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  1. JimAndShelleySydney

    Hello PomsInOz, here's our experience...

    First off, apologies for what will surely be a long post. I've occasionally lurked on this forum and I thought that, before posting for any help/advice- I should reciprocate by posting about my experiences. Also, apologies to the moderators if this was posted to the wrong part of the forum! I'm a 30 year old who has been living in Sydney (Manly) for the last 6 weeks with my girlfriend. Below is a run down on my experiences with flights, visas, properties, work etc. These are just our opinions, everyone's circumstances are different and what worked for us, might not be suitable for you. Background We have been lucky enough to have go on holiday to Australia previously when visiting family & friends. We have always enjoyed our time in Australia, but new that there is a big difference between holidaying in Australia and living there. Our social network spreads from Adelaide up to Brisbane, however we have chosen Sydney as our base to be central to everyone. We also are big fans of the harbour lifestyle and it's climate. Another plus, is that being one of Australia's largest cities- we felt it would be the best place to find work (I work in I.T. and Shelley works as an Office Administrator). Visas Let's start with visas as without them, you won't leave the airport. We made our first steps into this decision by going to the Australian immigration website. They have a handy tool which helps point you in the right direction. http://www.immi.gov.au/visawizard/ I would recommend going here first, as no matter what advice you receive elsewhere- laws & regulations change and the first place to outline these will be by the government. As for of immigration agents, it's entirely up to you whether you choose to use such a company. But it's worthwhile noting two important things: it is not mandatory to use an agent and most importantly, companies can advertise themselves as "immigration specialists" but are not regulated if they operate outside of Australia. They can opt-in to the regulatory body that monitors these agencies- a full comprehensive list of registered companies can be found on the website for the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA). If you choose to use a migration agent, you should use a registered migration agent. https://www.mara.gov.au/agent/ARSearch.aspx?FolderID=394 For us, being under 31 years means that we were able to apply for the 417 Working Holiday Visa (WHV). This entitles us to stay for 12 months and extend for another 12 months (if you meet the age & work criteria). For us it was the quickest and cheapest visa to apply for to first sample the Australian lifestyle. Finance As well as applying for your visa whilst still in the UK, you can also open up and transfer money into an Australian bank account. We used Commonwealth Bank as it was recommended by friends of ours who had moved to Australia in recent years. We are glad we followed their advice, not only were they really helpful in setting up bank accounts & money transfers- but they also hold regular 'Open Days' where they have guests from immigration agents, banking professionals, moving specialists, recruitment agencies and representatives from various Australian states. All free and no strong-arm obligation tactics- we were certainly impressed! http://www.commbank.com.au/ The Australian banks work differently to the UK, one of these differences is the charges imposed on the customer for using a competitors ATM machines. Always try to use you own banks cash machines (some banks have a stronger presence in certain states). Another option is to draw cash back out when you are paying for your groceries. Flights So getting to Australia will require a long haul flight for most of us. There are a few of things to consider when booking this. Stopovers - some people prefer to break their journey up by stopping over a couple of nights- normally somewhere in Asia. Airlines don't usually charge extra for this stopover but you will of course have to pay extra to stay in hotels and possibly apply for visas (such as Dubai). In our case- we choose to travel straight through, we had connecting flights from London to Sydney via Dubai & Bangkok. This gave us three flights of 6, 7, & 8 hours with a couple of hours rest in between which made the journey more manageable. When choosing your airline - for long haul flights, we need to be as comfortable as possible and not all of us can afford first class tickets. Their is a common misconception that the key element is leg room, but the actual official measurement is called 'Seat Pitch'. More seat pitch can mean more legroom, but it is also affected by the thickness of the seat back and other factors. http://www.uk-air.net/ There are links to various sites that keep up-to-date measurements of all the major airlines. We choose Emirates and were not disappointed- as well as comfortable economy seats, they also have an extensive entertainment system built into the head rest which has films, TV shows, radio, games & music to select from. The meal selection was also impressive as Shelley is a vegetarian and they cater for all dietary requirements from kosher, vegan, lactose. Once you have booked your flights- some airlines allow you to book your specific seats on-line (such as Emirates). To ensure you make the best choice- you could use 'SeatGuru' which shows you the layout of any aircraft (once you've entered your light number) and shows you which seats are near the doors (for extra, free legroom), have disabled seats, near the toilets, window/aisle. https://www.seatguru.com/ When picking your flight, it might be worthwhile choosing a midweek flight as they tend to be less full. On our final leg of our journey- there were entire rows empty which allowed us to lay down and enjoy some decent sleep. Property We have chosen to rent a property whilst living here, if we want to stay indefinitely we may look to buy. But for now, we are renting- and what an experience that was! I wouldn't recommend securing a property whilst still in the UK, no online research will compare to being able to physically view the property and get an idea of amenities, transport links, noise pollution, location of schools etc. That doesn't mean that you can't check for desired areas and get a feel for rental costs. Below are a couple of the most popular property websites used in Australia by most Estate Agents. http://www.realestate.com.au/ http://www.domain.com.au/ If you have never been to Australia previously, it is important to do your homework when picking your city. There are also plenty of forums on the internet and even more Aussies strategically placed around the world who can provide great inside knowledge. Australians tend to be very loyal to their hometown and the can be disparaging to other cities, so bear that it mind when they give you their opinions. CityHobo - Find the best suburb neighbourhood to suit your lifestyle and budget. http://www.cityhobo.com.au/ Local Voices - handy ranking of many of the neighbourhoods in Australian cities http://localvoices.realestate.com.au/?pid=streetadvisorhp We have opted for Sydney, namely Manly as it was central for friends and family spread from South Australia to Queensland. Also, with Sydney being a major city- we hope to find work more easily then an outback town. With Sydney being one of the largest harbour cities in the world, they use the water very well and have an excellent ferry system. The main port being Circular Quay which is nestled between Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House- so a great way to do some site seeing on your daily commute! Many Australian's find Sydney to be a bit of an obstacle- with it's traffic and people (it is the most populous city in Australia). But compared to London (my hometown) or New York, it still maintains the laid-back lifestyle that Australia is famous for. The rental market out here is pressurised to say the least, as demand exceeds supply the real estate agents hold all of the power. In fact, unlike the UK where viewings are done by appointment, the Australian markets mostly has viewings on a Wednesday or Saturday- and for only 15 minutes. So it can be quite a scene witnessing 10+ people traipsing around a small one bedroom flat (or 'unit' as they are called here). You also subconsciously start sizing up the possible competition for the unit, should you want it. It is always a fun site watching the 'viewing ballet'- you open a cupboard, they open a cupboard. You walk into the kitchen, they walk into the kitchen. You ask the estate agent a question, the sneaky b**tards sneak up to steal your precious information. A couple of useful bits of information- get organised! Have copies of your visa, payslips, references- everything & anything, the more the better. You would be surprised how many people turn up with just good intentions and expect to be handed a set of keys. The more information you have to hand shows the estate agent how committed you are, and although it is ultimately the owner's decision who gets the property- it is based on the recommendation of the agent. For properties close to the beach, remember that the owner would prefer having a tenant for the entire year. So if you are going to offer a 6 month lease, prepare to be disappointed, as a 12 month application will trump any other application. The whole rental application process can be an emotional rollercoaster, you can find properties on the web but find them to look nothing like their pictures (a bit like internet dating, apparently). We ended up having 'backup' neighbourhoods, just in case we were unsuccessful in finding a place in our first choice area. Luckily this wasn't the case as we were able to find a place that ticked all of our boxes and was inside our budget. In fact, after speaking to our friends- they said we were very lucky to find a place on that budget and get approved so quickly- so we consider ourselves very fortunate indeed!! But that good fortune was aided by the amount of organisation & planning we did. Work Beginning the process of job hunting is something that you can do whilst still in the UK. You can get an idea of the demand for jobs in your profession by viewing some of the popular job sites. http://www.seek.com.au These sites will also give you an idea of the rates/salary ranges that you can expect, which can differ from state to state. Don't fall into the trap of being amazed by the high salaries in Australia as these can be offset by the higher cost of living that you will experience. One useful tip, regularly update your profile on these sites- even it you are not actually changing anything. As companies & agencies will review candidates that have the most up-to-date profiles (as they assume that a profile that hasn't changed in months is someone who now has a job). Also, it might be worth signing up to various recruitment agencies as they may be a preferred partner for certain companies. Plus, it helps to have other people looking for work for you. Remember though, that recruitment agencies will try to get you a job and then try and get you there for the lowest wage (as it would eat into their commission). If you have the luxury of patience- don't be pushed into accepting a lower rate. Shopping As I mentioned before, the cost of living out here is expensive- if you are not a snob and are living to a budget, you can save heaps by going to some of the big stores like Target, Big W & K-Mart. These have home ware, clothing and electrical sections and can offer big savings. Alternatively, keep an idea out for the department stores like Myer & David Jones for their sales (I picked up a $800 suit for $200). There is also internet shopping with the normal sites and discount offer sites like http://www.cudo.com.au. Internet While we are still waiting to get the internet set up in our unit, a web site that was incredibly helpful was http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/ This forum has many user stories and industry professionals offering their experience and advice. Tax Tax! Don't forget to apply for your tax file number (TFN) otherwise any earnings & savings you have will get taxed and an extraordinary high rate! You will need to have a residential address prior to applying. It is quicker (apparently) to apply online then it is via post or visiting a tax office. http://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/content.aspx?doc=/content/38760.htm Health Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with various countries, including the UK. However, you *MUST* apply for this!! Go to a Medicare centre and apply (bring your passport & visas) and they will process your application, it's free of charge and while you waiting 1-2 weeks for your Medicare card to be sent- they will provide you with a reference receipt which will cover you while you wait for the card to be delivered. That's about it, I'm sure I've probably missed some bits- but feel free to ask. I hope this has helped, and good luck with your own adventure!! Jim