Up until 2015, we called Australia our second home. Max relocated to Queensland, Australia back in 2009 to pursue his MBA, and Oksana moved in 2012 in search of a fresh start and a new beginning.
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We navigated the murky waters of moving to Australia firsthand and learned a lot about the process over the years. Today, we want to share our knowledge with others by debunking the 5 most common myths and misconceptions about moving to Australia.
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MYTH #1. I Need To Get Sponsored By A Company To Move To Australia
While it would make things a lot easier, it is not necessary. If you are between the ages of 18 to 30 (UPDATE: now 35 for those from certain countries!), the easiest and most common way to enter Australia is on a Work and Holiday visa.
Subclass 417: For people from Belgium, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
Subclass 462: For applicants from Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, the USA and Uruguay, on holiday and work visas in Australia.
As long as you meet the age and citizenship criteria, you can apply for the working holiday visa online and be approved within a few days, or sometimes even hours! The Australian visa application process is very streamlined.
This work visa will allow you to stay in Australia and work for up to 12 months, study for up to four months, leave and re-enter Australia any number of times while the visa is valid. You can also reapply for this Australian visa up to 2 additional times (as long as you meet the visa criteria).
The visa does have limitations, though. Since you are only allowed to work with each employer for 6 months at a time, you will most likely end up in a service or hospitality type of job (hostess, bartending, promo staff, fruit picking, etc), which is not necessarily a bad thing if you are looking for a change and want to spend most of your year in Australia travelling and only working to fund your travels.
Hospitality jobs in Australia pay really good money. A bartender will on average earn $25 an hour, some will also earn additional money in tips (although that’s not very common). That works out to be about $54K a year, not much less than you would get working at an office job back home. It is also possible to enter the country on a working holiday visa, and try to secure a sponsorship once you are here in Australia. A company can hire you on a 6 month probation period, and if they are happy with your work, they are a lot more likely to sponsor you at the end of the 6 month period, then they are when you are still back in your home country. If you have good work experience and find a job at a large organization – you are in luck, as they will most likely process your sponsorship for Temporary Work Skilled Visa Subclass 457 right away, allowing you to stay in the country for the length of your contract.
Don’t worry if you’re out of the age range that qualifies for the Working Holiday Visa, you have plenty more options! There are several different Australian visas you can apply for, depending on your situation. Over 20 different Australian Work Visas are available for those with experience in different types of skilled labour, those that are business owners, and even investors. You don’t even have to find a job in Australia! You can qualify for a Visitor Visa that will allow you to stay in the country for up to 12 months. Certain requirements are tied to these types of visas – you need to prove that you have enough funds in your bank account to finance your trip, for one thing. Of course, there’s the Student Visa, but that comes with its own set of requirements. Whatever your situation may be, the Australian government has a very helpful website with all of your options, and a migration agent can help with any questions about visas, and the possibility of applying for Australian citizenship down the road.
MYTH #2. Cost Of Living In Australia Is Really High
A lot of people worry that if they move to Australia and can’t find a job right away they’ll run out of money really quickly and have to go back home. Yes, Australia is not a cheap country to travel and live in, but it is as expensive as you allow it to be. We lived in Brisbane, Queensland on a budget of approximately $1500 a month per person, which accounts for rent, groceries, shopping, going out, transportation, weekend travel and everything in between. Yes, we were watching our budget a bit, but we certainly weren’t living like hermits and avoiding all social activities. Brisbane is probably not as expensive as bigger Australian cities like Melbourne or Sydney, but it’s still considered to be more expensive than, say, Toronto or a lot of other major cities in Canada, States, and the UK.
So it is possible to live in Australia without breaking the bank. We suggest living in a shared house, making meals at home or eating out at cheap restaurants, choosing BYO where possible, using public transport during the day and on your way to and from the bars on the weekend, and choosing cheap weekend activities like camping!
MYTH #3. Australia Is Hot All Year Round!
The climate in Australia varies dramatically across the country. Queensland and Northern Territories tend to have warmer climates compared to New South Wales and Victoria, and it is not uncommon for cities like Melbourne and Sydney to go down to 10°C during the day and 0-5°C at night in the winter months, which for Australia is June-August. That’s far from beach weather!
If you are chasing beach weather and sunny days, consider basing yourself in Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, or other Australian cities in the Northern part of the country. The further North you go, the warmer it’ll be!
If heat isn’t your cup of tea, basing yourself in an Australian city south of Sydney will give you an opportunity to experience hot summers and colder winters.
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MYTH #4. I Don’t Know Anyone In Australia, I’m Going To Be Lonely And Homesick
This is one of the biggest reasons people hesitate to pick up their lives and move abroad. They are frightened by the fear of being alone, the fear of missing relatives, friends, and the familiarity of home.
We won’t lie to you, it’s one of the hardest things we’ve had to deal with while living abroad. There will be times when you will feel lonely and homesick when your Facebook feed explodes with comments about something that happened back in your hometown, and you feel completely left out. There will be times when you miss friends’ birthdays, family gatherings, and other events.
If you don’t know anyone in Australia, establishing a social circle will be something you’ll have to actively work on. But the good news is that you are not going to be the only foreigner in Australia. There are lots of people here doing exactly what you’ll be doing, who have also arrived here alone and are looking for a new social circle. There are great groups that you can use to connect with these like-minded individuals.
There are great groups that you can use to connect with these like-minded individuals. Internations is one of my favourites – it’s an expat community that exists in pretty much every large city, connecting expats from all over the world through monthly social events and activities. You can sign up on their website and start connecting with others immediately. The other great tool for meeting people in a new city is Meet-Up. With hundreds of social and interest groups already existing in most cities in Australia, you are bound to find a whole lot of new friends in a matter of time. Then there are, of course sports, volunteering, and other hobby groups that you could join as well. And most Australians are very friendly; you become friends with one person and all of a sudden you are friends with all of their friends as well! There – problem solved!
MYTH #5. I Don’t Have A Network Here So Finding A Job Will Be Extremely Difficult!
Finding a job in Australia is easier than you think. Regardless of what type of job opportunities you are after, part-time hospitality or full-time office work, start with the largest job website in Australia; www.seek.com.au
Seek is used by most recruitment firms and most small and large organizations in Australia. It is common for employees to find profiles of potential candidates and approach them directly. Alternatively, you can ( and should!) apply to as many jobs as you find suitable with a proper CV and a customized cover letter.
Seek is also a great place to connect with recruiters. For example, if you are looking for a job in marketing, search all marketing jobs on Seek, and note down any recruiting firms or companies that are advertising for a marketing role. Even if you are not a suitable candidate for this particular role, call up the recruiter and ask a few questions about this role. Start a conversation, tell them about yourself, your skills and your situation. They will most likely ask you to send through your CV and will add you to their database for future positions. The more connections you can establish with recruiters, the better off you’ll be in the end. Keep in mind that many recruiters, and organizations will not take your CV seriously if you are applying from back home.
Search for companies you would want to work for and browse their websites for career opportunities. Apply to those jobs directly.
If you are looking for hospitality jobs or part time jobs, check out GumTree, to find lots of options for temporary work. Once you’ve found a place to live, walk around the neighbourhood and see if any shops, hotels, restaurants, etc are hiring. Some might have a “Help Wanted” sign in their window; others may not.
While there may be hundreds of other questions running through your mind as you consider your options, remember that you will never have every single detail sorted out, and at one point or another, you will just need to take that leap of faith… and just do it!
MYTH #6. Healthcare Will Be Outrageously Expensive
While the free public healthcare system is geared towards Australian citizens and those with permanent residency, you can easily find affordable coverage with an overseas visitor health insurance plan. These are private plans that you can purchase online, and there are some with monthly premiums of less than $100 USD. Make sure you read all the fine print before signing up for a plan and consider reaching out to other expats for advice on which carrier to choose. Internations.org has a lot of helpful information on health coverage in Australia.
If you fall in love with Australia like so many others have and decide to apply for permanent residency or to become an Australian citizen, you’ll be eligible for public healthcare coverage. About half of the Australian population also carry a supplemental private health insurance plan. Medicare in Australia doesn’t cover everything, including care administered at private hospitals. These supplemental plans are super affordable too – a fraction of what you’d pay in countries like the U.S.
MYTH #7. All Of Australia Is Desert Outback
This one is kind of tied to the myth that Australia is always hot. Just as the climates are varied across the country, so is the landscape. Sure, you have the iconic, rugged wilderness of the Northern Territory, but there is so much more.
Being an island nation, beaches about, and Australia is home to some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. You have the gorgeous white sands of the Whitsundays, the famous Gold Coast, and of course the Great Barrier Reef.
The wine regions in South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria have a gently rolling landscape and generally a more mild climate that can get pretty cool during the winter months and even experience some snowfall. To the northeast, in Queensland, you’ll find Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses 160,000 hectares of forest, rivers, waterfalls, gorges, and sandy beaches.
Tasmania is full of wild, lush natural beauty of its own, not to mention one of the most striking coastlines in the world. Then in Western Australia, you have the massive Lancelin soft white sand dunes, mythical rock formations, and an incredible pink lagoon. The point is, if you’re bored with the landscape, just hit the road!
That’s not to say you absolutely have to be a nature lover to enjoy Australia. The major cities and smaller coastal towns are full of vibrant Australian culture, art, and sparkling social scenes to suit everyone. The food scene is amazing, with multicultural influences and heavy focus on fresh, locally produced ingredients.
MYTH #8. All Of The Wildlife Will Try To Kill You
Australia is a huge country (6th largest in the world!) so of course, there is a lot of different wildlife on the continent. But keep in mind that you only see the extremes in the media. Sure, you’ll see some potentially dangerous animals in the outback, in rural areas, and on the coast, but as long as you are aware and give wildlife space, you should be fine.
If you decide to live in a major city, you might not see any wildlife at all. Just take the normal precautions you would anywhere else and take advice from the locals – they know what they’re talking about.