people with the highest scores in their field of employment.
Visa Options for Business People in Brisbane
There are also visa subclasses specifically tailored to the needs of business people that prefer to start as their own boss in Brisbane rather than work as an employee.
There are several visa categories for business owners who’d like to establish their own company, executives interested in managing an existing one, or investors who want to make a financial commitment to the Australian economy. It is the options of the Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) Visa (188) stream you should look into. However, all these options are provisional (i.e. temporary) visas. After a minimum of two years, you may apply to turn this into a permanent one.
In addition to these temporary business visas, there are also permanent visas catering to the needs of business people who’d like to settle in Brisbane. Please check out the Business Talent Permanent Visa (132). They apply to affluent business owners and investors, as well as entrepreneurs planning to found a start-up with venture capital from Australia.
Business people wanting to settle in Brisbane have to apply via the SkillSelect system, too.
Further Information on Your Visa for Australia
For additional details about any of these visas (e.g. exact requirements, supporting documents, visa fees), please contact your nearest Australian diplomatic mission or the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The DIAC website also offers you a visa finder that determines the visa category you or your family members need.
Once you have chosen the appropriate option, you will find in-depth information on the purpose of this visa, its validity period, your rights as a visa holder (e.g. access to government healthcare), conditions for eligibility, your obligations, and the application process. As soon as you have cut through the red tape, your future move to Brisbane is guaranteed.
Expat Housing in Brisbane
The Greater Brisbane Area
As previously mentioned in our article on moving to Brisbane, the Greater Brisbane Area consists of several municipalities: the City of Brisbane, the City of Ipswich, Logan City, the Moreton Bay Region, and Redland City. All in all, these five local government areas feature about 450 different suburbs. (In Australian English, “suburb” simply means “district” or “neighborhood”, no matter where it is located.)
If you also count the towns of the rather touristy Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, with their waterfront high-rises, resort facilities, casinos, and theme parks, there are even more residential areas to choose from. For this reason, it is difficult — or downright impossible — to recommend selected suburbs that are both popular among and affordable for all expats in the Brisbane metro area.
Choosing a Neighborhood in Brisbane
When it comes to finding a new home in Brisbane, you should consider your personal situation first.
- Where is your office or place of work?
- Do you have a spouse or partner who has also found a job in the Brisbane area?
- Do you feel comfortable with driving abroad, or do you rely on public transport?
- Do you need a kindergarten or school for your kids to attend, and are there any special education requirements to consider (e.g. extra classes for students with English as a second language, or for children with disabilities)?
Once you have gone through all these factors that will influence your housing choice, look on the Wikipedia page List of Brisbane Suburbs for a short overview of history and demographics of specific neighborhoods in Brisbane. For those expats who can afford a realtor, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland is the largest real estate association in the state. Choosing a realtor is probably the easiest and best stress free way to find accommodation in Brisbane. If you are concerned about finding safe neighborhoods, you can always check the crime statistics map of the Queensland Police Department for the areas you have selected.
Finding a Home in Brisbane
After finding which neighborhood(s) you would like to live in while you are in Brisbane, you can begin your housing search. If you’re currently in the city, for example on a business visit or a fact-finding trip, you can simply talk to a real-estate agent in person or browse the classifieds in the Brisbane Courier Mail and the Brisbane Times. From overseas, you can check out their online editions or have a look at the offers on the big Australian real estate websites, (e.g. realestate.com.au or domain.com.au) to see what you can expect in terms of pricing and housing standards.
As far as the general cost of living (which also includes accommodation) is concerned, Brisbane has fortunately become less expensive during the past years. In 2012, Mercer ranked it as the 24th costliest expatriate hotspot worldwide. Luckily, in the recent Mercer’s 2016 Cost of Living Survey, Brisbane is now ranked in 96th place.
Although the cost of living has seemingly declined, the Mercer Cost of Living survey is based on the USD. This means that the depreciation of the Australian dollar against the USD has caused Brisbane to fall down in the rankings. Hence, Brisbane may be more or less expensive depending on the currency used. While Brisbane may have fallen down in the rankings, it is still placed among the top 100 most expensive cities to live in.
Housing in Brisbane: Utilities and Water Supplies
When you have decided upon a future home in Brisbane and are now the lucky new tenant (or owner), there are still the utilities to take care of. The biggest utility providers for the Brisbane metro area are Queensland Urban Utilities (water), Energex (electricity), Origin Energy (gas), and Telstra or Optus for cell phone services, Internet, and pay TV.
Regarding your water consumption, you should also be aware that Brisbane suffered from a severe drought for several years. Ironically, it was the rainstorms and floods of 2010 and 2011 that replenished the local water supplies. Nonetheless, the city government still asks all Brisbanites to avoid consuming more than 150-200 liters of water a day. Your local council will provide you with tips on how to save water and thus protect the environment in Queensland.