Take the headache out of migration with these checklists and have a smart, stress free move.
You may think the number of things to do before relocating to a new country and home can be long and daunting, but they don’t have to be thanks to these quick and easy checklists.
Coming from someone who has experienced the ‘big migration to another country’ journey, I know that between coming to terms with leaving friends and family behind and closing out work properly so you won’t burn any bridges, there’s a very small window of time to deal with the ‘admin’ stuff. You know the type, they’re the ones that involve anything from redirecting your mail to organising a bank account in your new home country.
I’ll be the first to admit that I left more than a fair share of things in the ‘I’ll figure it out when I land’ pile. Although not a decision I regret, I can honestly say that it can be miles more reassuring and enjoyable if you’ve got all (or at least most) of your migration needs sorted before you land.
So here are some of the more important (and some of the less important) things to consider before waving goodbye at the airport and hopping on that flight that I learned from my experiences abroad. Hopefully, with their help, they’ll make your journey to your new adventure that much smoother.
And yes, even if you are subscribing to the easy-going travellers mentality that I did, it could still be worthwhile to at least give these lists a once-over – because we all forget things in the excitement and nervousness of this life-changing decision.
- Passport: Make sure this is not near its expiry. If it is, consider renewing before you leave.
- Driver’s licence: Make sure this is valid and current.
- Visa: Obtain your visa and be aware of its entry and entrance conditions.
- Buy your plane tickets: Organise transport to the airport and advise friends and family of your departure so that they can say goodbye before you leave.
- Money: Bring some cold hard currency in case you need cash when you land.
- Personal documentation: This includes your: passport, birth certificate, wedding certificate, adoption certificate, academic qualification (and CV), driver’s licence, insurance policies, your will, trust records, bank statements, investment documents, immunisation and medical certificates and history, and shipping documents.
- Photocopies of personal documentation: Take photocopies of your personal documentation (above). Leave some copies with family or friends at home and scatter the rest among your belongings. They’ll come in handy if the originals are lost or stolen.
- Phones and other electronic communication devices: This includes: laptops, notepads, and iPads.
- Adaptors: Bringing electronics from home? It’s highly likely Australian sockets won’t be compatible so bring an adaptor from home so you can use and charge it straight away. If you’re bringing numerous electronics with you, it’s good to invest in a powerboard. This way you’ll only need one adaptor to charge all your gadgets.
- Give your contact details to family and friends: Provide the important people in your life with enough details to contact you if they need to.
- Advise the government of your move: Depending on how long you are leaving for and if you are from a country where voting is mandatory, you'll need to advise the proper department of your departure to avoid being penalised in the event that you are required to vote, or even attend jury service.
Tying Up Loose Ends Before You Leave
- Packing: Pack everything you don’t need away or organise them to be shipped to your new location. Storage facilities are good, as is leaving furniture with family and friends. You can also sell anything you don’t need, and put your earnings toward your relocation fund. Also, check with Australian customs on what is (and is not) permitted into the country.
- Redirect your mail: And cancel subscriptions.
- Cancel all ongoing transactions to your bank account: This includes Spotify, sky/broadband/internet, gym, phone/mobile, opticians, TV licences, car/home/income/life insurance, council tax, charities, and travel cards.
- Consume all perishables in the house: Or give them to family and friends.
- Assign someone to take care of outstanding matters: This could include legal matters at home.
- Set up bank accounts: This includes savings, transactions and term deposit accounts and can be done online before you leave.
- Apply for a credit card: Or at least be aware of the documentation you’ll need to obtain a credit card in Australia.
- Advise your financial institution at home of your move: This is important so they don’t block your account for fraudulent activity. NB: if your internet banking or transactions are linked to your local mobile number, update this to link to your international number OR make sure you bring your local number with you on roaming so you won’t be locked from your funds.
- Request credit references from your bank: These papers might be imperative to obtain a visa, rent a home in Australia, or obtain a loan in Australia.
- Obtain the Bank Code Number/SWIFT code of your Australian account: This will allow you to transfer funds from your home account to your Aussie account via an International Money Transfer (IMT). Naturally, also transfer funds to your account as soon as you can for financial peace of mind.
- Advise the tax office that you’ll be abroad: And pay any necessary tax for the financial year.
- Obtain tax documents for Australia: This is for if you’re required to pay tax in Australia for the financial year. Contact the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to find out if this is required of you.
- Sort out your student loan: If you have a student loan, see what your options are in terms of paying it off while abroad.
- Clear outstanding debts and bills: Or organise regular payments to avoid a bad credit rating upon your return.
- Obtain a loan: If you need it, or know how to obtain one when you land.
- Notify all home utilities and pay off outstanding bills: Water, gas, electricity - they should all be notified of your leaving your home otherwise you might be hit with an unexpected bill. If you're renting out your home, make sure you change your billing address for all utilities to someone who can manage your affairs in your absence.
- Set up all utilities: Naturally, once you’ve arrived and have a permanent place to stay, don’t forget to organise internet, phone plans, insurance, travel cards etc. in Australia.
- Organise accommodation at your new home: And get the address too, or at least a postal address so you can give to family and friends.
- Close out your current accommodation: Renters should advise their landlords of their move and end their lease, pay off their bills/final rent and get your deposit back, and move/sell any of your home items. Homeowners can sell their home or employ an agent to rent out and oversee it until your return (if applicable). Also, don’t forget to advise the council of your new circumstances and the new tenants.
Keeping in contact with friends and family
- Set up a Skype account: And give your friends and family your username/account details and vice versa.
- Know your time differences: To make it easier to organise your Skype chat dates, naturally.
- Turn roaming on or get an international number: Give this to family and friends so they can contact you.
- Keep a physical, written down record of your details: This includes phone number and address, in case you forget (it is something new, after all).
- Get people’s addresses/phone numbers/Facebook contacts: You never know who you’d like to send a postcard or present to, or say hello to on a whim. It’s also good to get people’s birthdays so they know you haven’t forgotten about them while on your adventure.
- Notify work of your resignation/move: Provide ample notice to your employer that you’ll be leaving.
- Employ migration agents and recruitment agents: They are worthwhile investments to help you settle in and find work.
- Obtain references: Inform your work referees of your move in case they need to be contacted. Get their email addresses as time differences can make phone calls difficult. Also ask if they have any leads for work in your new home.
Insurance and cover
- Sort out insurances at home: Cease any insurances you’ll no longer need and look into your pension/superannuation options.
- Take out travel insurance: This can be with an insurer at home, or in Australia with a non-resident travel insurance policy.
- Take out health cover: Your visa might require you to obtain minimal health cover. You can choose to take this out with an insurer at home or in Australia. You should also see if you’re legally eligible for Australia’s health care system, Medicare.
For the flight
- Passport: Sounds stupid, but you don’t want to accidentally pack your passport into your check-in luggage. Make sure it’s on you so you can clear customs when you land.
- Understand what the weather will be like when you arrive: If you’re travelling far, the weather might be quite different to the weather you left in.
- A good book for the plane: A long journey is inevitable.
Things to help you settle in easier
- Physical, written down records of anyone’s details you will need when you arrive: This could include details of Aussie friends, family, migration officers, universities, hotel owners, or car hire services.
- Contacts in your new home: See if any of your friends or family know someone in Australia who can help you out when you first arrive. It’s always good to have a network you can turn to.
- Aussie slang/lingo: Familiarise yourself with this to avoid embarrassment and confusion.
- Airport to your accommodation: Know how to get from the airport to your accommodation to avoid any stress. You’re jetlagged enough.
- The Australian transport system: Again, the less stress the better, so familiarise yourself with the transport system, what station/area you need to go to, and how ticketing works. Also, so you know when public transport ends at night.
- Contact details of your embassy in Australia: Keep these on hand in case you need it.
- Australian law: Familiarise yourself generally with Australian law to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Wifi hotspots: When you first land it’s likely you won’t have internet access, so it’s good to know where you can access the internet to help keep you connected.
- Driving laws: Familiarise yourself with general road rules, and see if your licence is valid to use in Australia or if you require an international licence. Understand that we drive on the left side of the road, which might be different from what you’re used to.
- Hire a car: This could be handy for the first few weeks to help you get around while settling in.
- Prescription medicine: Make sure your prescription medicine is up to date and bring copies of any medical certificates you might need to provide to medical professionals in Australia, whether they’re for ongoing conditions or ongoing pharmaceuticals.
Things you should do or know to help settle in
- Invest in sunscreen ‒ you’ll know what I mean when you get here.
- Tipping is not mandatory, but it is nice.
- Get a TFN (Tax File Number) for working purposes.
- Shop around and apply for superannuation (if applicable).
- Familiarise yourself with the area in general. Know what places to avoid (rough or high criminal activity areas).
- Know your public holidays ‒ so that you can cash in on long weekends, oh, and know when to celebrate.
- Know the emergency number for Australia is 000 (or 112 on mobile phones).
- Understand that our beaches differ from overseas beaches and can be more dangerous in terms of tides, winds, and waves.
- Understand that ‘no split bills’ is a common occurrence, so be prepared to calculate your ‘cut’ when dining out with friends. Keeping cash on hand is always helpful.
- Familiarise yourself with the big supermarket brands, and where they generally sit on prices so you won’t be caught out at your local (though decidedly more expensive) supermarket.
- Know your clothing size in the Australian system: this is very helpful and will avoid embarrassment at the shops.
Common misconceptions about Australia you really should know before you embarass yourself
- Dangerous animals = many. Dangerous animals you’ll encounter in the city = very few.
- No one in the city has a kangaroo or koala for a pet. Or in their backyard.
- There is no such thing as a drop bear. Or a yowie. We do have Tasmanian devils, however.
- None of us actually drinks Fosters, we just pawn it off to you because unlike us, you’re willing to drink it.
- We don’t put shrimps on the barbie. We put PRAWNS on the barbie.
- Sydney is NOT the capital city of Australia. Three guesses what is.
- Australia and New Zealand are NOT the same country. We hate each other. No, we don’t. Yeah, we kinda do. No, not really.
- We have an interesting sense of humour (as you probably guessed from the previous point). Most of the time we’re pretty laid back, so try not to take anything that sounds odd too seriously.
- Kings Cross in Sydney is VERY different from Kings Cross in London.
- You don’t have to like vegemite, but you do have to try it. No, not really.