There is something about Australia that manages to lure thousands of Britons ‘down under’ every single year. It could be the climate which is certainly better in Australia than in the UK, it could be the cost of living which is perceived to be cheaper in Australia than in Britain, or it could simply be the lifestyle – more laid back, more emphasis on home life and social life rather than working all the hours that God makes.
You can take your pick of reasons – but one thing that is undeniable is that Australia wants skilled Brits and skilled Brits want to live in Australia! In this article we examine how to make your dream of living in Australia a reality. We cover everything from the visa application process to the true cost of living, from finding the courage to make the move to dealing with inevitable homesickness.
Part One – Is Australia the Right Choice for You?
It’s surprising – or even shocking – the number of people who decide to emigrate to the other side of the world who have never actually even visited Australia! Yes, it is expensive to get there and it does take a long time to fly all the way from the UK to Australia, but don’t you think you owe it to your family if not yourself to at least take one trip ‘down under’ to see what it’s like before you commit to moving there?
Australians may speak English and Australia may be a land with a great deal of familiarity to Britons and similarities to the UK, but Australia is not Britain and the locals are not British! There are some seriously fundamental differences – both good and bad…and these can only really be understood once they have been experienced. Some people know almost upon arrival that Australia is not actually for them. For one thing, it is incredibly remote and it is expensive and awkward to travel to and from. These restrictions don’t sit easily and comfortably with everyone.
Even if Australia is the right choice for you, what about your family? If you have children and they are settled in schools in the UK and have friends, a routine and extended family around them, how will they cope with the massive move you are about to put them through? Yes, virtually all children adapt – but for some it is harder than for others and it is certainly harder for the children if they see their parents struggling to adapt as well.
You have to find the time and the money to travel to Australia to get a feel for the country before you make the move. If you are aged between 18 and 30 you might like to consider getting a working holiday visa and going to live in Australia for up to a year and working your way around the country whilst you are there. These visa types are relatively easy to come by, and they give you the option to try out Australia more thoroughly before you buy in and move.
Part Two – Applying for a Visa
There are so many different types of visa for gaining access to Australia and for gaining permanent residency status. For many it can be very daunting just determining which one to apply for, let alone going through the application process. The majority of people relocating to live ‘down under’ from the UK do so on a skilled migrant visa, with others managing to gain sponsorship from an employer before they relocate or perhaps being sponsored by family already residing in Australia.
If you want to know where to start, you start by determining which visa type you will be most likely to get. Go online to the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship website and look carefully through each visa type. You can take a basic online eligibility test to see how many points you and/or your spouse may get under the skilled migrants scheme for example. Whilst this basic test does not definitely determine whether you will be accepted or not, it certainly gives you a clue. If you or a spouse score well, you can try this route of visa application first. If you do not, you can try alternative methods such as getting a job offer from an employer in Australia before you relocate. Alternatively you can skill up or gain the experience you need to score higher on the test.
There are lawyers, private individuals, relocation experts and even companies who will guide your through the application process and assist you every step of the way – for a fee. Most people can do it alone but it takes time, perseverance, a love of form filling and patience. For those who have the funds to pay someone else to take the effort out of the process, there are people out there who will do it all for you!
Part Three – You Have the Visa – Now What?
When you first apply for your visa to move to Australia you may seriously believe you have leapt the greatest hurdle once your application is submitted. Take it from us, that is just not the case! Submitting the application is the easiest step on your journey to Australia! Once your application is accepted, that’s when the hard work starts. Do you sell up at home to fund your move, do you get a job, a house and the kids in school in Australia before you move, how do you manage the logistics of it all, what about telling friends and family and dealing with their reaction?
You might expect everyone to support your decision – but people are funny creatures who have emotions and their own agendas, and you may just find that those who you were hoping would help you make the move a smooth one will be devastated and very unhappy with your decision to go. This can make leaving even harder. Then you have to decide how you are going to fund your move. If you sell everything you have to fund your relocation, what if you want to return. If you don’t sell up how can you afford the plane tickets let alone new cars, a new house and furniture and medical insurance and even school text books?
Get online, find the forums where British expats living in Australia reside online and where those who want to move ‘down under’ can ask all their questions and get reading and interacting. Get advice, make lists, make plans, have realistic expectations and above all else, be committed to the end goal. If you keep your eye on the prize at all times – i.e., a new life in Australia – you will find the strength to make the move a reality.
Note – some people are so meticulous and organised that they practically have their new life ready and waiting for them when they arrive. They have school places for the kids, a house to call home and a job to go to. Others wing it, arriving with nothing more than a dream to fuel them! Whichever approach you choose, there are others who have gone before you and made a go of it – so it is possible!
Part Four – Upon Arrival
For some people day one is the first day of their honeymoon period – they are so excited and so happy about having made the move. For others day one is a day of dread! There are no two ways about it, the initial few months of living a new life in Australia are a blur of lurching emotions as new expats leap from experiencing feelings of elation to despair. The emotions really are that strong and there is nothing – read NOTHING – you can do about that other than be prepared and try and remain clear headed and strong.
It is often the case that as one member of the family comes out of their pit of relocation depression, someone else falls in! If you can all just try and support each other and shoulder responsibilities and burdens equally, you will come through.
The relocation is worth it for the vast majority who make the commitment to relocate. However, the realities and practicalities of the first few months’ transition are very hard indeed. You will not only need huge reserves of cash but huge reserves of resolve to survive!
Part Five – Where Did All the Money Go?
When you arrive you may well be relatively flush having sold up or cashed in to fund your relocation. This feeling will not last! You will most likely have to buy a car – cars in Australia are not cheap as they have to be imported. Generally speaking Japanese cars are much cheaper than European ones as they don’t have so far to travel to get to Australia! Fuel is not cheap either, although by British standards at the moment they are slightly more affordable. Next up you have to find rental accommodation and this requires bonds and rental in advance, and it also requires a lot of tenacity and grit because in a fast moving rental market like in Sydney and the main cities in Australia, homes are often gone before they are even advertised. This can take its toll on newly arrived Brits. A good tip is to secure a holiday let for a month to six weeks upon arrival to take some of the stress off you in terms of finding a house.
Next up, if you don’t have a job you have to start applying. This will involve traipsing round letter and CV dropping, applying for anything and everything and literally knocking on doors and reminding people over and over again that you exist and want a job! Don’t just drop off a CV and expect a prospective employer or agency to call you back. Be active and proactive. Know that you will have to survive for a considerable period of time with no income. Even when you find a job you will of course be paid in arrears.
The cost of living in Sydney is high, the cost of living in Australia is not much cheaper than in the UK, the cost of living in Australia when you first arrive and have to lay out for everything from scratch and you have no income coming in is frightening. Prepare for it, set a strict but realistic budget, stick to it and work hard to find a job.
Part Six – Settling In
You will begin to make contacts as soon as you arrive – from the real estate agent to the car salesman, the school registrar to your new landlord. These people may not become friends, but they will give you some social contact so that you don’t feel isolated. Slowly but surely you will make friends with people in your neighbourhood, at the school gates, at work and even on the street! But be proactive in making contact, go out and meet people. Join a social club, visit a bar, find where the expats hang out and start introducing yourself. The sooner you build up a network of friends and friendly people, the sooner you will settle in, the sooner you settle in, the sooner you will feel happier all of the time, and the sooner that happens, the sooner you will have made your dream of living a new and better life in Australia a reality.