Expat guide: Australia

This expat guide offers information and advice if you are moving to Australia. Read the page below to find out about anything from tax rules and banking to business culture and culture shock. You can also read our expat guide to Sydney.

Moving to Australia

Australia would certainly be a competitive choice for the title of ideal expatriate location. People moving to Australia can expect a multicultural society and a lifestyle driven by outdoor pursuits.

Family and friends are important to Australians, and the nation's strong spirit of egalitarianism has drawn a steady stream of immigrants from the UK, Europe and Asia to its ideal climate and naturally beautiful environment.

The government places a high premium on skills and enforces equally stringent measures to keep Australian immigration levels under control. So while Australia is a popular expat destination the immigration numbers are moderate due to a strict screening process which picks out those professionals with the skills desired to keep the economy in good health and the Australian quality of life high.

The popular Australian 'barbie' is as much about meat on a barbecue as it is an excuse to have a social occasion.

Shipping and removals

Shipping costs are dependent on the volume of goods, as well as length of time involved in shipping. Some companies also offer storage services and insurance on goods.

Expatriates must be aware that all household goods and personal effects will be subject to customs inspection and clearance. Items you have owned for 12 months or less will be under more intense scrutiny.

A customs form - (B534) issue 6/00 Unaccompanied Baggage Statement - must be signed and completed in order to clear the shipment when it arrives in Australia.Photocopies of passport pages, including Australian entry stamp together with a full descriptive inventory in English, are also required.

Bringing pets to Australia

Shipping pets to Australia can be a complex process. The relevant bio-security regulations relating to your country of origin must be met and a microchip must be implanted on the animal for identification purposes. Owners will also need to pay for quarantine, an import permit, and air transport.

You will be required to complete official documentation with information on the content of consignment as well as copies of your passport and visas.


Working in Australia

Australia has a highly developed infrastructure. It is considered a sophisticated financial centre and plays host to many of the world’s biggest companies.The economy had, until very recently, been growing continuously for 17 consecutive years with figures indicating an average increase in GDP of 3.3% per year.Therefore Australia ranks highly within the Asia-Pacific region for labour, agricultural and industrial productivity.

There are many job opportunities for those with specialised IT skills, although the social sector and the mining and healthcare industries also have many jobs on offer.

Visa and work permits

There are four categories for immigration and visa applications in Australia. These are: Skilled Independent Migration, Employer Nomination Scheme, Business Migration and Holiday Working Visa.

The Skilled Independent Migration visa is for people with good English language skills and with qualifications relevant to occupations needed in Australia. Sponsorship is not necessary to apply for this visa. The Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) allows an Australian employer to fill ‘highly skilled positions’ with non-Australian citizens or residents. The Business Migration point system now places greater emphasis on the skills of the potential business migrants, and the Holiday Working Visa is only available to individuals between 18 and 30, and only applies to casual employment.

Each application is assessed and given a corresponding individual score that determines whether or not a visa is granted. Another way to get your working visa is via the 457 Long-stay business visa.

For more information use the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Visa Wizard: http://www.immi.gov.au/visawizard/

Banking, money and taxes

Australia has built one of the strongest economies in the world on the back of three decades of dedicated structural and policy reform. While the nation has not been immune to the recent economic crisis, Australia remains a major regional financial hub with a sophisticated banking system.

Banking in Australia

Expats wanting to open a bank account in Australia should investigate all available options, particularly as interest rates vary between banks. Australia’s major banks are: the Commonwealth Bank of Australia; ANZ Bank; Westpac; and National Australia Bank.

Opening a bank account in Australia is a fairly straightforward procedure requiring a certified passport copy, proof of residential address and bank statement,from the previous three months.

Taxes in Australia

Tax rates are high in Australia; annual income above $60,000 is taxed at a rate of 47 percent. Residents are taxed on their worldwide income, including salary and dividends, although there are special rules applicable to expats. Rates in the country are also notorious for fluctuation, thus it is strongly advised to consult with an Australian accountant or tax lawyer.

The Australian tax year ends on 30 June, and tax returns should be lodged by 31 October. Expats earning an Australian income for more than 183 days in any tax year will be considered a formal resident of Australia for tax purposes — with the exception of those holding working holiday visas.

No one can be registered as a taxpayer without a Tax File Number (TFN), which is the unique number issued by the Australian Taxation Office.

The Australian Taxation Office: http://www.ato.gov.au/

Business culture

Business in Australia is conducted in a relaxed and informal manner. In contrast to common practice in Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries, Australians do not place as much emphasis on building the relationships before negotiations. Informality is preferred, and Australians will tend to get down to business straight away. Communication via phone or email is also perfectly acceptable.

Businessmen should wear a suit and tie and women are expected to wear a skirt suit. Addressing Australians by their first name is accepted and common practice in every day communication and business relationships and a firm handshake is the acceptable way of greeting one another.

Working hours in Australia depend on your industry and employer, but generally office hours are from 8.30 or 9.30 am until 4.30 or 5.30 pm, with an hour’s break for lunch.


Graduates can expect to start on annual packages of around $36,000 with managing directors living in Sydney earning anything from $350,000 to $600,000. Salaries for managing directors in Melbourne will be between $200,000 to $400,000 and less than that in Perth. For more information checkout http://www.fairwork.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

Public Holidays


Living and culture

Below you will find information about: 
  • Cost of living
  • Driver's license
  • Local customs

For information about Bupa International healthcare click here.(LINK)

Australians are known to be open, friendly and informal in their relationships. Most people use first names in personal and business relations.

Some expatriates find the tall poppy syndrome is still alive and well in the country. This term refers to the social phenomenon of criticising people for their talents and achievements, particularly if there is a perception that they regard themselves as superior to their peers.


In such a vast geographical area you will find significant fluctuations in temperatures. Generally, the northern parts of the country are warm to hot most of the year.The coastal areas around Sydney experience mild winters and are hot in the summer months.

The seasons are the opposite of those in Europe and North America. Australia enjoys summer from December to February and winter from June to August. Australia’s mild climate is one of its biggest attractions, so you won’t find the cold extremes you notice in Europe. The winter months from June to August are mild and average temperatures hover around 56°F (13°C) for the country and rainfall is common in the south.

Read about climate related safety issues in the Useful Information section.

Cost of living

In 2009 the cost of living experienced a significant plunge due to the depreciation of the Australian dollar. However, the cost of living is almost back to the level it was before the depreciation with its two most cosmopolitan cities among the top 50 most expensive cities to live in, according to a 2010 Mercer survey.

Sydney is still the most expensive city in the country and is 24th on the global expat destination list, with Melbourne closely behind in 33rd place.

Some expats complain that living in Australia comes at a premium considering the fairly substantial income tax, ranging from 17% to 47%, due to the government’s strong emphasis on social welfare.

Driver's license

Australian driving licences are administered at state/territory level with varying regulations for each. You will normally need to get a state licence within three months of taking up residence in the state. You are allowed to use your licence from your country of residence in the interim. Australians drive on the left hand side of the road.

For more information visit the Australian Automobile Association: www.aaa.asn.au

Education and schools in Australia

The standard of education in Australia is world-renowned, and many expats even migrate to Australia’s sunny shores specifically to become students. The national government places a strong emphasis on diversity and quality and is committed to excellence in research, teaching and student support.

Parents moving with children of any age will find plenty of options for school in Australia, and will need to choose between public, faith-based or private(and international) institutions. Each have pros and cons, and factors influencing decision tend to revolve around curriculum and cost.

School attendance is compulsory for kids younger than 15 and older than five, but the government also actively encourages parents to enrol their children in one year of early education (pre-school) prior to primary school.

Primary school in Australia lasts from Kindergarten to Year 6 (5 to 12 years old), and high school runs from Year 7 to 12 (12 to 18 years old). Primary schools tend to be co-educational, but high schools are often same-sex. 
  • The official teaching language of schools in Australia is English
  • School uniforms are mandatory and hats are worn in summer
  • The school year runs from January to December and includes short holidays in between the four term

Education and schools in Adelaide

Adelaide is an educational hub with public schools of a high quality, scores of private schools as well as many options for adults wishing to further their studies or take a new degree.

Students attend public schools within their designated school zone, which is determined by residential address. It can be difficult to change the public school a student goes to without moving to a new address.

Public schools in South Australia differ slightly from the rest of the country. Prior to primary school children who turn five begin reception, akin to preschool, followed by year one and two. They only enrol in primary school in year 3.

Private schools in Adelaide appeal to those interested in religious instruction, alternative teaching learning styles and to international students who are not permanent residents of Australia.

Children between the ages of six and fifteen are legally required to attend school.

Education and schools in Melbourne

Schools in Melbourne regularly make up nearly half of the top 20 rated institutions in all of Australia – Melbourne even boasts of having educated the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine winner Elizabeth Blackburn in one of the seven state universities in Melbourne.

In addition to providing students with the foundations for excelling academically and professionally; Melbourne schools have a wide variety of athletic and artistic activities on offer.

Education and schools in Perth

A good portion of the private schools in the city are Catholic, with the rest being affiliated to other parts of the Christian church. Private schooling costs range between USD 5,000 and USD 10,000.

Useful links :

The Department of Education and Training: www.eddept.wa.edu.au
Detailed list of Perth schools
Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia: www.ais.wa.edu.au

Links: Adelaide

Adelaide elementary school: schools.fwps.org
Association of Independent Schools of SA: www.ais.sa.edu.au

What to know about going to school in Melbourne

  • Children at state primary and secondary schools are not given a hot meal at lunchtime. Parents either send the children off with a packed lunch or provide money to buy sandwiches and snacks at the canteen. Some schools are stricter than others about providing healthy options.
  • Children at primary school when playing outside in the summer are required to wear hats to protect them from the Australian sun.
  • School students have to wear uniforms.

Tuition fees: Melbourne

Parents are advised to contact the education provider directly regarding fees. Schooling at government sponsored schools is free for permanent residents, although extra expenses like uniforms, school trips and certain equipment must be paid for. If a child is classified as an international student (where full fees are payable) it will say so in the passport.

Links: Melbourne

Australian schools directory.
Eduweb schools directory.
Australian universities directory.
Vocational and tertiary education courses: TAFE.

Education and schools in Sydney

Sydney's private and public schools, as well its tertiary institutions, uphold a high standard. School hours are generally between 9am and 3.30pm.

Useful links

Information on primary and high schools: www.studyinaustralia.gov.au and www.study-in-australia.org

Useful information

Currency: The Australian dollar (AUD, $/A$) is the official currency of Australia. It is divided into 100 cents. You can check the latest exchange rates here.

Time: Expats should note that Australia is divided into three time zones. Eastern is GMT +10, Central is GMT +9.5, and Western is GMT +8. All states observe daylight saving time during the summer months, except the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Electricity: The electrical current in Australia is 240/250 volts, 50Hz and three-pin flat blade plugs are used. But these are different to those used in other countries and expats should bring an adaptor.

Safety: Australia’s crime rate is low, but expats should still exercise the same amount of caution in the big cities as they would anywhere else in the world.

Between the months of November and April tropical cyclones can occur in Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory. During the summer months the risk of runaway bush fires is high and a 'no open flames policy' is in place in most cities, especially in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and ACT. Summer months (October to May) also see the waters off Queensland become infested with marine stingers, or box jellyfish, whose sting can be fatal.

Communications: Expats living in Australia should note that the outgoing code is 0011 followed by the relevant country code (eg 001144 for the United Kingdom), the international access code for Australia is +61, and area/city codes are in use. Local calls cost a standard rate and international and long-distance calls are charged according to the length of the call. Australia uses GSM and CDMA networks for mobile phone operators and mobile phones are easily available for rental. High speed broadband ADSL internet is available through a number of providers.

Embassy contact details

Australia Embassies

  • Embassy of Australia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 797 3000
  • Australian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7379 4334
  • Australian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0841
  • Australian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 423 6000
  • Australian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 664 5300
  • Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 6411

Foreign Embassies in Australia

  • Embassy of the United States, Canberra: +61 (0)2 6214 5600
  • British High Commission, Canberra: +61 (0)2 6270 6666
  • Canadian High Commission, Canberra: +61 (0)2 6270 4000.
  • South African High Commission, Canberra: +61 (0)2 6273 2424-7
  • Embassy of Ireland, Canberra: +61 (0)2 6273 3022
  • New Zealand High Commission, Canberra: +61 (0)2 6270 4211

This content is provided by www.expatarrivals.com, copyright © 2011 Globe Media Ltd. All rights reserved. By its very nature much of the information in this travel guide is subject to change at short notice and travellers are urged to verify information on which they're relying with the relevant authorities. Neither Globe Media nor Bupa Global can be held liable for any errors or omissions, or any loss, damage, illness and/or injury that may occur as a result of this information. Bupa Global is not responsible for the content of external websites

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