Thanks to its fantastic climate and outdoor lifestyle Australia has long been one of the most popular expat destinations with Brits.
Indeed Australia is now considered the most popular destination worldwide for Brits leaving home turf, with almost 1.3 million Brits currently living there. Of course it’s not just families and young professional relocating to Oz; increasingly the country is being seen as a suitable retirement destination.
With high quality healthcare on offer, year-round sunshine and reasonable real estate prices outside the major urban hubs an increasing number of pensioners from around the world are enjoying their well-earned retirement.
But all is not well for retiree expats in Australia as a change to visa regulations leaves them in “limbo” with very few rights and no legal claim to permanent residency.
In the recent past retiring to Australia was reasonably simple thanks to the Australian retirement visa known as a “410”. While the visa was always meant to be temporary before granting more permanent residency the reality has turned out rather differently. After its withdrawal in 2005 many former visa holders now find themselves established in Australia but without any current paperwork to prove their legitimacy.
Despite the possession of a temporary visa, many expat retirees have been waiting for decades to receive a permanent residency visa; something that the Australian government seems unwilling to grant even to trouble-free long term residents.
Expat retirees in Australia claim that they have largely funded their lifestyle thanks to savings, investments and their pension. They have paid into the Australian economy while living in the country, but without benefitting even from free healthcare. They should therefore be considered legitimate Australians and granted the same benefits as other Australians.
Retiree expats are a sticking point for many countries. The reality is that retirees can bring considerable independent wealth into their adopted country. Equally, the costs of their healthcare can often be much higher than for the working population.
For this reason British retirees previously granted a 410 visa have found themselves unable to access free healthcare in Australia – despite the long-standing reciprocal arrangement made with the UK. As a result it has been necessary even for visa holders to invest in suitable expat health insurance to help cover any treatment necessary.
The Australian Department of Health states that the 410 was introduced to ensure that retiree expats “were not a burden on Australia’s health and social welfare systems”.
Fortunately the case has now been taken up by campaigning group British Retirees in Australia (BERIA) and Australian MP Ian Goodenough. It is hoped that a new proposed bill will allow the matter to be settled once and for all.
While there is still much work to do, BERIA’s intention is to allow older expat retirees to finally rest easy knowing there is no chance of them being forcibly removed from Australia in their twilight years.