When I was younger, I always dreamed of emigrating. I read a lot of Meg Cabot novels and decided that my heart belonged in New York City. So, when I was offered the chance to go on exchange to anywhere else in the world as part of my degree, the USA was my number one choice. Sadly, I was thwarted by the cost of health insurance – and so my Dad suggested Australia. I decided to go along with it, and that was absolutely the best decision of my life.

Moving to Australia is something that a lot of people dream of: it’s hot, the way of life is more laid back, and there are a shit tonne of beaches. To Brits and Americans, it’s a very enticing place. But, how do you actually make the move?

Well, that’s why I’m here. Over the next two months, I’m going to be talking about how to move to Australia – what emigrating is really like.

If you move to Australia, you too could be this excited all the time!
If you move to Australia, you too could be this excited all the time!

First things first… visas, and how to get them

So, you want to move to the land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? (Yeah?)

If you think you might be interested in emigrating, the first thing you need to figure out is why you want to move. You’re a student going on an exchange programme? Easy. You’re between 18 and 30 and you kind of fancy a gap year of backpacking and cheap booze? Done. You happen to have met a nice Australian who might marry and/or commit to spending the rest of their life with you? Simple.

There are all kinds of visas to get you to Australia, but I’m going to touch on the three I’ve had. If you’re looking to move for other reasons, you should check out the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection‘s website – but bear in mind that the process will be fairly similar to those outlined below.

Please remember, I’m not an immigration expert or advisor – I’m just a veteran of many visa applications. Check everything on the website before you apply, and speak to a lawyer if you need to.

  • Student visas Australian student visas are temporary, and are sponsored by your Australian university. If you’re going on exchange (or even doing a whole degree in Aus), you should have a lot of help with this. You can’t apply for a visa without a special form from the Australian university, and without paying for your health insurance. Your university will tell you how to arrange all of this. The visa should cost a few hundred dollars, and you can apply online. You might need to provide health checks and x-rays, but not usually.
  • Working Holiday visas – this is the type of visa you need if you want to move to Australia for one or two years of backpacking. There are two different types of visa, depending on which country you come from, but Brits between the ages of 18 and 30 are eligible for a type 417 visa. This allows you to work for any company for up to six months to supplement your travel, and to apply for a second year visa if you spend 3 months working in agriculture. They cost a few hundred dollars and are super quick to apply for online. Mine came through in 4 hours.
  • Partner/Spouse visas – if you’ve found yourself a lovely Australian to spend your life with, you can apply for this type of visa to move to Australia. I’m currently awaiting the decision – it is a costly process (over $4,000 including visa fee, medical checks and fees for getting documents certified etc), and it takes a LONG time for a decision to come through. I applied in August, and I’d guess it’ll be at least another few months before I hear. The process is rigorous and difficult – you have to prove the depth of your commitment and present documents from bank statements to rental agreements to photos and plane tickets. We’ve even handed over the Skype call logs from the year we were living on separate continents. If you want to ask me more about this, please do – I’m happy to offer all the advice I can. Just comment below.
Canberra, Australia's capital, is bloody gorgeous!
Canberra, Australia’s capital, is bloody gorgeous!

Where should I move to?

Australia is a fucking big place. I just thought I’d put that out there, because there really is a lot more to this continent-sized nation than Sydney and Melbourne, and if you’re considering making the move, you should really look in to where to go.

Do you want to live somewhere tropical? Do you prefer a cooler climate? Do you need to be near the beach? Are you a city type, or a small town type? Think hard about all of these things before you pick somewhere. Each state or territory in Australia has a very different feel, and you need to make sure that the place you pick will suit you.

Buy a travel guide and read about the places you’re thinking about. Check Trip Advisor, check Google, look at pictures. Ask around – do you already know people who live here? What do they think?

Trust me when I say that this is a big part of the move. If you’re thinking about Melbourne or Canberra, please do ask questions!

Sydney Harbour and one of the most iconic views in the world <3
Sydney Harbour and one of the most iconic views in the world <3

How do I get my stuff over there?

This really depends on how much stuff you need to take! Both times I’ve done it, I’ve had 23kg of suitcase allowance and 10kg of hand-luggage and done it with that much stuff alone. It made the move to Australia considerably cheaper and easier, but it also made sense as the first time I was an exchange student and the second time I was moving in to my partner’s parents’ home, so the stuff I’d need (pots, pans, bedding) was all there already.

If you already own your own furniture etc, bear in mind that most Australian rental properties do not come furnished and it might be worth shipping your stuff out with you. Any number of shipping companies will help you out with that. Bear in mind that it will be expensive, though!

The view across to Melbourne CBD from Brighton Beach. This was my Christmas 2014!
The view across to Melbourne CBD from Brighton Beach. This was my Christmas 2014!

Should I use an agency?

There are tonnes of companies out to make money from your move to Australia – migration agents, agents who’ll find you backpackers accommodation, student recruitment agencies, and more. In my firm opinion, you don’t need them. You’re a grown-up: put on your big girl pants, and make some choices for yourself. It’ll be a tiny bit harder, but a LOT cheaper.

What next?

So your visa has come through, you’ve booked your flights and packed your life in to a shipping container. You’ve picked a super-awesome destination, and you’re excited to start your new life in Australia.

Make sure you’ve booked at least a week’s temporary accommodation and that you have the address ready to declare to Border Control. Check out AirBnB or YHA Australia if you’re stuck for places to look.

And, I guess I’ll see you over here!

Isn't this country fucking gorgeous?!
Isn’t this country fucking gorgeous?!

Next time…

Next month, I’ll be covering finding a job, finding a place to live, where to buy the shit you need, places you need to see and more! If you have any questions, post below!

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