Parts of this process were quite tricky, and there was some info we wished was more accessible online. Hopefully sharing our experiences of getting from the UK to Australia will help other people trying to do the same thing.
Make sure you are using a card that earns you air miles while paying for all this stuff! You can use what you’ve accrued to travel around Australia once you’re here or put it towards visiting home.
Please note that while I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible the immigration policies can change – always check the Australian Government’s website for the most up to date information.
If you are happy to just come for a year, are aged 18-30, and have a passport from an eligible country, then the Working Holiday Visa might be the best option for you. It is easier and cheaper to obtain than a 482 (Temporary Skill Shortage Visa – this replaced the 457), which is a longer visa available only to those who are qualified in professions that Australia has a shortage of. However the 482 lasts for at least two years, can lead to residency, and you can also bring a partner/dependents.
Working Holiday Visa (417) – key points
The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) is a temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year. It is a temporary visa that encourages cultural exchange and closer ties between Australia and eligible countries.
Basically this visa is for people who want to see and travel around Australia, and would like to work when in Oz to support this travel. It’s part of a wider Working Holiday Program where other countries also let Australians travel abroad to do the same thing. It’s the quickest and easiest visa to get that lets you work: most people have their applications processed within two weeks, and the vast majority within a month. You have to be outside Australia when you apply for and receive this visa.
It is *not* for people who’s main reason for coming to Australia is to work.
As such there are restrictions, such as only being able to work for one employer for a maximum of six months, to stop people using it for a different purpose.
It is only valid for 12 months, but if you do 3 months of particular types of agricultural work you can apply to stay for a second year. It’s for people aged 18-30 (they are considering raising this to 35, but at the time of writing that hasn’t happened).
You can only apply if you have a passport from an eligible country. These are Belgium; Canada; Cyprus; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Hong Kong; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malta; Netherlands; Norway; Sweden; Taiwan and the UK.
You will need to show you have enough money to support yourself and buy an onward/return plane ticket (the threshold is about AUD $5,000).
Visa application costs £275 at the time of writing.
There are no restrictions on the type of work you can do (it doesn’t have to be just bar or cafe work – I have a friend who is locuming around Australia on this visa as a vet) but you can only work for one employer for a maximum of six months.
You will also need to meet certain health and character requirements, and will need to pay for private health insurance the whole time you are in Australia unless there’s a reciprocal health agreement with your country. The UK and Australia have a reciprocal health agreement, so although you’ll need to sort private insurance for the first few weeks you’re here, once you’re sorted with medicare private insurance will no longer be a requirement of your visa.
For all the latest information on this type of visa, click here.
Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (482) – key points
This replaced the 457 visa in March 2018.
Essentially, this is a visa for skilled workers qualified in professions Australia has a shortage of. Depending on the profession, you can apply for a two or four year visa, and you have to be sponsored by an employer in Australia. Therefore you can only apply for this visa once you’ve already been offered a job. My partner is a doctor, so this is the visa we used.
The application process takes longer, both in terms of the documents you have to gather before submitting the application and the processing time itself. The 457 saw most people getting it sorted within 3 months, but they haven’t released processing times for the TSS yet.
They cost over AUD $1,000 to apply for, and the new changes include a more stringent English Language test (you don’t have to complete this if you were educated in English), a minimum salary requirement of about $50,000 (to stop companies paying foreign workers less than Australian ones), and a minimum of two years professional experience.
You can apply for your partner (spouse or de facto) and any dependent children to come on this visa with you. Generally speaking your partner will have unrestricted working and study rights, and will be able to apply for a range of jobs. They do not have to have a job offer when the visa application goes in, but the main applicant i.e. the one with the recognised skilled profession, will.
You can be inside or outside Australia when you apply for and receive this visa.
Information about the TSS can be found here.
All the paperwork…
Once he was offered a job it was time to get his AHPRA stuff sorted and our visa applications in.
AHPRA registration was long and complicated and we were really glad we had support from the recruitment agency we used (see below).
We had to get lots of documents certified by a notary which was expensive. We used a woman called Sharon Stone (yes, really), who was much more reasonably priced than lots of others and got it done really quickly.
De facto spouse
We also had to prove we were in a genuine relationship – and had been for at least 12 months – so I could apply for the partner visa. If you are married or live together, have a child together, or have shared rental agreements/bank accounts/utility bills then this is fairly straight forward. However we aren’t married and due to work locations weren’t living together at the time, so didn’t have any of this evidence.
I was also quite worried as it says on the Australian Government’s site that a characteristic of a de facto relationship for migration purposes was that the couple ‘live together or do not live separately and apart on a permanent basis’, but they were satisfied with the evidence we gave in the end despite not exactly meeting this part of the criteria.
The strongest evidence after the type mentioned above is any other financial commitment, for example being named in each other’s wills. However if you’re younger you may well not have this – we didn’t.
The next strongest evidence is of holidays and joint invitations to important family events such as weddings or milestone birthday celebrations. After that it’s about showing you’ve been in touch and a couple by providing examples of correspondence, photographs together, things given to you jointly eg dated photos of Christmas gifts with both of your names on the label etc. (If you have a smart phone you should be able to take a screenshot of a photo on your phone which shows the date it was taken).
You will also need to submit a history of the relationship through a signed statement, which can be a nice but nonetheless cringeworthy thing to write. It should cover how and when you met, how your relationship developed, how you have supported each other, and how you maintained contact during any periods of separation. You can also substantiate this with signed statements from other people e.g. friends – it can help if they have a ‘profession’ i.e. are a teacher or a doctor.
This is a list of what we submitted as evidence for our relationship, and the application was successful.
– The written joint statement mentioned above, which explicitly addressed why we currently weren’t living together;
– Copies of plane tickets and boarding passes which we found by searching through old emails, plus pictures of us together on those holidays;
– A link to a public Instagram account which showed photos of us together over the last few years;
– Joint invitations to weddings and dated photographs of us at those weddings;
– Pictures together at important family events eg 60th birthday parties, graduations etc;
– Pictures showing we had celebrated our birthdays/Valentine’s Day with each other;
– An email showing we set up a shared calendar on our phones;
– Screenshot of our WhatsApp info showing how many messages and photos we had sent to each other.
You can read more on what a de facto relationship means in the context of Australian immigration here.
Where you’ve been
If you’ve travelled a lot, then this bit can take much longer than you might think. You have to provide a list of every single country visited, and the dates of those visits, for the past 10 years. Time to hunt out old passports, electronic boarding passes, and holiday photos on social media with dates on!
Getting a job
If you are applying for the TSS visa as the main applicant (as opposed to the partner of a main applicant or the Working Holiday Visa) then you will need a job offer in place first.
In theory you can just search job sites for professions that are on the skilled occupations list, but in reality it can be a lot easier to go through a recruitment agent. Most charge the employer and not you, and if you get a good one it can make the whole process much smoother. For example, they will generally only work with organisations that are already set up to sponsor international workers. If you apply for and are offered a job with an organisation that isn’t, it will take months and months for it to get sorted.
My partner is a doctor and his job offer came through Head Medical, who were really helpful and professional. They then helped with the medical registration and visa application, including mine as a de facto spouse, and organised incentives like our flights being paid for and our accommodation being provided for the first month. They also offer support for medical professionals looking for jobs in other parts of the world, including New Zealand, Singapore, and the Gulf.
Once your job is offered and your visa is sorted, it’s time to do your final preparations and book your flights.
Documents to bring
Even though your visa will be on your passport electronically, it can still be useful to bring a print out of the email notification. We used this when opening our bank account.It can also be useful to have recent payslips, p45s/60s, landlord and professional references, previous proof of address, and things like prescriptions for regular medications and your most recent eye test.
A place to live
We were lucky in that the hospital provided accommodation for our first month, meaning we could sort out something longer term once we were here. If we hadn’t had that, we would have just booked a room in a hostel/hotel that was in a good location and gone from there.
The site we used to find our permanent accommodation was Real Estate, and in fact were in contact with agents while still in the UK. It meant they knew what we were looking for and had viewings lined up for us when we arrived.
A friend who was looking for a room in a shared house told me this site was the most helpful.
As soon as you land in Australia fill out your online application for a Tax File Number. You can’t do this until you are here but it can take 28 days to process, and you’ll need to give it to you employer and your bank. All people living in Australia, even if you just do a salaried job and don’t earn anything else, have to fill out a tax return – you’ll need your TFN for that too.
This is something you can set up before to leave, and even have money in it ready to go, which can save you a lot of hassle once you arrive. If you aren’t going to live in a city then it’s worth researching what your closest branch is and where your nearest ATM is – unlike in the UK, lots of banks will charge you for withdrawing money from their ATMs if you don’t have an account with them.
There are regional and state banks to choose from, but the main national ones are Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB, and ANZ. All of these will let you open a bank account before you leave the UK, meaning you can pick up a debit card as soon as you arrive.
It might also be worth looking at temporary options to cover you in case there’s a delay with your card being issued – look at the money abroad page for more information.
Most visas have a condition that means you have to pay for private health cover unless your country has a reciprocal health agreement with Australia (the UK does). Even if that agreement is in place, you’ll still have to have private cover until you’re registered with Medicare, which can take a month or two to sort out. Many Australians also have private cover on top of Medicare, so it’s worth researching your options to see what you want.
To enrol with Medicare you’ll need to fill out a printed form, sign it, and physically go to a service centre once you’re in Australia. You can’t sort it all online.
For more information on reciprocal agreements and what they cover, as well as to download the form and find a service centre, click here.
Bear in mind that most places in the world aren’t as incredibly lucky as we are to have the NHS in the UK – even once you’re registered with Medicare there are still a number of costs you’ll have to pay which you don’t at home, just like permanent residents of Australia do. Head to the Living in Oz page for more information.
We found it was only marginally more expensive to break our flight along the way, and spent a week in Indonesia (Bali and Gili Air) before flying to Oz. If you have time then this is a great option to add in some travel that would otherwise be much more expensive. The fares we saw tended to be much lower if you booked the two legs separately, as opposed to searching for a multi stop route, but that could have just been for our circumstances. Don’t forget to collect some air miles!
In the airport you’ll most likely see Vodafone, but we found a much better deal with Boost. It uses the Telstra network so has really good coverage, but is much cheaper. Top up (in Australia it’s called a recharge) $40 and for the next 28 days you’ll have 5GB+ of data, and unlimited calls and texts to numbers in Australia as well as plenty of minutes to a number of countries, including the UK. The deals change regularly – check here for the latest.