If you’re interested in migrating to Australia for business or personal reasons, it pays to do your research beforehand. Here’s some background knowledge about what types of visas are available and what business opportunities the land down under can offer.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship aims to contribute to the Australian future by managing migration as well as promoting Australian citizenship for a multicultural Australia. They are committed to dealing fairly and reasonably with clients and has settled about 7.2 million migrants since 2012 from about 200 countries. Immigration does not discriminate on the basis of race or religion, which means that anyone from any country and apply provided that they meet the legal criteria.
What you need to know about Australian Immigration Guide
All applications for migration are assessed against the criteria set out in the Migration Act and Regulations. Depending on which visa you're applying for, the policies and legislations are different. There are two dominant streams that migrants are selected under;
- Skill. A points test is integrated into this stream, looking at particular work skills nominated by employers and the ability to build a successful business and bring sufficient capital to Australia. There are a number of schemes in place that allow employers to sponsor their workers.
- Family. This is selected on the basis of the family relationship you have to a citizen in Australia, this includes partners, children and parents. There are no tests for skills.
Employer Sponsored Workers
This is suitable for operating Australian and overseas employers to sponsor and employ skilled workers who have qualifications, skills and experience required in Australia. Applicants for these types of visas need to be sponsored by their employer and can be employed on a permanent or temporary basis (subclass 457).
This visa is for skilled workers from outside of Australia who are sponsored and nominated by an Australian business to work for a temporary period. A business can sponsor a skilled worker if they can't find a suitable Australian candidate for that particular position. The time taken for the process can vary, depending on the situation and occupation. Applicants are not required to demonstrate English proficiency.
Q&A with Lauren Kicknosway, author of the Sydney Moving Guide.
Lauren runs the highly insightful Sydney Moving Guide, which is dedicated to helping those planning a move to Australia, and offers tips to help expats settle in once they arrive.
What was your reason for moving to Sydney?
The opportunity to move to Sydney kind of just came out of the blue. A recruiter for a tech company in Sydney contacted my husband about a position. The recruiter was referred by a coworker who didn’t want to move. Lucky for us.
What was even more surprising was that we actually did it! Everyone back home thought we were crazy to move to a city neither of us had ever been before. But when we ask anyone who had been to Sydney if they would make the move down under they all said “In a heartbeat!”. No questions asked and absolutely no hesitation. And you know what? They
Sydney is a great city to live as an expat. It truly is an international city. Many of our friends in Sydney are expats from all over the world. Just walking around the city you’ll hear people speaking Italian, French, German, or even Chinese.
Living in Sydney is especially easy for people from the USA or UK since there is no language barrier to overcome, except for Aussie slang of course. I’m still get lost, especially when it comes to rhyming slang.
What were the main hurdles you found when moving to Australia?
For us there was just so much that was unknown. What if we didn’t like it? What if the new job doesn’t work out? What if we can’t find an apartment? Moving to Sydney was a really big decision. If things didn’t workout we would have to pack up once again and move all the way back home. That wasn’t a feasible option. We knew that once we decided to move, we were all in.
After making the decision to move, the next hurdle was dealing with the logistics of moving. It’s not an easy task packing up everything you own and putting it in a shipping container.
After the movers picked up our shipment, all we had left was two suitcases that we were going to live out of for the next three months. That’s the day it really hit us. There was no turning back.
What are your three best general tips for those thinking of moving to Australia?
- less is better, when it comes to international moving and shipping - If it’s replaceable then get rid of it. When our shipment finally arrived we couldn’t believe that we shipping furniture from IKEA half way across the world when there is an IKEA in Sydney. Two in fact. We could have easily replaced it all, saving the international shipping cost, not to mention the time we spent waiting for our shipment to finally arrive. This is especially true for bedroom furniture. We ended up sleeping on an air mattress for three long restless months when we could have easily purchased a new bed in Sydney.
- Your best resource is other expats who have moved to Sydney - There are several Sydney expat groups on Facebook. Do a search on Facebook and see if there is a group of expats from your country. Once you find one, join the group and start asking any questions you have. You can ask about schools in Sydney, what are the best suburbs, finding a job, visa questions and just about everything else. There is a Sydney subreddit that’s good for questions too. Also join an expat meetup group. Many of the meetup groups have message boards plus you can check out what events they have going on.
- Start researching Sydney suburbs way before you move - Finding an apartment in Sydney without knowing the city well can be a daunting task. Sydney is a lot larger than people realise. . Narrow down what suburbs to look for apartments in before you arrive. Real estate brokers only show apartments for 15 minutes. If you’re late or miss it you’ll most likely miss out altogether. Apartments go fast especially in popular areas. By narrowing down your search to just two suburbs you’ll make it easier on yourself to get from one 15 minute showing to the next.
Do you have any tips for those moving their non-Australian bank accounts and credit cards over to Australian institutes? Anything in particular to look out for?
A lot of expats keep their bank accounts open back home for paying any bills that come up (such as school loans), if they are renting out their house or for any other financial items that come up. This means transferring money back and forth often. Transferring from bank to bank can quickly add up because you’ll be paying a fee for the international transfer plus often a percentage. It’s best to look into other options for transferring money internationally such as Ozforez, PureFX, or XE.
There are a few larger banks that have expat or international accounts such as HSBC and Citi. When we moved we didn’t realise these accounts existed, so I don’t have any specific information, but it’s worth looking into to see if it fits your needs.
We also have kept our credit cards active from home. It’s tricky getting credit cards in Australia at first especially if you have a temporary visa. When moving to Australia one starts off with zero credit history. Most credit cards will not give someone with a 457 visa an account. Not even store credit cards like David Jones or Myer. We were able to get our first credit card through our bank but only after living in Sydney for a year and with special consideration from the bank’s credit division. Even then our credit limit was very low but it was a start to developing our credit history in Australia.
How did you deal with the higher cost of living in Sydney? Did you prepare before moving over?
The higher cost of living in Sydney is a shocker at first. It wears off a little once you start getting paid on a regular basis. It just becomes part of your life.
We started saving up as soon as we realised what we would most likely be paying for rent. We had the bond plus one month’s rent saved up and even then it felt like we were cutting it close.
We also didn’t realise that it’s common in Australia to get paid once a month on the 15th instead of every other Friday as is often the way in the States. This meant that we had to wait a full month pay cycle before our first paycheques arrived. That definitely was an extra financial strain that we had not planned for.
What tips do you have for those coming to Australia on a 457 visa?
As a 457 visa holder your employment is directly linked to your visa status. If something happens with your employment you only have a limited time to find another employer willing to take over your visa. It’s best to be absolutely sure that your new job in Australia is something that you want to do and will advance your career. You don’t want to move all the way to Australia for a job you aren’t sure about. Remember that interviews aren’t just for employers but are also for prospective employees to ask questions and see if they want to work there or not.
Negotiate well. Moving to Sydney is expensive but it doesn’t stop there. You need to have enough saved for a bond for a rental, first month’s rent, health insurance and school tuition if you have kids. Negotiate to have some of these expenses paid for by your employer.
There are a number of migration options for family members of Australian citizens as well as for current or former Australian permanent residents wishing to return to Australia. Some visa classes are capped depending on which family stream you apply for, these visas could also have long waiting periods.
There are a variety of visas available for tourists who want to visit or extend their stay in Australia, as long as it is a short-term non-work purpose. A working holiday visa is suitable for those who are aged between 18 and 30 to have an extended stay, supported by short-term employment. Retirement, transit, event participants and medical treatment visas are also available.
You will be assessed according to your passport country and what studies you wish to undertake. The student visa is determined by your main course of study. After you've graduated, you can also apply for the temporary graduate visa (subclass 485) which lets you work in Australia temporarily after completing your studies. Visas are available for guardians of students as well as those participating in a sponsored training programs.
This Visa lets you live and work in Australia on a temporary basis after you've finished your tertiary level studies. There are two streams associated with this program; the graduate work stream for international students with skills related to a specified list of occupations and the post-study work stream, for international students with an eligible qualification. This stream is only available for those who were granted their student visa after 5 November 2011.
Business and Investment Migration
Successful business people who are looking for a new challenge can develop their skills in Australia. Australia welcomes people with international contacts to expand its export trade and people with the skills and the capital to contribute to growth in the country's industries. Australia is a highly regulated country with each of its industries having their own rules and policies. Potential migrants are advised to check various government, industry and union websites to understand the nature of the businesses they intend to enter.
Starting or buying a business in Australia
For those who are looking to start a company in Australia, you must register it with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and obtain an Australian Company Number (ACN). Buying a business is more complex, as local knowledge is highly recommended. Using a business broker could help, as they have extensive knowledge about financial knowledge, business ownership and real estate experience. Insurance is also critical to reduce any risks that your business could face. The right insurance policies should cover things like assets, liabilities, people and revenue. Some of the areas in business that are underinsured are buildings, business interruptions, liabilities and machinery.
ASIC is Australia's regulator for corporations, markets and financial services. It is an independent Commonwealth Government body and aims to maintain, facilitate and improve the performance of the financial system in Australia. They also license and regulate people and businesses engaging in credit services.
Conducting business in Australia
Foreign companies wishing to conduct business in Australia also need to be approved by ASIC. It is required that businesses lodge copies of their financial statements and notify ASIC of any changes to their business conducted in Australia. Many businesses in Australia operate as a private company, as well as partnerships, franchises, joint ventures and trusts. Legal services are highly recommended at this stage to advise of any risks.
Australia has a large investment community and foreign investors are creating demand for both core and innovative investment solutions. There are multiple investment services available which include asset classes, Australian equities, international equities, fixed income, cash, Forex trading and derivatives. Investors can choose from a range of professionally managed portfolio strategies as well as asset management from a specialist manager.
In Australia, it is common for property sellers to have a selling agent, which is why you may want to consider using a buyers agent to help you buy property. Buyers agents work for the buyer and have access to many properties before they even hit the market. Seller agents usually call buyer agents first to see if they have a buyer ready to make an offer and also have extensive market knowledge. Overseas property investors need to have Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval before entering market, but if you've just moved to Australia and looking for a new home, FIRB approval doesn't apply.
The Regional Sponsorship Migration Scheme (RSMS) is suitable for skilled employees who are nominated by an Australian regional employer. Occupations that meet this requirement include managers, administrators, professionals and tradespersons. Visa applicants must hold an Australian trade, diploma or higher qualification that matches the occupation, be less than 45 years of age as well as have an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) of 4.5 or above.
Immigration and the law
Legislation about immigration is constantly changing, so it is worthwhile to regularly check the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship for changes that may apply to you. If you are interested in Australian Migration or looking to permanently migrate to Australia, you need to make an Australian Immigration Visa Application. There is a huge amount of paperwork involved during the immigration process. If things are straightforward, you may be able to manage the process yourself, but if things get complicated, you may want to consider an immigration lawyer.
Australia has a non-discriminatory immigration policy, so anyone can apply to migrate to Australia from any country. Processing arrangements for migration application will vary depending on your situation, so it pays to do your research beforehand to make sure you're applying for the right visa and to help you decide whether living in Australia is the right move for you.