Finding Work in Australia: A British Expat’s Guide
Finding work in Australia as a British Expat? What you need to know to get you started on your journey down under.
Working in Australia is the ultimate dream in the world of expats. Infamous for its work-life balance and home to one of the highest minimum wages across the globe, we completely understand your desire to emigrate to Australia.
However, Australia’s popularity amongst expats comes with one major downfall – an extremely complex relocation process.
Whether you are embarking on a backpackers’ working holiday or looking for a long-term career to obtain permanent residency, finding work in Australia can seem like a logistical minefield.
Between high-calibre competition, strict visa limitations, and the general stress of relocating abroad, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Securing a job in Australia is competitive, meaning you need to stand out from the crowd.
So, what are the vital things you should know about finding work in Australia?
Before You Move
Is applying for an Australian visa difficult?
For those used to travelling within Europe pre-Brexit, visa applications can seem like unchartered territory. Visa applications for Australia are not to be left to the last minute and can take months, or even years, to process. When you do apply, it is easiest to do so independently online, but make sure you use the official government website to avoid falling victim to a growing number of visa scams.
Some visas, such as the Working Holiday Visa 417, are routine applications and should only take a few hours to apply for when you have the correct documents to hand. Others, like the sponsored work visas will take a little longer, as they require evidence from your sponsor company. PR and Partner visas are infamously difficult, often taking over two years to be approved and usually requiring the assistance of an immigration lawyer.
What visa should I choose to work in Australia?
For a British citizen to emigrate to Australia, having a correct visa is a legal requirement. You should consider visa options depending on how long you plan to stay in the country, as there are many visas that allow holders to work in Australia with set limitations. If you are unsure, the best way forward is to consult a trusted immigration lawyer.
To permanently work in Australia, first check to see whether you are eligible for a Skilled Independent visa. If not, seek a job willing to sponsor successful applicants, applying for the Employer Nomination Scheme or Temporary Residence Transition stream visa for permanent residency once the job is secured.
Another option to find permanent work in Australia, is to apply for a visa with temporary work rights and then look for a sponsored role onshore. Consider the Working Holiday 417, which allows British citizens between 18 and 35 years old to stay up to 12 months in Australia and undertake work ‘to help fund their trip’. The Working Holiday visa can be extended to three years in total, with holders re-applying annually.
Another temporary visa to emigrate to Australia on is the Student Visa, which allows a stay of up to 5 years while the holder is undergoing study. This visa is held to strict limitations though, such as working a maximum of 40 hours in a fortnight period.
Do I need a sponsor to live in Australia?
Whether or not you need a sponsor depends on which visa you meet the eligibility criteria for and choose. For Working Holiday and Skilled Independent visas, no sponsor is required. However, for the majority of work visas, you need an employer willing to sponsor or nominate you.
Can you apply for a job in Australia from Britain?
Applying for jobs offshore is a proactive, good approach to finding work in Australia. Of course, you should consider processing times for visas when providing start date availability to prospective companies.
In terms of etiquette, factor in the time difference to send emails during work hours and consider the fact that interviews could take place during unsociable hours. Applying for jobs offshore requires strong communication and organisational skills, but can make arriving in Australia easier.
How do I optimise my professional online presence for the Australian job market?
Optimising your professional online presence before you emigrate to Australia maximises your chance of finding work quickly after arrival. Not only does a professional online presence create a good impression for prospective employers, but by networking you could even find a role before you arrive.
LinkedIn is one professional platform you should utilise. To optimise your profile, ask previous clients or employers to leave you testimonials, which appear as immediate glowing references to those that visit your page. Also, ensure that your experience and education details are up-to-date and impressive to read.
If your profession entails a portfolio, make sure you have a sleek, professional example available. You can add this to your LinkedIn or use a portfolio site such as MuckRack to professionally display your work online.
Are qualification requirements for Australia different to the rest of the world?
If you hold a relevant degree in your professional field, you likely meet the qualification requirements for your job in Australia. For those who don’t hold a degree, you should check to see whether your occupation has a minimum years of experience requirement.
Furthermore, some roles require specific background checks or training requirements. These include the Working with Children Check for childcare roles, a White Card for construction work, and an RSA Certificate for work involving alcohol service.
Restrictions vary on a state-by-state basis, so you should conduct research into your profession’s requirements ahead of arrival. Many qualifications, checks, and certificates can be obtained off-shore – meaning you can start work immediately when you arrive.
Where is the best place to look for Australian job advertisements?
The best place to look for job advertisements depends on what job type you want. In general, SEEK and Indeed are good online job boards to check and subscribe to relevant job notifications. For specific roles, such as live-in childcare jobs, sites such as Aupairworld or even Facebook groups can lead to successful employment.
For alternative places to look for job openings, consider the company where you already work. If you work for an international company, consider asking them if they have roles available in Australia. Alternatively, contact similar companies in Australia and ask them whether they have any openings to which you could apply.
Should I use a recruitment agency to find work in Australia?
Using a recruitment agency is a personal decision when approaching finding work in Australia. Finding a job independently is possible and likely a cheaper option, however, if you are short on time, a recruitment agency can help to move the process faster and with less hassle for you. When choosing a recruitment agency, thoroughly check their reviews and be aware that many fake ‘agencies’ can scam jobseekers. Extensive background research is key when selecting an agency to find your dream job.
What jobs are in demand in Australia?
According to Emigrate Australia, the top occupation in demand for 2020-21 is registered nurses, followed by secondary school teachers, then software and applications programmers. Practical occupations such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and construction managers also rank within the top 10 most in-demand job roles in Australia.
Which Australian city should I choose to work in?
Statistically, the most popular expat cities in Australia are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. Sydney and Melbourne have a friendly rivalry for the title of the ‘best’ city in Australia and these two offer the most infrastructure and tourism.
Another popular approach when you emigrate to Australia is to live regionally, out of major cities. Be aware that country areas in Australia are very different to country areas in Britain. The word isolated takes on a whole new meaning in regional areas, with some residences many hours drive from even the closest major town. The benefit of choosing regional work though, is that you can often apply for permanent residency much quicker - making it a good option to research.
How does the tax process work in Australia?
If you are employed by an employer or company, tax is taken automatically, meaning your monthly income is given after tax. The tax system is the same as the UK, charging higher tax rates for higher incomes brackets.
However, regardless of whether you work for an employer or are self-employed, you must complete an income tax return for the Australian Tax Office at the end of every tax year. This aspect of the tax process uses a self-assessment approach to balance out the year’s taxes, meaning you could be charged some more or receive money back if you’ve paid too much.
If you emigrate to Australia on a temporary visa, expect to be taxed at a higher bracket than Australian residents. For expats, once you achieve permanent residency, you will be taxed at the standard rate.
What is superannuation in Australia?
Superannuation is the equivalent to a pension in Australia, with most employers legally required to pay contributions into a super account on your behalf. If you remain in Australia and become a permanent resident, your superannuation is then accessible when you retire or reach 65 years old.
If you choose to leave Australia, for example permanently returning to the UK, you can claim your superannuation back early depending on residency status. For temporary Australian residents, you should claim your super from your super fund within six months, or from the Australian Tax Office after this period.
However, if you achieved permanent residency in Australia, your superannuation remains inaccessible until you turn 65, with only a few exemptions.
How do I register for Australian tax and should I register before arrival?
Registering for tax in Australia can be completed onshore or before you arrive. By heading to the Australian Tax Office’s official website, you can apply for a Tax File Number or an Australian Business Number if you are self-employed.
Processing a TFN typically takes 28 days, so you should apply immediately on arrival so you can be paid your monthly wage promptly. An ABN usually takes much less time, with a result received almost immediately.
How do I set up a bank account in Australia?
To set up a bank account in Australia, you can usually do this by phone, app, or online. You will need to provide identification documents, but the process is very easily completed from overseas.
However, before you begin the process, research where the closest ATMs and branches are to the area where you live, as some banks are not widely available across Australia. Popular Australian banks include St George, Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ, and NAB.
You should also consider international bank transfer costs when choosing an Australian bank. Or, alternatively, bring a credit or debit card with no international fees when you relocate.
What is the minimum wage in Australia?
While many expats will secure a salary-paid job in Australia, others may receive pay per hour.
Minimum wages in Australia are calculated by a number of awards and personal factors such as age, in a similar way to the UK. For a full-time, award-free adult, the minimum wage in Australia in 2021 is $20.33 per hour. Converted to British Pounds, this equals approximately £10.65 an hour.
What expenses should I plan for in Australia?
In terms of living expenses in Australia, the primary thing to budget for is accommodation. In larger cities, especially in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, property prices can be extremely high. Many expats choose to rent rooms in sharehouses as a way to cut outgoing costs and still live in popular areas such as Bondi or Coogee.
Decide how and where you want to rent in advance, or have a deposit saved if you want to purchase a property as a permanent resident.
As a British Citizen, you are entitled to health care and treatment through Medicare when in Australia. Therefore, healthcare is not a major expense to consider, despite many Australians opting for a blend of public and private treatment and taking out health insurance.
In terms of transport expenses, public transport is excellent in major cities and almost non-existent in regional areas, so you will need to decide whether you purchase a car accordingly.
The procedures for working in Australia are certainly strict, but with good reason. Furthermore, many of the workplace benefits, such as superannuation, align with British values and processes – making it easier for British expats to adjust.
When you emigrate to Australia, you join a community of other professional expats who have relocated just like you. Many people arrive on the other side of the world, only to find that one of their new co-workers is actually from the very city they left back home!
Due to the amount of expats in Australia’s workforce, once you secure a job, you can expect to be meet many likeminded individuals. From here, the competitive applications and immigration protocols will be all worth it.