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Life in Australia: Complete Guide to Emigrating to Australia

Australia has long been a popular destination for British expats, renowned for its high quality of life, picturesque coastlines and multicultural cities.

Not only is the country English-speaking but more than 42% of its population are born overseas, making cultural integration almost effortless – it’s no wonder that it continues to be an appealing destination for those considering moving abroad.

Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, if it’s in your plans to move to Australia in the future, our guide includes some essential tips on how best to manage your finances to ensure your move abroad is seamless and stress-free.

With its strong economy and stunning beaches, it can be easy to overlook some aspects of your move, such as the type of visa you will need, healthcare arrangements and how best to transfer international currency and funds.

Australia is famed for its stringent immigration laws, and obtaining a visa can often be an onerous process; however, that’s not to say it won’t be worth it.

If you’re considering moving “Down Under” for a few years and have not been sponsored by an employer, you could acquire a visa through the General Skilled Migration Program.

Applications for this type of visa can be made through SkillSelect and eligibility for entry into Australia is determined by the skills a worker possesses.

However, if you’re considering emigrating to Australia permanently, you may be more interested in the legal route for obtaining citizenship.

australian passport

Obtaining citizenship in Australia

Whether you’re an expat already living in Australia, organising retirement plans or considering relocating in the future, it’s worth knowing all the options available to you should you decide to acquire permanent citizenship.

In Australia, you become eligible for citizenship if you already hold permanent residency in the country, or at least one of your parents was an Australian citizen at the time you were born.

While permanent residents can travel freely to and from Australia and access state-subsidised benefits, citizens of Australia will enjoy more rights and responsibilities than migrants holding permanent residence.

Those who become Australian citizens will have the right to vote, work in the Australian Public Service and be entitled to an Australian passport which guarantees indefinite visa-free travel.

When applying for citizenship, most applicants will be required to complete a residency test to prove that they have lived in the country for four years and spent at least nine months in Australia as a permanent resident in the 12 months before they apply.

Check your eligibility for Australian citizenship online to see if you meet the criteria before you apply.

Aside from having to prove legal residency, authorities will also assess the nature of your character, ability to speak English at an acceptable level and that you have ongoing ties to the country to determine eligibility for citizenship.

Can I obtain dual citizenship?

Australia permits dual nationality; however, this can only be acquired with the authorisation of your home country.

Presently several countries offer dual citizenship, including the UK, US, Canada, France, South Africa and Spain.

Australia also allows multiple citizenships, meaning a person could become a legal citizen of two or more countries, providing that the other countries agree.

If you are already a dual national and it’s in your plans to relocate to Australia, you’ll be glad to know that you can become a triple citizen.

No matter, which route you choose to obtain citizenship, all come at a cost. Becoming a citizen by conferral, which is the most common means of securing nationality for emigrants costs AUD 285 for those aged 16 and over.

Those obtaining citizenship by descent will be required to pay AUD 230 and AUD 95 for each sibling that applies at the same time as them.

Suppose you’re making an application from overseas and need to transfer your local currency into Australian dollars (AUD). In that case, you might want to consider using a foreign exchange specialist such as Halo Financial to avoid hidden fees and mark-ups that are often levied by banks.

Unlike banks that operate at the inter-bank rate, Halo Financial can access better exchange rates to offer you a competitive advantage.

Halo Financial are industry experts authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and can mitigate the risks of fluctuating exchange rates, offer same-day delivery and keep their costs low to pass the reduction rate onto their clients.

Whether you’re retiring, moving abroad for a new job or already living overseas, currency exchange rates can make a significant difference to your income and savings.

Particularly as the cost of living in Australia is relatively expensive, using a service like Halo Financial will help you reduce your overall costs.

Cost of living in Australia

According to Numbeo, Australia ranks 16th highest in the world for the cost of living and 14th for the most expensive city. The UK and the USA rank significantly lower, in 33rd and 21st place for the cost of living, although the United States places higher on the rent index.

However, Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Index shows that Australian cities have fallen in the rankings. Sydney, which is Australia’s most expensive city in 66th place, whereas London and New York City are rated much higher at 19th and 6th respectively – good news for those relocating from metropolises.

Despite the overall cost of living in Australia being higher, many migrants find the quality of life “Down Under” dwarfs the high living expenses.

In the latest Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey, Sydney scored perfect scores for healthcare, education and infrastructure, while also climbing into the third spot of the liveability rankings, to rival Melbourne.

Aside from Sydney and Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane are attractive destinations for those considering immigrating to Australia, with the cost of living being considerably lower in these hotspots.

Australia’s higher cost of living is also ameliorated by its salaries, which on average are 28% higher than that in the UK.

The national minimum wage in Australia is AUD 753.80 for the average working week or AUD 19.84 per hour which, at the time of writing would be the equivalent of AUD 15.93 per hour in the UK, and AUD 10.27 per hour in the US.

With a higher minimum wage, better standard of living, more warmer climate and outstanding healthcare, it’s no surprise that it continues to be a highly sought after destination for expats.

Cost of retiring in Australia

If you’re considering retiring to Australia, there are several retirement visa options available, all of which are subject to specific fees.

Two of the most popular retirement visas are the Investor Retirement (Subclass 405) and the Contributory aged parent (Subclass 864).

The Investor Retirement (Subclass 405) is a temporary visa that allows travel to and from Australia for four years, whereby you will then be required to apply for another visa.

The cost of this visa starts from AUD 365, although you may be charged other fees such as health assessments and police certificates.

The requirements to obtain this visa are:

  • Maintain a designated investment
  • Have access to a minimum net income of AUD 65,000 per year
  • Provide evidence of adequate healthcare cover
  • Have no dependents; however, travel with a partner is permitted although they will also need a visa

The Contributory Aged Parent (Subclass 864) is a permanent visa, with a starting price of AUD 47,775. Aside from benefiting from indefinite free travel for five years, retirees that opt for this visa will also enjoy free public healthcare and can sponsor relatives to move to Australia.

To obtain this visa, you must:

  • Aged 66 and over
  • Live in Australia during the time of application
  • Be sponsored by an eligible child living in Australia
  • Meet the health and character requirements
  • Obtain an assurance of support

Healthcare in Australia

Besides stunning coastlines and sunnier climes, Australia boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world, which like the UK is funded through taxation.

Australians and permanent residents can enjoy universal, free and affordable healthcare with Medicare, which covers G.P. costs, hospital care, and 85% of specialist costs and offers discounts on prescription drugs.

All levels of the Australian government jointly run Medicare; however, private healthcare is also available and is strongly encouraged by the government as it reduces the strain on the public system.

Although private healthcare comes at a high cost, the government offers tax incentives to encourage people to take out and maintain private health insurance.

There are 37 private healthcare insurers in Australia, and approximately 50% of Australians have taken out private insurance.

While insurance plans vary in price, the average policy tends to cost approximately AUD 2,000. However, Australia’s largest private health insurer, Medibank offers a basic plan from as little as AUD 1,026 a year.

 Australian education system

Education in Australia

Aside from world-class healthcare, Australia is renowned for its world-leading education system.

If you’re considering immigrating to Australia with your family, or plan to start a family in the country in the future, it’s worth knowing how the country’s education system operates.

According to US News & World Report, Australia’s public school systems rank fourth in the world.

Children can attend school from as early as age three; however, enrolment isn’t mandatory until a child reaches the age of five from which they are required to stay in education until the age of fifteen.

Whether children want to continue their education after this age is optional by law, although the public school system continues to teach children until age 18.

Children enrolling to schools in Australia from overseas will have to provide visa documents, immunisation records and medical information upon application.

Also, while state school are free for Australian residents, if you are bringing school-aged children with you on a visa, some states will require you to pay a fee for their academic studies.

Alternatively, you may choose to put your children in private school. Annual fees for state schools start from approximately AUD 5,700 and AUD 23,000 for private schools.