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FAQ's about Australia

Australian visa jokes IN THE BEGINNING

In the beginning God created day and night. He created day for footy matches, going to the beach and barbies. He created night for dreaming, sleeping and barbies. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came and it was the Second Day.

On the Second Day God created water - for surfing, swimming and barbies on the beach. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came and it was the Third Day.

On the Third Day God created the Earth to bring forth plants - to provide tobacco, malt and yeast for beer and wood for barbies. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came and it was the Fourth Day.

On the Fourth Day God created animals and crustaceans for chops, sausages, steak and prawns for barbies. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came and it was the Fifth Day.

On the Fifth Day God created a Bloke - to go to the footy, enjoy the beach, drink the beer and eat the meat and prawns at barbies. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came and it was the Sixth Day.

On the Sixth Day God saw that this Bloke was lonely and needed some company to go to the footy, surf, drink beer, eat and stand around the barbie with, so God created Mates, and God saw that they were Good Blokes. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came and it was the Seventh Day.

On the Seventh Day God saw that the Blokes were tired and needed a rest. So God created Sheilas - to clean the house, bear children, wash, cook and scrape the barbie. Evening came and it was the end of the Seventh day.

God sighed, looked around at the twinkling barbie fires, heard the hiss of opening beer cans and the raucous laughter of all the Blokes and Sheilas, smelled the aroma of grilled chops and sizzling prawns, and God saw that it was not just good. It was better than that; it was bloody good!

IT WAS AUSTRALIA

Otherwise, here is some basic information on emigrate to Australia with a visa for Australia, and housing, costs etc.

Can Australian visa permanent residents vote in Australian elections?

Generally speaking no. The exceptions are British subjects (ie citizens of a British Commonwealth country) who were on the electoral roll on the 25 January 1984.
Those who are on the electoral roll must vote (there is an AUD50 fine for those who don't) in Federal and State elections and referendums.
Local election rules depend on the State/Territory. In NSW, voting is compulsory in these too, and permanent residents are not allowed to vote unless they are covered by the British subject exemption.

Can I live in one of Australia's External Territories as an Australian citizen or PR?

Australia has a number of External Territories, three of which are reasonably populated, Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Norfolk Island has the most autonomy of the three.
PR status (or Australian citizenship) does not give you the right to live in these territories, unless the local government agrees to admit you (this is certainly the case with Norfolk Island). In reality, opportunities in all three are quite limited.

Are there any restrictions on taking money into or out of Australia?

Australia no longer operates Exchange Control, and Australian residents are free to move money into and out of Australia, and save and invest overseas as they wish. However, amounts of more than AUD10,000 in cash (but not bank drafts, or travellers cheques) must be reported to Australian customs when carried into or out of Australia. Keepng your money overseas does not exempt you from paying Australian tax on it either.

Can I open a bank account in Australia before I arrive?

It depends on where you are arriving from. If your home country operates exchange controls, you may find it difficult. If not, you should check with your current bank to see if it has any special links with an Australian bank (eg some UK banks are owned by the National Australia Bank), or check with any Australian banks who operate in your current country of residence if they will help you to open an account with one of their Australian branches. It can be very much a hit-and-miss process. For people in the UK, the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank is very helpful to new migrants (telephone number 020 7710 3990 from the UK, +44 20 7710 3990 internationally), and they will open an account for you in Australia. It makes commercial sense for them to do so, but not every bank is interested in migrant business.

Being on an Australian business owner visa or other kind of visa doesn't have any effect on this.

Once you arrive in Australia, you can open a bank account with no identification other than your passport for the first number of weeks (it depends on the bank - about 6 weeks is typical). Aftet that you need additional forms of ID under the 100 point system that operates in Australia. A passport and driving licence are enough evidence to meet this requirement.

Go to an Australia migration expo and you may find more information banks at the expo.

How do I get an Australian driving licence?

Australian driving licences are administered at state/territory level, and regulations vary as a result. You will normally need to obtain a state licence within 3 months of taking up residence in the state (you can use your overseas licence in the meantime).

  • You may need to do a practical test unless:
  • you have a New Zealand licence; or
  • you hold a current overseas licence and have previously held an Australian licence - the exact regulations in this area can be complex and vary from state to state
  • you hold a current licence issued by an overseas country - including most of the European Union nations, Canada, the USA and Japan - whose licensing system is recognised as similar to Australia's. All Australian states and territories are moving to grant this exemption - as of May 2002 it has been implemented in WA, Victoria and Queensland, with NSW set to follow on 20 May 2002.

If you are moving to another state/territory you will need to check with the government directly as to whether they have implemented this scheme or not.

If you have held your overseas licence (even from a non fully-recognised country) for a number of years, you should be exempt from probationary restrictions once you pass your test.

In NSW the theory test is computer based and can be taken at any RTA office. It does not matter if you fail the theory test - you just try it again, except that since January 2002 there is a fee of AUD30 for each attempt. The theory test can be practised online. However, if you fail the practical test you lose your visiting driver privileges straight away. You need to obtain a NSW learner licence until you pass the test, and until then you are subject to learner restrictions (eg you can't drive alone and you are subject to an 80kph speed limit). However, even if you only pass the practical test a second time, you are still not subject to probationary restrictions once you do pass as long as you have held an overseas licence for three years.

Under NSW regulations, you can keep your overseas licence once you obtain a NSW licence (whether learner or full) but your overseas licence will be endorsed so that it is no longer valid in the State.

You need proof of address in the State to get an NSW licence. This can be quite simple, any offical letter addressed to you there should do. If you are staying with friends and don't have anything official, one of them can sign the form to vouch for you as long as he/she holds a NSW licence.

People on temporary visas in NSW can keep using their overseas licences for longer than three months. They can get a NSW licence if they wish, but will need to go through the testing process. One 'advantage' of continuing to use an overseas licence is that as far as I know you can't get demerit points for things like speeding (although you can still be fined, and in extreme cases your visiting driver privileges could be taken away).

Bear in mind that in Australia, you generally have to carry your driving licence (whether Australian or overseas) with you at all times. This is different from the practice in the UK

What social welfare benefits are available if I migrate to Australia and can't find a job straight away?

You are expected to support yourself for 2 years after arriving in Australia without recourse to welfare. As part of the migration process, you need to sign a form accepting this.

Are there restrictions on the rights of Australian PRs to purchase property in Australia?

Australian PRs can purchase property on the same terms as Australian citizens. Temporary residents and visitors normally have to get Foreign Investment Review Board approval to buy residential property.

If I arrive in Australia on a holiday to validate my migration visa, and only move there later, does the 2 year waiting period for social security begin at first entry or when I finally become an actual resident?

The 2 year period must be spent actually resident in Australia. However, it is possible to aggregate shorter periods of residence to arrive at the 2 years.
However, Family Tax Benefit (formerly Family Allowance) is available to recent migrants with children. At an Australia migration expo or sometihng similar to a Australian visa consultation or meeting for an assessment, you can get visa for Australian assessment details. ASA, the best Australian migration agency in the UK and South Africa, can assist with their Australia visa consultations or be at an expo.

Read all about Australia's social security benefits here.

Does an Australian PR living overseas have to file an Australian tax return?

Permanent residence in Australia for migration purposes and residence in Australia for tax purposes are entirely separate. It is possible to hold Australian PR and not be an Australian tax resident, and it's also common for temporary residents to be liable for Australian tax. Only an Australian resident for tax purposes, or someone who has income sourced in Australia, may have to file for Australian tax.

If I leave my investments overseas, will I have to pay Australian tax on the income?

Once you are resident in Australia, you will be generally liable for Australian tax on your worldwide income, whether you bring it into Australia or leave it overseas. In particular, make sure you comply with Australia's Foreign Investment Fund taxation regulations, if you have any investments (including pension funds and insurance policies) located outside Australia.
Australia has agreements with many countries to avoid double taxation of people in this position, but these are not necessarily comprehensive. Depending on the sums involved, it may pay to get professional tax advice.

Going to an expo means you can speak to people about this, or just get in contact with ASA about investor visa Australia or business owner visa for Australia.

Can I join an Australian police force or work in the public sector as an Australian PR?

Some public sector jobs across Australia, including in the police forces, are open to both citizens and PRs. The majority of State/Territory government jobs are open to permanent residents (it depends on the state, NSW government jobs are mostly open to permanent residents) unless special circumstances apply. The Commonwealth (federal) government normally requires Australian citizenship, however if you are a permanent resident eligible for citizenship you can sometimes be engaged on a probationary basis.

What happens to my pension when I move to Australia?

Potentially a very difficult question. Australian pension (superannuation) law is complex, and I know for a fact how complicated the UK pension system is.

You will have to firstly find out whether

  • you can transfer your pension fund to Australia (both your home country and Australia must permit the transfer)
  • if you leave your pension fund in your home country, how will it be taxed both there and in Australia.

Just because something is 'tax free' under your own law, or held outside Australia does not mean that it will necessarily be exempt from Australian tax. In particular you need to beware of Australian Foreign Investment Fund tax. Furthermore, if you leave your pension in a country with an unstable currency or foreign exchange controls, will it be worth anything to you when you come to retire?

If you have the choice of leaving your pension fund overseas or transferring it to Australia, you will have to think about a lot of factors, including:

  • your future plans. Will you be staying in Australia for ever, do you plan to return home to retire perhaps, or maybe move to a third country? What will happen to your pension if you transfer it to Australia and subsequently go elsewhere?
  • the taxation consequences of leaving your pension where it is versus transferring it.
  • your age
  • tax details given by a tax company at an Australia migration expo can be good for you.
  • Australia business owner visa holders need tax information for migrating to Australia.
  • what other investments you have. Do you want all your investments held in Australia or perhaps leave a portion overseas to balance your portfolio?
  • your attitude to risk
  • keeping options open ... you may be able to leave your pension where it is for a while and transfer later when your future plans are more clear.

The ideal is to speak to an independent, professional financial adviser who is familiar with the systems in both your home country and Australia. Beware of anyone who lives by commission only - someone who will be unemployed unless he sells products is probably not the best source of unbiased advice.

What household goods should I bring / not bring to Australia?

That's a very personal decision, and often depends on which country you are coming from. Australia's electrical system operates on the same voltage as in Western Europe, but the plugs are different and you will need to either change them or use a socket adapter (available for about AUD9-12 each). If you are coming from North America, you will additionally need a voltage adaptor, which is more expensive.
Shipping companies will generally charge by volume rather than weight.

Also see this section - what to bring

  • Televisions: As there are a number of different TV standards in the world, a television is mostly not worth bringing, unless it's a particularly expensive model, or is designed to work in Australia as well as your home country. Check with the manufacturer for details.
  • VCRs: A UK VCR should work in Australia to play video tapes, but will be no good for recording Australian TV programmes. Any VHS video tapes you have will play on an Australian VCR.
  • DVDs: A DVD player from the UK should work in Australia. However, due to the region coding system operated on many DVDs, you may have problems playing 'Region 4' DVDs bought in Australia on a 'Region 2' DVD player brought from the UK, or vice versa.
    The best option with a DVD player is only to buy one in the first place that is capable of playing DVDs from all regions of the world.
  • CD players: CD players should work without any problems, and CDs you bring will play on an Australian CD player.
  • PCs: PCs should work without any problems in Australia. Monitors should work also, although there have been reports of slight distortions caused by bringing a monitor designed for the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere (hasn't affected my monitor, though).
  • Telephones: You will need to be careful in attaching any non-Australian telephone unit to the Australian phone network, and it's best to check with the Australian authorities in advance. Your moving company may be able to help. Fixed line units may only require an adaptor, whereas cordless phones may not be acceptable due to the radio frequency they operate on. Your mobile phone will work in Australia, as long as it can operate on the GSM-900 frequency.
  • Household Appliances: Because of high shipping costs, it is usually better to buy new ones in Australia. In addition, some appliances may not be designed for Australian conditions (eg fridges from Northern Europe may not be sufficiently effective for the climate in most parts of Australia).
  • Cars: Shipping costs, import duties, parts availability and resale values make importing a car from Europe or North America very costly compared to simply buying a new car in Australia. Plus the fact that a left hand drive car from continental Europe or North America will be less suitable for Australia, where you drive on the left.

I can't find a contact number for the Australian Taxation Office that I can ring from outside Australia.

Many of the contact numbers on the ATO website are '13' numbers that can be called at local rate from anywhere in Australia. These often can't be called from many countries overseas. Try prefixing the '13' number with +61 and see what happens. Failing that, try the main ATO number in Canberra at +61 2 6216 1111 - they should be able to put you through to the right department.

Are migrants eligible for the AUD7,000 first time buyers grant for house purchases?

Yes.

How does Medicare work for migrants?

As soon as you arrive as a resident, you should visit a Medicare office with proof of your PR status. You will be able to register for Medicare straight away (in fact you can do this even if you're on a holiday validating your visa), and you will get a temporary Medicare card. Once you've done this, if you need to see a doctor, just go to any medical centre (many of which open all day, 7 days a week) and wait your turn (not at all like the UK where you must register with one specific GP and getting appointments is very difficult). Many medical centres will 'bulk-bill,' in other words they bill Medicare directly and you don't pay at all (provided you have your Medicare card with you).
If the medical centre doesn't bulk-bill you need to pay (AUD35 is typical for a GP consultation) and you can claim about 70% the money back in either cash or electronic funds transfer to your bank account if you bring the receipt and your Medicare card.
If you need an X-ray or other tests you can get these at pathology centres which are located in almost every suburb. You normally need to be referred by a doctor. Again most of these places will bulk-bill Medicare directly, or you can claim most of the cost back.
You should get used to carrying your Medicare card with you at all times in Australia.

How do you get a Tax File Number?

Call in at any ATO office with your passport and proof of address. If you are only validating your visa with a holiday, they will still accept an overseas address and send your TFN notification there.

Housing

The cost of residential and business properties varies greatly. Like all other areas of the world, residential properties that are convenient for cities or have 'lifestyle' advantages such as sea views, river views etc. always cost more than similar properties without these advantages. Taking a typical (mid market) 3 to 4 bedroom single level dwelling (within commuting distance of a city) as a base, the cost variations could be:

 

As you can see, there is an enormous variation in pricing. Most rural properties will be significantly less expensive than these and generally would have more space.

Western Australia in particular is the state with probably the best pricing on housing along with the lowest living costs. Couple this with the Mediterranean style climate and you can see why Western Australia is targeted by so many migrants.

 

 

Western Australia (e.g. Perth)

 

AU$160-$300,000

 

 

 

 

Queensland (e.g. Brisbane)

 

AU$250-$450,000

 

 

 

 

New South Wales (e.g. Sydney)

 

AU$350-$600,000

 

 

 

 

Victoria (e.g. Melbourne)

 

AU$350-$600,000

 

 

 

 

South Australia (e.g. Adelaide)

 

AU$140-$240,000

 

 

 

 

Northern Territories (e.g. Darwin)

 

AU$250-$450,000

 

Income

The average Australian lives a somewhat relaxed and reasonable lifestyle with a good disposable income. Many Australians now work from home in their own business sometimes having 2 or 3 different part-time jobs although most are still employed by small to medium size companies. In many families, the wife also has a part or full-time job. Typical yearly income for a family where both the husband and wife work would be approx. AU$60-70,000.

Living Costs

Living costs in Australia are low compared to Europe but probably higher than the USA. Interest rates are quite low with typical mortgage rates being about 5.5-6.5%.

Fuel costs (petrol, diesel etc.) are again lower than Europe but higher than the USA with a litre of unleaded petrol costing just under AU$1.00.

Food, Clothing etc. cost about the same or slightly less than in Europe or USA which is surprising given the proximity to Asia - you would expect such items to be significantly less expensive.

Running a Business

Although the lifestyle is good, the 'red tape' associated both with working for a company or running your own business is probably more than in almost any other developed country. It is therefore important to make contact with suitably qualified consultants before, during and after your move to Australia. A good consultancy team will recover more than their costs in the time and trouble they save you.

Hidden costs and taxes abound - even buying a vehicle is more difficult than in most of the rest of the world as you are required to pay 'GST' or 'Value Added Tax', Stamp Duty, License/Registration fees and so on. Luckily these costs are generally counteracted by reasonable insurance costs.

However, because of the complexity of the accounting rules and regulations, this means that there is ample scope for high quality accountants and business managers to find ways of clawing back taxes on business profits.

Security

Although Australian crime rates are not as low as in most of Europe, they are significantly lower than, for example, the USA. Also violent crime is relatively rare - the average Australian will not suffer a mugging, see a stabbing or shooting or otherwise have to worry about such things during his/her life. One side effect of this however is that the occasional violent crime that does take place tends to receive a disproportionate amount of media publicity making it seem as if Australia has a worse problem than it really does.

House and car break-ins are more common but if you adopt common sense precautions such as not leaving valuables on display in your car then you are unlikely to be affected.

Health Care

Australia operates a nationwide medical insurance scheme ('Medicare') that ensures free or low cost treatment for injuries & illnesses. Most Australians tend to 'top up' this scheme with additional medical insurance.
Permanent Residents and Citizens of Australia are entitled to the basic medical insurance but overseas visitors on holiday or temporary visas are not - the exception to this is where Australia has a reciprocal health agreement with the visitors' country of origin (e.g. UK citizens can obtain a Medicare card if in Australia on certain classes of temporary visa). The doctors, hospitals and associated people and organisations are of high quality and strictly controlled.

 

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