Country Facts – Australia
This information is provided to offer guidance to those seeking to live and work overseas. For more information we recommend that you speak with your national government Foreign Office (or equivalent).
Living and working in Australia
Kangaroos and crocodiles, boomerangs and didgeridoos, the vast Outback and cosmopolitan cities like Melbourne and Sydney: Australia is a unique place, and whether you’re thinking about a holiday down under or are considering a more permanent move to the antipodes, there’s certainly a lot to love about this amazing country.
For many expatriates headed to Australia, one of the main attractions – besides the weather, spectacular landscapes, friendly people and amazing wildlife, that is – is the fact that its culture seems so similar to what you’re already used to.
And while this may be true of many aspects of life in Australia, it’s important to do your research to understand how the country’s culture and laws are different from what you currently know, and this preparation will make settling in much easier.
Local laws and customs
Because of Australia’s unique ecosystem, its customs rules are extremely strict and those who travel into the country must be very careful to declare any foodstuffs that they may be carrying. In many cases – such as with fruits, vegetables and meat products – you’ll have to surrender the items upon entering the country, and failing to declare such goods could result in a hefty fine.
It’s also important to note that Australia’s immigration policies are very strict and you’ll need to have the right visa sorted before your arrival.
A universal healthcare system, called Medicare, exists in Australia and the level of care is generally considered quite high – this is demonstrated by the country having one of the world’s highest life expectancies.
Under Medicare, the federal government pays for the majority of treatments, while patients sometimes have to pay costs – although many people take out private medical insurance, which will generally cover these additional fees.
Australia has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, meaning that visitors from Britain can make limited use of the subsidised healthcare if treatment is necessary during their stay. However, this does not cover pre-existing conditions and is only applicable to holidaymakers. Therefore, it should not be treated as an alternative to having adequate international health insurance or travel insurance.
It’s generally possible for expatriates to purchase property in Australia without much trouble, but you will need to get permission from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) before you begin the house-buying process. Applications are usually processed within 40 days, although you could wait up to 130 days, so it’s usually best to get this taken care of as soon as possible.
While you’re waiting for your application to be approved, you can start looking for properties and even begin the exchange of contracts – but it’s essential that all documents are marked as conditional on approval from the FIRB. In some cases, an FIRB check may not be required – such as when purchasing some new-build properties. But it’s always important to check early on.
Schooling for kids
Compulsory education in Australia is between the ages of five and 15 or 17 – the upper age depends on the state or territory – as well as the child’s date of birth. For primary and secondary schools, the academic year normally runs from January until December, while tertiary institutions usually have shorter terms, beginning in late February and running until mid-November.
For more information on moving abroad visit www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.