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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Sydney

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Relocating to Sydney

  • Sydney’s location, temperate climate, and culturally diverse community are some of the reasons why the city is growing in popularity among expats.
  • If you are planning to apply for a visa to Australia, make sure you have all the necessary visa requirements. You will find these on the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship website.
  • The Australian government uses the SkillSelect system to manage its skilled migration program and address regional shortages.

If you are thinking about moving to Sydney from overseas, you are not alone: immigrants account for a considerable percentage of the city’s annual population growth. According to the 2011 census, 40% of all residents in the Sydney Metropolitan Area were born abroad. Most foreign nationals moving to Sydney, and indeed Australia in general, are British, Chinese, or Indian.

On the one hand, these statistics show obvious advantages for newly arrived expatriates: not only will an existing network of visa-holding overseas residents be able to support you, but there’s a whole infrastructure to deal with migrants and expats moving to Sydney.

On the other hand, this huge influx of often highly skilled and well-to-do migrants did not only help make Sydney into one of the richest cities in the world, it also sent up property and rental prices, as well as the general cost of living, to a level higher than that of any other Australian city.

Why Move to Sydney?

The capital of New South Wales (NSW) has a lot to offer. People from all over the world move to Sydney for various reasons: its temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters; its proximity to some amazingly beautiful countryside and national treasures like the Great Barrier Reef; its outdoorsy lifestyle; its prominent cultural and academic position within Australia; and, of course, the job market.

It’s not only individuals that take advantage of moving to Sydney, but many national and international companies appreciate it too. Between 2007 and 2012, more than 2,000 businesses were added to the city, many of them the headquarters of international banks, offering plenty of jobs for those willing to travel to Sydney for them. Comfortably surviving the worldwide recession, Sydney is Australia’s greatest city economy, generating more than 108 billion AUD per annum. Ultimately, this amounts to more than seven percent of Australia’s total economy.

Throughout the world economic crisis, Sydney’s economy has proven to remain resilient and stable. Although the city has a strong economy, there is always room for improvement; the government of Sydney recently comprised a ten-year economic development strategy to ensure a prosperous future. This development strategy encompasses a new vision for the city to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable economy. Hence, Australia is slowly loosening its ties with the once booming mining industry in order to place more emphasis on its growing service and technology sectors.

A Bright Future

Sydney not only attracts business and working expats, but also aspiring scholars. With five universities, many laboratories, and a conservatorium of music, the city attracts a growing number of international students.

Culturally speaking, Sydney also profits from its immigrant and expat population; the presence of so many cultural and ethnic groups makes for an interesting and varied cultural life. This helps to enhance and support a prominent art scene.

Visa Requirements

It is important that you are aware of your visa options and the application process before your move to Sydney. The best way to make sure you apply for the correct visa and meet all requirements is to familiarize yourself with the Australian Government website of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

There are a few requirements that everyone applying for an Australian visa must meet.

  • Non-native speakers of English will be assessed according to standardized testing like the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT), the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic), the OET (Occupational English Test), and the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE).
  • Skills and qualifications must be officially recognized by the relevant Assessing Authority.
  • Depending on your country of origin, intended occupation, and visa category, a health check might be required. Temporary visa applicants also need proof of sufficient healthcare arrangements.
  • Everybody wishing to enter Australia will be assessed against the character requirement and asked to sign the Australian Value Statement. You may need to provide a penal clearance (i.e. a clean criminal record or a certificate of good conduct) before you are granted a visa and are allowed to move to Sydney.

Employee Sponsored Migration

There are several visa categories relevant for expats moving to Sydney in order to work there on a temporary or a permanent basis. Classic expat assignments fall under the category Employer Sponsored Migration.

This includes the Long Stay Business Visa (457), a standard business sponsorship which gives a nominee the right to work in Sydney for a maximum period of four years. People who have this visa are able to leave the country as many times as they like, and are also able to bring immediate family members along as secondary visa holders. For example, holders of this visa are able to bring their spouse (including de facto partners) and dependent children. Expatriates with this visa can also bring along their elders, if they are financially dependent on them. Secondary visa holders are also able to live, work, and study in Sydney until their 457 visa expires.

In order to qualify for this type of visa, the candidates must show evidence that they have the proper skills and experience required to fill the nominated position.

Continue to the next page of this guide for more information about migration visas and housing in Sydney.

Sydney: Migration Visas and Housing

General Skilled Migration

The other main visa category, General Skilled Migration, used to be for people moving to Sydney in order to seek employment there. The Skilled (Migrant) Independent Visa required them to pass a points-based test and to undergo an official skills assessment.

At one time, only people with skills and qualifications needed for a job on the Skilled Occupations List were eligible. If you did not reach the required number of points for a permanent Australian visa, you had the opportunity to seek sponsorship from a relative in Sydney or from the State Government of New South Wales. Unfortunately, this is not an option for expatriates anymore.

The Australian government introduced a new Skilled Migration Program in July 2012. At the moment, if you would like to move to Sydney as a skilled worker, business person, or investor, you will need to enter your personal information into the official SkillSelect database. The Australian government uses SkillSelect to manage its skilled migration program by aiding regional skill shortages.

People who are interested in moving to Sydney can be considered for a skilled migration visa by submitting an EOI, an expression of interest, through SkillSelect. Afterwards, these applicants are placed in a pool, and some of them are nominated by an Australian employer or state government. Typically, applicants only get selected if they have a high number of points. When a certain quota is reached for a field of employment, the Australian government will place a cap on the invitations.

Finding Accommodation

Finding accommodation in Sydney works like in most other big cities around the world. When you first arrive, you might need to stay in a hostel, hotel, or furnished short-term accommodation, depending on your circumstances. There are a number of websites to help you find temporary accommodation while you are looking for your new home.

Commercial websites offer a selection of apartments for the luxury executive lifestyle. If you come to Sydney with your family and need a cheaper option, try sites such as Stayz. For a general overview of hotels and hostels in Sydney, the Sydney City Life website is one of several good sources.

How to Rent or Buy a Home

Once you are in Sydney, the easiest way to find rental accommodation is to check the local newspapers or the websites of some estate agents. The White Pages for Sydney list the contact details of all estate agents offering local property. Once again, the Sydney City Life section on real estate is worth consulting for a list of Sydney suburbs and a search function for rental properties.

The next step is to arrange a viewing or attend an open house of the property in question. Most rentals in Sydney are unfurnished and don’t allow pets. You should also familiarize yourself with the neighborhood, the proximity to schools, public transport, etc. Once you have found the right place, fill in the application form and return it promptly (together with the required documentation): the property market in Sydney moves fast.

Signing the contract, both you and the agent or landlord should complete a condition report. In all likelihood, you need to make a security payment, to be deposited with the Residential Tenancies Bonds authority. It will be returned to you once your tenancy has ended, provided you don’t owe anything in rent or repairs.

Where to Live

The Sydney metropolitan area covers a vast area of over 12,000 square kilometers and is home to more than five million inhabitants. Expats settle in all parts of the metro area, but they often live in the more expensive suburbs closest to the city center. Generally speaking, Sydney is divided into four main regions.

North and South

North Sydney includes some wealthy and prestigious suburbs. If you are willing to part with a good deal of money, you can find high quality accommodation in an area with many private schools and low crime rates, particularly by the beach. Accommodation close to the center is in apartments and terraced houses; single family homes are found in the outer suburbs. People in these neighborhoods often buy rather than rent.

Southern Sydney’s suburbs are far from downtown, but they often have good rail links to the city center. Their strong points are affordable housing and the close proximity to the countryside with its beaches and national parks. The further west you go, however, the less desirable the suburbs become.

East and West

East Sydney is popular with young professionals, singles or couples. Rental accommodation and shared homes are more common than in the rest of Sydney. Real estate prices are very high. However, the city center is easy to reach, and there are good state schools as well as private schools around.

West Sydney covers a large area; a few prestigious suburbs are interspersed with less sought-after neighborhoods. Accommodation is often cheaper than elsewhere, but crime rates may also be higher and access to private schools is limited. Inner West Sydney is where most of the university campuses are located; the student population thus dominates some areas. It also boasts a number of reputable state and private schools.

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