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Living In Australia, A Guide For Expats

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Australia is a vast country with vibrant, metropolitan cities, stunning beaches, and a laid-back way of life, and one of the most popular destinations for expats, back-packers, and those looking for an idyllic retirement location.

The size of the land mass and distances between coastlines means there are countless places to live, with professional opportunities, political and economic stability, and of course, the warm year-round climate.

Read on to discover what you need to know if you are considering a move to Australia and how life compares to the UK in this sun-soaked country.

Australia – Quick Facts

  • The Australian flag was designed before independence, with the UK flag as the main icon. The six white stars represent the Southern Cross constellation, with seven points signifying the link between each Australian territory.
  • Population: 25.69 million
  • UK expat population: 1.3 million
  • Capital city: Canberra
  • Other major cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide

Visas And Residency

Australia has strict visa rules and criteria. The system works on points, with caps on the total number of entrants allowed in the immigration period. You can accumulate points if you have a family connection, an employment offer, or high-demand skills.

All British foreign nationals hoping to live in Australia will need a valid visa outlasting their stay.

Some entry routes for expats include:

  • Permanent residence visas through the family stream are for applicants with children, a partner or dependent relatives already living permanently in Australia as residents or citizens.
  • Work-stream permanent visas are granted to applicants sponsored by an Australian employer.
  • Residence visas for businesses or investors are open to entrepreneurs looking to launch a business in Australia or invest in the economy. Most applicants require advance approval and sponsorship from a government agency.

The visa application process can take time and involves multiple forms and pieces of evidence. A strong application with as much supporting documentation as possible will improve your chances of approval.

A complete list of visa options is available through the Home Affairs online portal.

Travel documentation to enter Australia

People arriving in Australia must present a valid passport and visa, with signed and completed Passenger Cards. Travellers receive a card during their flight and must fill this in before arrival.

British foreign nationals travelling for a shorter visit can download an e-visa to their smartphone. There is a short-term visa under subclass 601 called the Electronic Travel Authority, valid for 12 months, permitting stays of up to three months.

To apply for an ETA pass, you must have a compatible passport and download the Australian ETA app. An administrative charge of $20 applies (£11.42).

On arrival, visitors can use the SmartGate system provided they have an ePassport with a chip symbol on the front cover.

Vaccination requirements

From July 2022, overseas citizens do not require vaccination proof to enter Australia. However, they may be required to evidence a COVID-19 vaccination if they enter from a country other than the UK.

Proof of vaccination

People vaccinated in Australia must present an International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate, which Services Australia issues. UK nationals can present an NHS COVID-19 vaccination certificate, but an appointment card is insufficient.

Passport validity

Your passport must be valid for your stay in Australia, but no further validity period is required.

Bringing medication into Australia

Federal rules may apply to prescription medication dispensed in the UK. There are separate rules around carrying medicines and devices not intended for use.

You should obtain a letter and carry a copy of your prescription specifying any medications you expect to bring. A sample letter for your doctor to complete is available from the Travel Secure website.

Police certificates and checks

Any applicant seeking permanent entry to Australia requires police clearance. Other visa applicants may also require approval if they expect to stay in Australia for more than one year.

Clearance declarations apply to every country the person has lived in for 12 months or more, during the ten years before the visa application, and since age 16.

Applicants for citizenship by descent must obtain a National Police Check from the Australian Federal Police website if they have lived in Australia at any point since age 18.

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Safety And Security

Australia is safe with a low crime rate and a stable policing and political system. Crime rates are similar to those in the UK, and thefts and pick-pocketing are more common in busy tourist locations.

Travellers are advised to follow the standard guidelines:

  • Do not leave valuables or bags unattended.
  • Avoid reliance on safety deposit boxes in cheap hotels, where theft is common.
  • Be vigilant when travelling at night in tourist regions, particularly in Sydney.

British expats are also warned that alcoholic drinks served in Australia are stronger than those in the UK, so be careful not to drink too much.


Australian driving rules vary between territories and states, so familiarise yourself with speed limits and stop signs. You should always carry your driving licence, give way to the right, and drive on the left.

Permanent residents can use a UK licence for up to three months and must apply for a local permit through the relevant local authority after this period.

Cost Of Living

Australia is a vast country with modern cities, townships, and rural areas. Living costs vary between metropolitan zones such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra, with cities generally more expensive, particularly for accommodation.

As a general comparison of average Australian and British living costs:

  • Australian consumer prices are 30.7 per cent higher than the UK
  • Rents are 31.6 per cent higher in Australia
  • Groceries cost around 59.2 per cent more

However, much depends on where you are moving from in the UK. Sydney is the most expensive Australian city, but rental prices are 14.5 per cent lower than in London, and purchasing power is 19.7 per cent higher in Sydney.

The median average salary across Australia is $1,250 a week (£714) or $65,000 a year (£37,129), according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The British Office for National Statistics reports that the 2022 UK median weekly income was £640, or £33,280 a year.

Buying Or Renting A Home

British expats can purchase or rent a property in Australia but need to apply to the Foreign Investment Review Board before buying a home if they are on a temporary visa or do not have permanent residency status.

Properties vary from condos and apartments to townhouses and detached homes. Living in major cities or within a prime beachfront area will cost more than elsewhere.

Residents can search for properties online through RealEstate, Domain and HomeSales.

Costs of buying or renting a home

CityMedian Monthly RentAverage Salary Spent on Rent
Sydney$2,266 / £1,29430.22 per cent
Melbourne$1,841 / £1,05125.45 per cent
Brisbane$1,703 / £97224.04 per cent
Adelaide$1,508 / £86122.76 per cent
Perth$1,473 / £84118.30 per cent
Hobart$1,659 / £94725.46 per cent
Canberra$2,210 / £1,26227.83 per cent
Darwin$1,885 / £1,07624.50 per cent
CityMedian Property PriceChange Over Last 12 Months
Sydney$999,278 / £570,462-13.8 per cent
Melbourne$746,468 / £426,139-9.3 per cent
Brisbane$698,204 / £398,587-4.7 per cent
Adelaide$646,045 / £368,810+6.9 per cent
Perth$559,971 / £319,673+2.7 per cent
Hobart$666,431 / £380,448-9.5 per cent
Canberra$841,605 / £480,451-5.9 per cent
Darwin$500,228 / £285,567+3.7 per cent

Where Do British Expats Live In Australia?

The most popular cities and specific neighbourhoods include:

  • Adelaide: Belair and Banksia Park
  • Brisbane: Paddington and Morayfield
  • Canberra: Tuggeranong and Belconnen
  • Hobart: Kingston
  • Melbourne: Surrey Hills and Camberwell
  • Perth: Victoria Park, Applecross, and Fremantle
  • Sydney: Northern Beaches Area and Western Sydney


There is a reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Australia, but all expats should have appropriate medical insurance, which is usually a mandatory visa requirement. UK citizens can access subsided healthcare services, although these are not comprehensive.

Foreign national residents can access basic and emergency healthcare through the Medicare system. The Australian government offers tax rebates to encourage residents to purchase private health insurance and reduce pressure on public healthcare.

Working In Australia

British expats need a visa to work in Australia and should verify the available visa routes through the SkillSelect system, depending on the area where they wish to live.

Applicants must apply before taking up an offer of employment and have the most chance of success if they fulfil a skills shortage area.

The process begins with submitting an Expression of Interest, and applicants are invited to apply for a skilled visa if they pass the assessment and achieve a high points score.


Expats should seek professional advice to establish their correct tax position in Australia. They may remain liable for some UK taxes if they continue to receive an income.

The Australian Tax Office requires every resident to obtain a Tax File Number (TFN), and you can register and set up a myGov login through the portal to be able to manage your tax affairs online. Most tax codes take 28 days to process.

If you begin working, you must provide your employer with your TFN, which will dictate the tax you pay. You have a personal allowance of $18,200 (£10,390), above which your income will generally be taxable.


British expats eligible for the UK State Pension can still claim their pension benefits abroad. However, the amount received will be frozen at the prevailing rate when you take up overseas residency.

There are considerations around exchange rates, and some British pension funds will only remit benefits to a UK-based bank account, so professional advice may be necessary.

Some pensioners may need to top-up or maintain UK National Insurance Contributions to protect their eligibility for the State Pension.

Another option is to transfer private pension funds to Australia through the Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme. You can review the currently approved pension schemes in Australia recognised by HMRC.

Permanent residents and citizens living and working in Australia will normally be enrolled in a superannuation fund by their employer. A proportion of wages are automatically deducted and paid into your pension fund at pre-tax value.

The retirement age in Australia is 67 as of July 1, 2023. Residents may qualify for an Australian Age Pension if they live there permanently, have been a resident for at least ten years, and meet other criteria.


UK benefits may be available to expats living abroad, and you can verify whether this applies through the Gov.UK tool. Most benefits are not available if you spend over four weeks overseas.

Australian residents may be entitled to state benefits through Services Australia and can check their eligibility online.

Local Laws And Customs

Australian authorities levy severe penalties for illegal imports and drug trafficking and can deport expats who breach the law.

Other laws vary between states and territories:

  • E-cigarettes are banned in several states, and liquid nicotine is illegal.
  • Same-sex marriages are recognised, and homophobic crimes are prosecutable offences.
  • Quarantine rules apply to incoming animals, and all luggage is checked on arrival, with conditions around bringing in plants, foods and other items that could carry a health hazard.

Education And Schooling

In Australia, children start primary school from age seven or eight, although they can attend a preparatory, prep school or nursery from an earlier age. Primary education is called Foundation and continues to Year six or seven.

Secondary school lasts four years, starting from Year seven or eight to Year 10, when students transition to senior secondary for two years, completing their schooling in Year 12.

The Australian Qualifications Framework manages courses in higher education, training, and vocational education. Pupils can finish their schooling in Year 12 after senior secondary or enrol in a college, university, or further education establishment.

Public schools are free to citizens and permanent residents, but parents or guardians must pay for books, school supplies and uniforms.

Expats can also choose to send their children to private schools and international schools, with an average cost of $35,325 (£20,166) a year in Sydney, $31,028 (£17,713) a year in Melbourne, and $16,581 (£9,466) in Perth.

Living In Australia FAQ

What is the currency in Australia?

The currency is the Australian Dollar. $1 is currently worth around £0.57.

What is the Australian climate like?

Australia is famously hot and sunny, although summer temperatures can range from 5.7°C in New South Wales to a far warmer 30.8°C in Queensland.

How easy is it to get an Australian visa?

The visa system is strict and operates on a points-based system. It is important to apply for the correct visa category and follow each step in the process to achieve a successful outcome.

Is Australia a safe place to live?

Crime rates in Australia are low and comparable to those in the UK. The most common crimes are petty theft and crimes targeting tourists.

Can British expats move to Australia?

The Permanent Migration Program offers several routes to residency, including skilled visas for professionals, the family stream for expats with relatives in Australia, and Special Eligibility visas.

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1 thought on “Living In Australia, A Guide For Expats”

  1. Education system of Australia is much better than other countries also there are many opportunities for skilled persons. Australia give best health care system to their residents. I believe it is totally worth moving to Australia for study or permanently.


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