Australia Guide

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, 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.

Housing

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 homefinding needs to happen the day before, and despite this, cancellations on the day of the trip are frequent.

An update on housing costs can be found in our 2017 Update

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. The majority of 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. 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 a 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 Heathcare.

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 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

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; 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.

Security

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.