Incoming Checklist - Australia

The checklist below is a summary of some of the things you need to consider when managing a move to Australia. A lot depends upon your individual family situation, so we've concentrated on what we think are the major issues. Note that some of the comments only apply to temporary residents and we have tried to "flag" these.

This is just our view, but it does come with the benefit of quite a few moves between countries, and back to Australia:

  1. Returning Australian expats, as well as migrants, who have been covered by private health insurance outside Australia can sometimes arrange "continuity of cover" with Australian private health insurance. This means that no waiting periods may apply in relation to Australian cover - but you often need to apply within 30 days of ceasing your previous health insurance - so don't delay. Temporary residents need to provide proof of appropriate health insurance before their visas will be issued - this health insurance cover can be arranged quite quickly online.
  2. Our experience is that choosing the "right" school for children rates very highly on any priority list - and can drive a variety of issues, including precisely where the family might choose to live. See our section on "Choosing an Australian School".
  3. Regardless of your nationality, or where you come from, arrange a tax briefing well in advance of arriving in Australia, so that there are no unwelcome surprises in terms of any treatment of overseas assets or income. Also, substantial benefits might be available through a restructuring of your remuneration package. Just a reminder for returning expats and migrants - if you have rental property overseas it must be included in your Australian tax return, and treated in very much the same fashion as an Australian investment property. If it was your main residence, then typically it will remain exempt from Australian CGT for six years from the time it was first rented out.
  4. Migrants and temporary residents should arrange an Australian bank account prior to arrival - this is a very easy process these days. Obtaining a tax file number (TFN) should also be a priority after arriving - otherwise more tax may be deducted from your salary than necessary.
  5. Review your life insurance arrangements, particularly those arranged outside Australia - to ensure that you remain covered and the cost is competitive with that available in Australia. This also applies to temporary residents, who can now access full life insurance cover in Australia.
  6. Be "cheap" when it comes to arranging foreign currency transfers. Australian and international banks make ridiculous amounts of money on currency transfers. You can save up to 1 - 1.5% on a currency transfer by using online money transfer companies rather than a bank. If you feel more comfortable using a bank, no problem, but you still can access online rates to provide a comparison - see OFX. And to answer an oft raised question - no taxes apply to currency transfers into Australia.
  7. Returning Australian expatriates should consider moving any offshore pensions into Australian superannuation within the first six months. But this must be subject to tax advice first - the Australian tax treatment of pensions will vary, depending on whether they meet the requirements to be considered a "foreign superannuation fund". New migrants should only transfer pensions when absolutely sure that they intend to stay in Australia permanently. Once the funds are transferred into superannuation they will not be available to you, or able to be transferred elsewhere, until you retire. There is no scope to transfer them into an overseas pension scheme should you leave Australia. Superannuation can be a complex area; particularly when it comes to understanding when and how contributions can be made and benefits withdrawn - see Simply Retirement for an overview or superannuation and retirement considerations in general.
  8. You will typically need to arrange a variety of insurances in Australia - including vehicle, house and contents. Bring proof of your claims record when you come to Australia, otherwise you risk paying higher premiums than necessary.
  9. Ideally, unless being moved by your company, you should seek three quotes from international removal firms and do some background checks on their delivery partner in Australia. Make sure but they quote on the same basis - e.g. x cubic meters and "door to door" - and consider very carefully using a specialist insurer to insure your contents. Many removalists make a larger margin on insurance than they do on the removals.
  10. Arrange temporary accommodation in Australia well in advance of your arrival. As this is being written, arranging long term rental accommodation can be difficult to arrange in certain parts of Australia, and if you intend to rent housing you should bring references from previous landlords, if possible.
  11. Importing a car into Australia can be a complicated process and it may be the last thing you want to contemplate in what is already a busy period, but Australian car prices are (still) exorbitant, particularly for "luxury" cars compared to the UK and some other countries, and this may represent a never to be repeated opportunity to make a significant saving.

We will have missed a few things - comments are very welcome!