Things You Should Know Before Moving to Australia

March 26, 2020

Moving is always an adventure, but especially when you are moving countries. As you set sail and start your new home in Australia, there’s so many things to think about, plan for, and then execute.

You are making the big decision to move countries, leaving your native shores for a new life in Australia. Whether you are a working professional, a supportive significant other, family member, student or retiree looking to while away your days in warmth and comfort, you will have questions that need answering and a lot of planning to do before you make the physical move to your new home.

What kind of visa you will need, if any, how to set up your bank account, where you will live, what’s the realty market like, do you need health insurance, how do you get your driver’s license, what benefits you can apply for, what your rights – and responsibilities – in your new adopted country will be, what possessions to ship to Australia, what to get there and buy? Whew… There are so many things to think about. If you are moving with children, then finding the right schools and how the school system differs from what they are used to in NZ will also be factors to consider.

The good news is that there are significantly more similarities than differences between New Zealand and Australia, which should make the move between the two countries that much smoother. Many of the Aussie government and rules are also favourable towards Kiwis moving to the country, so the visa process is not tough—in fact, it’s not even required.

The visa process for Kiwis moving to Australia

This is the easiest part of the moving process. As a Kiwi passport holder, you get assigned a visa when you get to passport control in Australia through a completely electronic process. Known as the Special Category Visa (SCV), this visa allows you to stay and work in Australia for as long as you like. There is one exception to getting this visa – you cannot have a criminal record, and if you do have one, then you need to fill out the appropriate paperwork and get permission for entry from the Australian High Commission.

Also, do note that this is considered an unprotected and temporary category of visa. What this means is that you cannot take advantage of many facilities and protections afforded to Aussie residents and citizens, including unemployment benefits, social security payments, voting in elections, a student loan, and working for the Australian government long term, or enrolling in the Australian Defence Force.

Keep in mind that if you definitely want to become an Australian permanent resident or citizen, you need to apply for permanent residency and not rely on the SCV. Even once you become a permanent resident in Australia, there is a two year time frame you need to wait out before you’re eligible to collect social security and unemployment benefits.

Pension and superannuation benefits for Kiwis in Australia

The social security agreement between the two countries means that as a Kiwi living in Australia with an SCV, you can still get access to social security income payments like superannuation, supported living, and veterans’ pension. Unlike in NZ, old age pensions in Australia are asset and income tested, which means that your pension pay-out will depend on your existing financial strength.

The amount of your superannuation can’t be more than the regulated amount decreed by the Australian pension, so if your net worth is deemed higher than what is set you will not be eligible for the same payment amounts you’d get in NZ. This is something to keep in mind if you are of or past retirement age when you make the move to Australia as a Kiwi citizen.

Healthcare for Kiwis living Down Under

Another vitally important question is with regard to healthcare. As a Kiwi looking to move to Australia for the long term, what services are you eligible for and what will accessing Aussie healthcare facilities cost you?

There is a limit to the free or subsidised medical benefits you can get in Australia when you move from New Zealand. If you qualify for the Australian Medicare healthcare system, which is publicly funded, then you get access to some free healthcare and subsidised treatment as well as free care in an Australian public hospital. But remember you have to be a permanent resident or citizen of Australia to take advantage of some these benefits.

For Medicare access, you need to have lived in the country for at least half the time of the preceding 12 month period with an intention of remaining there for a minimum of six more months. If you have proof of this, you can apply for Medicare. In the interim, as a Kiwi, you can get essential treatment in a public hospital in AU under the terms of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with NZ. This is designed to allow you to obtain prescription meds for less and some basic healthcare services. But this is for temporary and immediate care that cannot wait. If you have a need for long term care, you could be asked to go back home to New Zealand.

The one biggest piece of advice

Once you reach your destination, this is your home now. Australia is where you are, so make it comfortable and a happy place to be. If you need a sieve, go buy one. If you want a new duvet (‘doona’), buy a nice one you like. Find ways to meet people and make friends. Establish your social networks and favourite shopping places. This process helps you to feel more at home and increases the likelihood you’ll be successful with your move.

Welcome to Australia, your new home.

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