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What to know before moving to Australia

We want to help take away some of the expense, stress and tiredness of moving abroad by giving you complete guides to moving home. This time we’re tackling the Australian outback and looking at absolutely everything you need to be prepared for.

What to know before moving to Australia

The Process

Anyone who does not have Australian citizenship or a permanent residency visa is considered a foreign investor and generally can only buy property off-plan or vacant residential land on the condition that construction of a residential dwelling starts within 12 months.

The Australian government through the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) regulates the sale of Australian property to new arrivals to Australia. Brits will need to identify the right property they are permitted to purchase this can be done through independent agents who will also assist with the FIRB application.

The process is very different in Australia than it is here; once a property is identified and negotiations are complete the estate agent writes the contract, including conditions. These, once signed by the purchaser, become legally binding after a small cooling off period of only two business days in most states. Once cooling off is complete and the contract is binding it is then handed to a conveyancer or solicitor to instigate settlement.

Visa

The costs of a visa to travel from the UK to Australia aren’t small, however they do vary wildly depending on the type of visa you need to apply for and whether you are moving alone or with your family. 

The base application charge for a Skilled - Recognised Graduate (Subclass 476) visa is just $365 (around £210), while a Skilled - Regional Sponsored (Provisional) (Subclass 489) visa starts at $3,670 (around £2,110). The Australian government website provides full details of the different categories and eligibility criteria. 

Note: Additional charges may also apply in certain circumstances – for example, applicants over 18 who are assessed as not having functional English language skills will need to pay a second instalment of $4,885 (around £2,808).

Flights and Shipping

It’s important that you don’t book flights until your visa application has been approved and finalised. Airfare costs can vary a lot, but don’t expect much change out of £1,000.

International removal costs do vary, and air transport tends to cost twice as much as shipping by sea. reallymoving.com can supply you with estimates for your international move and removal companies that can help you with your move, but bear in mind that initial quotes won’t include fees for transporting special items (such as pianos), or any taxes, custom fees or other incidental costs.

It’s also not a bad idea to take out insurance covering your belongings against loss or damage while in transit. Typical costs can be from 1 per cent to 5 per cent of the total value of the insured items, depending on the level of cover you take.

You should compare the cost of shipping your furniture with buying new furniture on arrival. There’s a thriving second-hand furniture market in Australia and even new goods cost only slightly more than in the UK. It’s rare to find furnished rental properties in Australia, so if you think your goods will take 12 weeks to arrive, you’re going to need to buy some furniture anyway.

Additional fees may apply over and above any moving quote you receive – custom fees or duties and import taxes may be added on. Australia has extremely strict border and custom controls so some natural fibres can’t be brought into the country. Quarantine inspectors may require other items to be fumigated or treated to prevent the risk of introducing exotic pests and diseases – this will also result in additional charges you can learn more about their regulations on their border control page

Cost of living

The cost of living is high in Australia, especially Sydney and Melbourne, with housing prices that are comparable London or New York. The cost of renting a three-bedroom city centre apartment is only slightly less expensive in Australia with prices averaging at around £2,700 a month compared to London’s average of £3,000.

The price difference is even less for less central locations – for example a one-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre is only about £100 a month less in Australia. However, if you’re buying an apartment prices can be as much as 44% cheaper in Australia.

Rates (the Australian equivalent of council tax, paid by the property owner) and utility costs can vary between territories, but on average basic household utilities (electricity, heating and water) are almost a third cheaper in Australia than in the UK. Broadband Internet and mobile tariffs, however, are considerably more expensive (60% and 158%, respectively).

Wages, particularly for unskilled jobs, are much higher in Australia than in the UK or the US, so this helps to even out the expenses. Reports say that the average annual salary is around £6,000 higher in Australia than it is in the UK. Other figures show that the average monthly disposable salary (after tax) is 22% higher in Australia than in the UK.

Food, transport and entertainment

Consumer goods are generally more expensive in Australia than the UK, but household shopping bills vary depending on what items you buy. Dairy produce and chicken is cheaper in Australia but almost everything else is more expensive. Drinks are particularly more expensive in Australia with a bottle of wine costing around a third more and beers ranging from 65 to 69% more than their UK equivalents. 

Getting around tends to cost a lot less in Australia though as it’s cheaper to buy a car, and fill it with petrol (by 40p per litre, on average). Public transport costs and taxi fares are also more affordable.

Leisure costs – such as cinema tickets or gym membership – are only slightly lower in Australia and dining out, can be quite the bargain, with a meal only costing around £9.09. 

Healthcare

This publicly-funded hospital system is free at the point of use. You will need to apply for a Medicare card, which is similar in appearance to a debit card. You’ll need to present this every time you access healthcare.
 
A bulk-bill GP or specialist is one who accepts your Medicare card as full payment for your treatment. Increasingly though, many surgeries don’t bulk-bill but levy a charge on top of the Medicare fee which you’ll have to pay at the time of your visit. Unlike the UK you are not restricted to being registered with just one GP surgery - you can use any you like so long as you take your Medicare card.
 
There are a lot of private healthcare providers in Australia and around half the population has some form of private health cover.

Even though Australia and the UK have joint health care agreements, it’s still a good idea to get some travel insurance for your journey, especially if you’re stopping off somewhere along the way. Several UK firms offer one-way travel insurance which covers your belongings on the way out and while you’re staying in short-term accommodation such as a hotel or serviced apartment after arrival.

Currency and taxes

Australia uses the Australian dollar (£1 = AU$1.69 at the time of writing), and its notes are made from plastic which are similar to the £5 note.

In Australia you pay no income tax up to $18,200, 19c in the dollar for amounts above this up to $37,000 and then 32.5c for each dollar up to $80,000.
 
You pay rates (the equivalent of council tax) at different levels depending on the state and area you live in, but these are always paid by the owner of a property in Australia, never by the tenant.
 
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is 10% in Australia and applies to most items although food, health and education are mostly GST free. GST is always included in the overall price, so there’s no unwelcome surprises. 
 
Tipping is relatively uncommon in Australia, except in high-end establishments. Many Australians dislike the practice and prefer that tourists don’t tip while in Australia, wait staff are paid well in Australia and even earn extra for working on weekends.

Finance and Documentation

Many of the major banks in Australia, including ANZ and Commonwealth Bank, give you the option to open a bank account before you arrive in the country. This can save a lot of time and hassle and also means you can have some money for when you arrive.
 
If you’re not sure how much money you want to transfer to Australia and you want to leave some in the UK, it’s a good idea to set up an account with an international payments provider before you go. It’s much easier to fulfil their ID requirements when you still have a UK address, although it’s still possible to open one in Australia. These companies usually offer much better rates than banks and charge lower fees to transfer cash, so you could save a significant amount if you regularly need funds.
 
You should also get a credit card with a UK provider that doesn’t charge for transactions in foreign currencies - this will really help keep costs down when you first arrive.

It’s a good idea to scan copies of your CV, children’s report cards, qualifications and references to either a USB drive or to the cloud so if anything gets lost in transit you can access it easily.
 
If you have no claims bonuses on your home or car insurance, take proof as some Australian insurers will accept this and you’ll be able to get a better rate - and don’t forget to take rental references if you have some as estate agents will usually ask for them if you’re looking to rent upon arrival. 

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Hannah, 09 April 2017

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