Complete Guide on Relocating to Australia

New in 2020

The Government requirements for qualification for immigration remain stringent, as overall places for permanent migration were reduced. At the same time, the Government is actively encouraging migration away from the centres of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in favour of regional areas. 25,000 visa places have been set aside for regional areas. These also receive priority processing and university graduates in these areas will be able to apply for extended stays in these areas through a post-study, work visa. Perth and the Gold Coast are now no longer defined as “major cities” but regional centres under this policy, ensuring they are attractive destinations for businesses, international workers and students.

The housing market slowed in 2019 as banks tightened lending for investment property and buyers were cautious about the outcome of the May 2019 Federal election. 2020 has been predicted as a strong year for growth in the market which should see more investment properties become available and therefore rents stabilising.

Sydney, in particular, has seen a continued growth in new apartments available and increased availability is reflected in lower rents. However, Sydney still has the highest rents in Australia. Perth meanwhile has seen an economic resurgence and with this rental vacancy rates have dropped from 7 to 2.5% in the last 2 years.

We have also seen a move to leasing documentation being electronic, for most Australian cities. This includes the applications, leases and lodgement as well as processing and return of the security deposit (bond). Whilst this increases the security of personal data, it can be more complicated and require additional support and guidance for completion in often short time frames.

On the education front, private schools remain popular with international relocatees, and places at these are often tight. Whilst every endeavour can be made to secure a place at a preferred school, some have long waiting lists and it is simply to not possible to “jump the queue”. Public schools are generally of a very good standard, and increasingly popular. In the past living within the zone of a particular public school has guaranteed a place there, however, from late 2019 some Sydney schools at capacity have begun referring students to neighbouring schools.


The Commonwealth of Australia sits in the Southern Hemisphere, approximately an 8 hours flight from the closest international business centre - Singapore. From North America, travel to Australia involves an approximately 15-hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles. The country is approximately the same size as the continental United States, yet has a population of only 23 million, located mainly around its eastern seaboard.

Australia generally is regarded as a good destination for assignees—politically stable, safe, a mild climate (average daytime temperature in Sydney in the middle of winter is 17 o Celsius, 63 o Fahrenheit), and the locals are friendly to newcomers. Most employers have little difficulty in attracting staff to relocate to Australia.

Actually, a good proportion of the locals are newcomers, too (roughly 25 percent were born overseas), so that may help to explain the predominantly welcoming attitude.

Read our article on useful phrases.


The Australian real estate market is fragmented, with no multiple listing service and many small, local agencies. To view six properties might require contact with more than 20 agencies.

A typical lease term is between six and 24 months, with the most common lease term being 12 months with an option to extend. Security deposits are lodged with a government agency and are returned at the end of the tenancy. Rents are quoted per week, but generally the lease documentation refers to a monthly rent—which can lead to some strange amounts (for example, $500 per week is equivalent to $2,172.62 per month).

In most major cities, there is a shortage of rental properties. As a result, real estate agents can readily let the property and do not have to try too hard to be helpful to potential tenants (e.g., not returning phone calls, a frequent complaint of applicants who lack the support of a destination services company). Therefore, decisions need to be made fast, as properties can get leased within days (sometimes within hours).

Hence, if a proposed property rental needs overseas approval, the assignee risks missing out on the accommodations. Another consequence is that the research for a day’s home-finding needs to happen the day before, and despite this, cancellations on the day of the trip are frequent.

Upon acceptance of an application, and usually, upon signing of the lease, the real estate agent will require payment of four weeks rent in advance. If the property is subject of a number of applications, the agent may require this even before the lease has been signed. In addition, the tenant will be required to pay a security deposit (“bond”) before handing over the keys at the start of the tenancy. Typically, this is equal to four weeks rent and refundable at the end tenancy if the property is maintained in good condition.

In addition to rents, tenants can expect to pay for utilities of water, power (electricity and/ or gas) and internet charges.

We provide regular updates of current housing and utilities costs in our quarterly Rental Guides.

Work Permits and Residency Visas

The business visa regime was changed profoundly in 2017-2018. In common with many other countries it has become harder for employers to bring employees to Australia. The job classifications accepted have been narrowed, and the term of temporary residency visas (Temporary Skills shortage sub-class 482) reduced for many roles.

Employers are expected to seek local candidates before seeking staff from overseas so that the need for foreign workers is reduced, and one of the requirements for organizations seeking to sponsor a temporary resident is to undertake “labour market testing” for that role.

Visa processing times have fluctuated greatly in recent years, and the process can take several months, sometimes longer.

An option for those planning to live and work in Australia for an extended period is for the employer to sponsor the applicant for permanent residency, provided the job classification is in the approved list, and the candidate satisfies professional and other requirements. This visa category takes longer, however, there can be advantages.

Spousal Employment Options

Accompanying spouses are free to work; however, that does not necessarily translate into an easy job search. Some jobs are not advertised—similar to many other countries, many employers prefer to employ someone known or recommended to them to improve the chances of a good fit. Jobs are advertised online through central employment search sites such as Seek or Indeed. In addition, new arrivals applying for advertised positions often are at a disadvantage, as they may be perceived as lacking local knowledge. Hence, those planning to work when they come to Australia are well advised to start tapping their network well before leaving their home country.

For more information, please refer to our articles below:

Visa & Immigration Key Facts
Australia Temporary Skills Shortage Visa Scheme
Eligibility to Work
2017 Major Changes with Business Visas
Getting a Job in Australia

Health Care

Medical treatment normally begins with a visit to a GP (General Practitioner), from whom the referral to a specialist is obtained as required.

The Australian government operates a health care plan called Medicare. All permanent residents are covered and a levy of 2 percent is deducted from income. In addition, some countries have a reciprocal agreement with Australia, and visitors from these countries are covered by Medicare.  Medicare pays for most of the scheduled fee for doctors, specialists, eye tests, and provides full cover in a public hospital.

New arrivals holding a temporary residency visa will need to ensure that they have private medical insurance for themselves and their families.

Read our articles for an in-depth look at Healthcare.

Pets: Quarantine of Dogs and Cats

As Australia is a rabies-free country, dogs and cats may be imported directly only from other approved rabies-free countries and from approved countries where urban rabies is absent or well-controlled.

Dogs must be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza, and cats against enteritis, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus between 12 and 14 months prior to export irrespective of previous vaccination history. Dogs must be tested or treated or meet specific certification requirements for brucellosis, leptospirosis, and canine tropical pancytopaenia during the 30 days prior to export.  Both dogs and cats must be treated for internal and external parasites prior to shipment.

Notes on Culture and Business Practices

Although Australians work hard, leisure time is highly valued. The climate lends itself to plenty of outdoor activity on the weekend. With such a short documented history of its own, it perhaps is not surprising that the much longer history of other parts of the world is a source of considerable interest—for example, exhibitions of Asian and European art and artifacts.

With regard to Australian business practices, there are several general statements that can be made. First, punctuality is expected; however, the society is egalitarian, and not a great respecter of titles. First names are generally used, and handshakes are the standard greetings.  Business cards are similar to the United States and the United Kingdom, although their use has reduced considerably in recent years. A foreign national might be surprised at the volume of business meetings that take place in cafes.

Read our article on Meeting Etiquette and Cultural Guidance for more information.


Education generally is regarded as good and children of expatriates in Australia attend the same schools as Australian children, with the exception of a few schools catering for specific nationalities (e.g., Japanese, German, and French). A few schools describe themselves as “international schools,” however, with the exception of the Perth International School, these follow an Australian curriculum with an international flavor and maintain the Australian school terms. Choices for schooling are state or government schools, private schools, and Catholic schools.

The state or government school is run by the Department of Education of each state and funded through the state government. Teachers at these schools are public servants with security of employment from the government. In some states, temporary residents (i.e., most expatriates) have to pay fees in the order of $5,000 per year.

Junior schools are co-educational and usually are on separate sites to senior schools. Senior schools can be co-educational or single-sex depending on the area in which you live.

There are selective or specialist government schools which cater to gifted and talented students, however, these schools are only available to permanent residents.

To gain admission to government schools, one needs to live within the boundaries of that school; this information may be obtained through the Department of Education or the school itself. If you wish your child to attend a school outside your area, an application may be made to that school and, if there is a vacancy, your child may be accepted.

Private schools. Teachers at these schools have similar qualifications to teachers at government schools, although private schools have a much greater degree of autonomy in the hiring and firing of teachers. Fees at these schools are high, though well-appointed on-site facilities and favorable student-teacher ratio reflect this. Fees generally range from (Australian Dollars) $10,000 to $30,000 per annum.

An application must be completed for private schools and a deposit paid. These schools are heavily booked, although there is usually some allowance made for transfers from overseas and interstate. Some private schools are selective, requiring completion of an examination and assessment process prior to acceptance.

Fees are charged to attend Catholic schools, although they are not usually as high as private school fees.  There are some single-sex Catholic senior schools where the fees match those of private schools.

An increasing number of schools now offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, mainly in Melbourne and Sydney.


Australian cities are predominantly safe, although normal precautions are sensible to prevent theft, and it is wise to avoid some areas late at night. Many use public transport for commuting to work (bus, train, or ferry), although the private car dominates other journeys. Motor vehicles are mainly imported, and are generally more costly than in North America and Europe—fuel is significantly cheaper than Europe, however.

Shipping Household Goods

Goods owned and used for at least 12 months can be brought into Australia without payment of duty and sales tax (proof of date of purchase may be required). A Goods and Services Tax applies to any imported wines and spirits. Australian Customs and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service will subject imported household goods to an inspection. Because of Australia’s unique island situation, many restrictions are in place to avoid the importation of introduced species.

All household goods are subject to inspection by Australian Quarantine and may be subject to pest treatment and fumigation at the owner's expense.

Last update: 20 February 2020

Woodhams Relocation Centre has been providing Destination Services into and around Australia for almost 30 years. All of our staff have relocated themselves so they understand what it is like to move. Woodhams Relocation Centre is the first and only Australian relocation company to hold the EuRA Global Quality Seal, demonstrating our commitment to the very highest standards of quality.