How to move to Australia from the USA

Want to say g'day mate to Australia permanently? Here's what you need to know about moving to Australia from the United States.

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With friendly locals, a thriving economy and some of the best beaches in the world, it's no wonder so many people from the States want to make Australia their new home. If you want to move to Australia from the USA, here’s how to do it: including your visa options, finding a place to stay, setting up your bank accounts, and how to even start driving here (and yes, we drive on the left).

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Visas available to American nationals

Americans moving to Australia will obviously need a visa. Use this free government visa finder tool to see some of the options that may be available.

  • If you already have family living in Australia, or you have family members who are Australian or New Zealand citizens, then you should probably look into a family visa.
  • A student visa is suitable for students looking to study or undertake professional training in Australia.
  • If you won’t be coming in on either of the above, then a working visa is probably your best bet.

The easiest way to get a working visa in Australia is to find a job in Australia before leaving the US. Being sponsored by an Australian company can make it significantly easier for you to be approved. Alternatively, if you work a job that's on the skilled occupations list, you might also have a good chance of success.

Once again, this depends on the visa you apply for. Partner and family visas might take months while tourist and working visas are often processed in just days.


Getting to Australia

Many airlines offer flights from the US to Australia, with most landing in Sydney or Melbourne, but also Perth, Brisbane or Adelaide. Direct flights from the USA to Australia leave from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Honolulu International Airport, Burbank, San Francisco International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The most popular route of all, however, is the fifteen hour leg from LA to Sydney.

Flights are offered by several airlines including Qantas, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Virgin Australia, Hawaiian Airlines, Jetstar, Air New Zealand and United Airlines. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a flight on your chosen travel date, though cheap tickets on the most popular routes and peak periods (around July to August) tend to sell out quickly. To get a deal on airfares you might try planning ahead and booking online.

Australia is almost the opposite side of the planet, and even the quickest routes from the US west coast to the Australian east coast will take you at least 13 or 14 hours.

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Finding a place to stay

One of the main things you'll have to organise before moving to Australia is accommodation. You could choose to move here and find temporary accommodation such as a hotel or serviced apartment for the first few weeks of your stay, however, keep in mind that this can add to up to be quite expensive if you end up staying for a long period of time.

The first decision you'll have to make is deciding between renting or buying a house. While there are many pros and cons to consider with each option, the decision is ultimately based on what you can afford. Read this guide to find out what might be the best option for you based on your current circumstances.

Speaking to a real estate agent can help you answer some important questions about your move and help you find the perfect area and home for your needs.

Buying a home

For a comprehensive guide to buying a home in Australia, read the ultimate Australian home buying guide here.

One of the first steps in deciding whether to buy or continue renting is to calculate how much you could potentially borrow. Use this calculator below to find out if buying a house is the right option for you.

Banking

It can be worth setting up your new Australian finances before you leave the States in order to hit the ground running as soon as you arrive.

Many major Australian banks offer migrant programs to help you organise your finances before leaving. While the exact services offered differ between banks, you can typically apply online for an account while you’re still in the United States, and can then start transferring money into this Australian account as soon as you like. That way, as soon as you arrive you'll have access to an Australian bank account and the funds in it.

These migrant programs can also make it easier to get savings accounts and credit cards, and also provide other migration resources to help expats succeed in Australia. If you're moving to Australia from the USA and still need to open an Australian bank account you read the full guide here.

  • Will you still be doing business in America? If you'll be needing quick and simultaneous access to both US and Aussie dollars, consider looking into multi-currency accounts. This lets you hold funds in more than one currency and can be especially useful for those who are still receiving an income from the United States. They can also make it easier to take advantage of fluctuating exchange rates and more quickly convert between US and Australian dollars.
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Magnifying glass

Employment and tax

For better or worse, you'll be leaving some things behind when you move to Australia. Your tax obligations are not one of them. The Australian equivalent of the IRS in Australia is the ATO (Australian Taxation Office), and it doesn't work in quite the same way as its American counterpart. This guide can explain how to fill out an Australian tax return.

Income and tax in Australia

You are typically considered an Australian resident for tax purposes if you are intending to live here permanently, are an overseas student enrolled in a course more than six months long, or have been in living and working in the same place in Australia for six continuous months.

To report your earnings and file a tax return in Australia, you’ll need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) from the ATO.

Income and tax in the US

Don’t automatically assume that moving overseas will free you from having to report your income to the IRS. Every US citizen and green card holder is still required to file a US tax return when residing overseas, even if they're also be filing a tax return in Australia.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be double-taxed. If the foreign income you earn is less than a certain amount, and if you meet time requirements for overseas residency, you might not have to pay US taxes at all, but will still need to file a return. If you don’t satisfy these requirements, but are still paying tax in Australia, then you might receive Foreign Tax Credits to offset your liabilities to the US Government. To adjust to these complications, US citizens residing overseas may receive an automatic two-month extension on their tax returns.

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Social Security in Australia

If you work for an employer in Australia, that employer is required to contribute a portion of your salary into your superannuation fund. Australian superannuation is a lot like an American 401(k) in that it's the money you will use to fund your retirement. Australian employers are required to contribute a certain amount of a worker's salary towards their superannuation fund.

One consideration in how to move to Australia from the USA is what to do with your 401(k). It may be possible to rollover your 401(k) into an Australian super fund or withdraw the proceeds as cash, but doing so may incur tax penalties, so it's often a good idea to get professional advice for navigating this situation. It might be easier to find this advice in Australia than the US, as tax agents in Australia can be more likely to know about the relevant laws in both countries.

  • Americans are eligible for social security in Australia: US residents who have worked in Australia may be eligible for the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension for the severely disabled, pensions payable to widowed persons and Carer Payments to partners of people who receive an Age Pension or a Disability Support Pension. Americans living in Australia may get social security benefits even without becoming a citizen.
  • The Office of International Operations is in charge of administering the Social Security program outside the US, while the American Citizens Services unit (ACS) assists recipients of US federal benefits who are residing in Australia.
  • In the majority of cases, if you’re a non-US-citizen and you’re outside the US for more than six months in a row, your Social Security payments will be stopped.
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Driving in Australia

First things first, remember that Australians drive on the left. Other than that:

  • Most states and territories will allow you to drive on a valid overseas licence.
  • In the Northern Territory, anyone holding an overseas licence must also hold an International Driving Permit (IDP), which must be obtained from the country where the licence was issued.
  • If you’re a permanent resident, most states and territories will require you to convert your overseas licence after having been in the country for a set period of time, typically three to six months.

For more information regarding driving in Australia on an international driver’s licence, see our Living in Australia section.

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Australia's public healthcare system

healthcare

Medicare is the name of Australia’s public healthcare system under which all permanent residents can access free essential medical services. Every Australian citizen is eligible for a Medicare card and free or subsidised treatment by health professionals such as doctors, specialists and optometrists.

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Studying in Australia

Much like the United States, Australia is also home to a number of world class universities whose accreditation is recognised worldwide.

There are also a number of scholarship and exchange programs in place, giving dedicated American students a chance to continue their education in Australia. In the States, the Fulbright US Student Program, The Institute for International Education and others can offer valuable ample opportunities to study overseas.

To legally study in Australia as an international student, you will have to obtain a Student visa, which you may become eligible for once you’ve been offered and have accepted a placement in an approved Australian educational institution.

If you’re still paying back a student loan...

Piggy bank

Even Australia isn't far enough away for you to escape your student loans. While specific circumstances, including a period of unemployment, inability to find full time work or other economic hardship may qualify you for an extension, being in Australia might not.

Skipping loan repayments may mean that your loan will go into default, which might result in a poor credit rating and actions taken by the lender to recover their funds. If you have a student loan, don’t ignore it and try to have it paid off before arriving in Australia so you can start with a cleaner financial history.

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Feeling at home in Australia

Australia is a lot like the United States, and culture shock isn't usually a problem for American expats.

  • You'll notice the obvious differences as soon as you arrive, but for the most part Australians and Americans speak the same language.
  • There’s plenty of US culture to be found in Australia. For better or for worse, you’ll come across a lot of familiar faces and voices.
  • You can still buy your favourite American products in Australia. whether online or in speciality stores around the country.
  • Join a US expat group in your area, and keep celebrating the Superbowl, Independence Day and all your other favourite holidays in Australia.
Important translations to know about
AustralianAmerican
G'dayGood day
ThongsFlip-flops
TapFaucet
ColourColor
Boot (car)Trunk
PetrolGasoline
CurtainsDrapes
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Interview with an American expat in Australia

american expat

Kristen McCabe

  • Origin: Sheboygan WI USA.
  • Destination: Sydney, Australia.
  • Employment status: Full time.
  • Visa status: Over the years I've been on a couple of visas. They are a special visa like a working holiday (I don't think it exists anymore) that was good for four months, a student visa to get my masters degree, a one year working holiday visa, a de facto visa, a bridging visa and finally, permanent residency!
    NB: Kristen has been in Australia since 2008, but she returns back to The States to visit family quite often.
Why did you decide to move to Australia?

I've always loved the ocean and the Great Barrier Reef, plus it's a good climate! I hadn't been planning on it being for good when I came initially. I just graduated and I was coming abroad before getting a proper job and career.

What were some of the things you had to consider before migrating?

The very, very far distance from home.

What were the steps involved with obtaining a visa? Did you find it difficult or easy?

The two working holiday visas were pretty easy. The student visa was mediocre, I think I had to do a medical check but can't remember for sure. De facto and permanent residency were very, very hard, expensive and a LOT of work!

How did you set up a bank account? Did you face any difficulties here?

I just went to the Commonwealth Bank and did it, no trouble.

How did you find accommodation? Was it easy/hard?

I think I found accommodation on GumTree, I lived and worked with a family. It took some work but not too terrible. Then I lived in university housing when I studied.

How have you found adjusting to Australian life?

Overall not bad, the time difference is hard talking to people at home and things are MUCH more expensive! Rent is way more too, at least more than the Midwest, although minimum wage is much higher here. (I did have one job where the boss hired internationals and didn't always pay minimum wage, so it's worth checking)

Do you have any tips or advice for other expats in your situation when moving to Australia?

To girls: Buy cosmetics in America and bring them over, then ask family to mail you what you need when you run out - things like nail polish are painfully expensive here! For some of my clothing basics and staples, the stores ship here now and it's cheaper to order from The States and pay for shipping than buy things like shorts and tanks here. (As long as you know your size, that is)

WhatsApp and Magic Jack are both apps that are a great cheap way to stay in touch with people at home.

You don't have to tip here, at least not much, but I still find it hard not to! Drinks cost WAY more than Wisconsin, but make sure you take your turn and buy a round - your "shout"!

Resumes seem to be formatted a little differently here, you don't have to have just one page.

Buy an NFL game pass or head to the pub if you miss football. Go to the Great Barrier Reef! Go to the beach! It's all beautiful, but look out for blue bottles (and box jelly fish up North!) and swim between the flags!

If you could do it again, would you change anything in the way you went about migrating?

Not that I can think of!

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Handy contacts and addresses

  • Embassy of The United States Moonah Place
    Yarralumla, ACT 2600
    Telephone: (02) 6214 5600
  • US Consulate GeneralLevel 10, MLC Centre
    19-29 Martin Place
    Sydney, NSW 2000
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16 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    DrigAugust 26, 2019

    Hi there!
    I’ve decided to move to Australia while pursuing online school studying coding. But for now I would rather not have to pea company to move me over if I’m able to handle it myself in some part because I have an aunt in Brisbane who’s willing to help for a little while at least for housing. The course that I’m in currently last 9 months and will most likely pursue more courses after. I would love to stay and be in Australia for two years or more if possible would a holiday working Visa be best in this circumstance? Just trying to get all of my information together as I would like to leave before the end of 2019

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiAugust 28, 2019

      Hi Drig,

      Thanks for getting in touch! Given that you are continuing your studies in Australia, this may warrant a student visa. A family visa is for visiting family in Australia, a student visa is one for students looking to study or undertake professional training in Australia. If you won’t be coming in on either of the above, then a working visa is probably your best bet.

      As it says above, the easiest way to get a working visa in Australia is to find a job in Australia before leaving the US. Being sponsored by an Australian company can make it significantly easier for you to be approved. Alternatively, if you work a job that’s on the skilled occupations list, you might also have a good chance of success.

      You can use the free government visa finder tool to see some of the options that may be available.

      Hope this helps and best of luck on your visa application.

      Best,
      Nikki

    Default Gravatar
    JamesNovember 15, 2018

    Hey! I am 26 years old and live in the United States and want to move to Australia – What steps do I need to take?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JohnNovember 15, 2018Staff

      Hi James,

      Thank you for reaching out to finder.

      You are on the correct page which gives you an overview of what you would need to do to move to Australia from the USA. The biggest hurdle that you would need to meet is getting a visa that provides you entry in Australia. Please read through the article and if you have further questions, you may chat us up by clicking the “Chat now” button at the lower right side of the page. Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Reggie

    Default Gravatar
    LisaMarch 26, 2018

    I own a cleaning company in the state I want to move to Australia Ballarat Victoria I have friends over there how would I go about. I need I don’t know which visa I need to apply for could you help me please. How do I get a visa I have a passport?

      Default Gravatar
      LiezlMarch 29, 2018

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for reaching out to us at Finder!

      While we are unable to provide you personal advise on what visa will suit you, a migration agent will be in a better position to guide you on how to navigate the whole process of visa application and assess your eligibility. Please refer to our list of qualified migration agents in Melbourne that you can get in touch with.

      Feel free to drop us a note anytime if you have other questions.

      Cheers,
      Liezl

    Default Gravatar
    MANILAOctober 16, 2017

    I wanna know if i am not a US citizen but want to study in Australia what are the requirements for it?
    also how do i have to apply?
    how long its gonna take to process?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      HaroldOctober 16, 2017Staff

      Hi Manila,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      According to our guide on How to Study in Australia, to be eligible for a student visa you will only need to prove that you have:

    • Enough financial resources to fund your lifestyle during the course of your studies (minimum $18,610 per annual year.
    • A letter of confirmation that you have been accepted for studies at an approved Australian educational institution.
    • Health insurance. You may also need to provide proof of good general health.
    • Good character.
    • No outstanding debts in Australia.

    • You will be eligible for a student visa if you’re enrolled as an overseas student at an Australian university. If not, there are a number of exchange agreements that you may be eligible for. Learn more about your options for getting a student visa. You can explore visa options for studying in Australia to know what might suit your needs. Keep in mind though, that you should apply for your visa at least 6 weeks before your course starts.

      If you want to move to Australia from the USA, you can check our guide on how to move to Australia from the USA.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

    Default Gravatar
    NavJune 9, 2017

    Hi! I am US green card holder having Indian passport. My husband is on a student visa in Australia, so I plan to move with him.

    Now I am on Australian tourist visa and I am planing to live here permanently. Is there any benefits of holding us green card to move permanently to Australia.

    Thanks!

      Default Gravatar
      JonathanJune 10, 2017

      Hi Nav!

      Thanks for the comment.

      Generally, the complexity level of a visa application would depend on the type of visa being applied. US Green Card Holders are mostly treated as “regular” American citizens, although in your case, your Indian nationality may also be considered.

      You can visit the Department of Immigration and Borderline Protection site for about how to apply for Australian citizenship. Alternatively, you can also inquire at the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) for a professional that can be of further assistance.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

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