I have had a number of people email me in recent months asking about how to go about migrating to Australia so thought I would condense all the information into a blog post to save me from writing the same material time and time again.
This information is mainly aimed at those in the UK/Europe but most will be applicable to other nationalities as well.
My migration story started like all the best stories with a very bad woman and I have been living in Melbourne for just over two and a half years..
So why move at all?
Well Australia has a great life style that I personally prefer. There are a lot of job opportunities (check out seek.com.au), the pay rates are currently much higher than they are in Europe (particularly with current exchange rate). At the time of writing a Microsoft .net developer can expect to earn around $60,000-$120,000 depending on number of years of experience. Career One have a salary calculator that will give you a good idea of how much money you actually end up with after tax. Obviously pay rates are higher for those in leadership positions/banking etc.
Housing is generally cheaper and much larger here (check out RealEstate.com.au), petrol is half the price and every day I think what a beautiful country this is when I see palm trees and parrots on my morning runs (the novelty of this hasn’t gone yet for me..).
Some things are also much more expensive e.g. cars (almost double particularly European brands!) and books (I buy from Amazon). Broadband infrastructure sucks & some services such as banking are very much backward compared to Europe. Services, new products (particularly online stuff) tends to be introduced here last. Additionally going out the main cities can feel like a step back in time (and not always in a good way).
Migration is not for everyone and if you are the sort of person that doesn’t like the following its probably not for you:
- Change – yes Australians speak english but things are done differently, they speak differently, there are different products tv etc
- Bluntness (Australians do send to tell it as it is and you will often hear suck it up, take a concrete pill or maybe that’s just me..)
- Very close to their family (Australia is a looooong way from Europe and the time difference doesn’t help).
If all this still sounds good and you want to migrate then you have the following main options:
- Under 30 and want to travel around a bit but not stay too long? – working holiday visa (http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/working-holiday/)
- Skilled Migration Visa – for those who want to stay (http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/175/)
- Get a company to sponsor you (http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/skilled-workers/)
- You have some family etc. in Oz (I don’t know anything about this so won’t cover it)
I am not going to say too much about the working holiday visa apart from its quick & cheap to apply for but it is going to restrict the type of places that will employ you. My sister used this option and spent around 6 months working on a number of short term carer contracts. It is a great way to travel & explore Australia.
Skilled Migration Visa
The option I chose was the skilled migration visa. This is the least restrictive but also the most time consuming and expensive. To apply for this you need a skill that is in demand (check out http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/sol/). In total I think this cost me around 2500 pounds sterling (about two and a half years ago) and took about 10 months to process.
You will go through an assessment process where a point’s score is calculated based on skill, years of experience, education and english fluency. You will then need criminal background and medical checks. I am a software developer so the Australian Computer Society assessed my CV, degree & a few Microsoft qualifications – this took around 6-8 weeks. It is best to find a doctor familiar with the migration requirements (try a travel clinic I found one near Heathrow).
There are a number of companies offering visa application services. You really don’t need to use any of these unless you have some special circumstances. The application process is fairly straight forward (hey I managed it) and just involves following instructions -and filling in some 45 page forms..
The process is basically:
- Fill in some lengthy forms
- Get your skills assessed by relevant industry body
- Police check
- Medical Check (doctor exam, blood tests & chest x-ray)
- Visa granted
- Activate visa
- Go to Oz :)
Once you have obtained the visa you then need to “activate” it by travelling to Australia before the initial entry date (I think this is 2 years from when the visa is granted). Once its activated you are free to use it for next 5 years but its apparently important to be in Australia at least 2 of these 5 years to stand a good chance of resident return stamp.
This visa entitles you to do pretty much everything an Aussie can do apart from an Australian passport and the right to vote (its mandatory here). You can stay indefinitely (although do need to obtain a resident return stamp if leave after 5 years). You cannot become a citizen until you have held this visa for at least 4 years (at one point this was 2 grrrr).
Your other main option is to get a company to sponsor you. This is probably pretty hard unless you have some specialist skills or are part of a global corp. If you are a Microsoft developer/consultant my employer Readify are always looking for people, provide 20 days paid personal development (I have been on Udi Dahan’s architecture course, Teched, Remix and a number of smaller workshops), have some great people to learn from and will sponsor visa’s so check us out at http://readify.net/work-with-us.
The main issue with Employer sponsored visas are that it restricts your options in that you are tied to an individual employer. However they are much cheaper (companies will generally cover the costs) and can be obtained in as little as a month depending on your circumstances. You also have the option to apply for permanent residency visa after this is obtained (not sure how long for this).
It’s worth noting that until I was in Australia I didn’t get a single reply to job applications and the minute I had an Australian mobile number I had heaps of calls. It took me two and a half weeks to find my first job so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get any replies until you are here. I would advise having enough money to cover 3 months without work. It took me about 2 and a half weeks to find a job.
When I first moved I stayed in a hotel for two nights then a short term rental for 6 weeks. This was much cheaper than hotel but not as cheap as renting. You are however going to find it hard to find a rental without a job and the rental market can be quite competitive in cities.
For IT workers you are probably really looking at going to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth. That’s not to say that other cities wont have jobs just there are more jobs in the larger cities and why make it hard when you have just moved here. Personally I prefer Melbourne to Sydney and probably partly because the city has a more European feel to it. Sydney probably does have better beaches nearby through :) I have only really spent a short holiday in Brisbane so cant comment apart from it seemed a nice city with lots nearby (probably smaller than Melbourne or Sydney). In my brief time in Perth I considered it is probably a bit quiet for a younger crowd but is a beautiful city and would be perfect for a young family.
Hope this helps and good luck with the process if you decide its for you :)