You’re thinking about moving to the UK from Australia but you’re not sure of the steps you need to take to do so? In this guide I’ll walk you through the general steps for leaving Australia and things you should consider preparing if you are moving for a few months to indefinitely.
Australia has quite a few reciprocal agreements with the UK and few more visas available, so it does make the transition to the UK a little easier.
Psstt. there are plenty of helpful tips in this post even if you’re not from Australia! Even if you’re moving from Australia to another country.
Rights to Work and Employment
Can Australians Live and Work in the UK?
Yes, Australians can live and work in the UK. First you need to determine whether you can get a UK passport or what visa will allow you to do so. Here are the most common visas Australians move to the UK on:
- Tier 5 Youth Mobility (age restricted to between 18 to 30)
- UK Ancestry (grandparents were born in the UK)
- Right to Abode/ UK Passport (parents were born in the UK)
You can also move here on:
- Spousal Visa (this includes if you have an EEA partner as well, (however this) will change for EEA after Brexit)
- Student Visa (limited working hours)
- Investor/ Set-up or run your own business
- Exceptional Talent
- And a few others…
To check if you qualify for any of the visas above there is a check UK Visa questionnaire you can use here.
Check That Your Job Is Transferable to the UK
Some professions will require you to be certified in the UK or will have restrictions on certain jobs so do some research beforehand. For example, my friend couldn’t work as a pharmacist on her New Zealand qualification, so she’s had to work as pharmacist’s assistant.
Yes, I know I am talking about New Zealand here and not Australia, but this is just one example that did affect my friend.
Do I Require Any Qualifications or Permits?
As the standards and permits are different in the UK some professions will require you to be certified or registered with a governing body for certain jobs, especially in health and construction.
Check if you have restrictions, permits or qualifications required for your job in the UK, the lead time, supporting information and process.
To see if they your higher education qualifications are transferrable use the NARIC website.
What You Need to Organise as an Australian Moving Overseas
In every guide I read it’s about what you need to do to set-up your life in the UK which is fantastic, but what about all the elements you need to do when leaving Australia? This guide will cover everything you need to know as an Aussie leaving Australia. I’ll cover things like tax, voting, banking and much more.
Being a resident of Australia, you will still need to do some tax activities while living overseas like non-lodgements, repaying HELP or TSL and paying tax on interest or investments. A few things you should consider before leaving are:
Ensure myGov Account is Set-up
This is one of the biggest mistakes I made when moving overseas, I always used an account so I never set-up a myGov account. Make sure you have set-up your account and have your passwords saved so you can get into the account. It will save you money when you need to do non-lodgements, tax returns or anything else you need to check.
If you don’t have an account ATO will need to ask you two questions about:
- Bank account details – this evidence failed for me as it was linked to my accountant.
- Notice of assessment (one from the last 5 years) – scan copies of your assessments in case you need to the details.
- Superannuation account details (one from the last 5 years)
Repaying HELP and TSL Overseas (If Applicable)
The Australian government announced a few years back that you will need to pay your HELP and TSL debt when living overseas. For those who only plan on being here a short time this won’t apply to you but those who plan on being out of the country for more than 183 days or more in any 12 months will need to pay.
As of the 2017 to 2018 tax year these were the rules (the ATO have not updated for the 2018 to 2019 tax year).
|Your worldwide income||What you need to do|
|If your worldwide income for the 2017–18 year is at or below $13,968 (AUD). This is 25% of the minimum repayment threshold.||You need to lodge a non-lodgement advice form.|
|If your worldwide income for the 2017-18 year is above $13,968 (AUD).||You need to report your worldwide income.|
You can find all the details about what to do here.
Foreign Residence Tax
I mainly wish I had known about tax (super boring). Basically, I kept all my accounts in Australia including saving accounts which earned interest. As a foreigner any investment like properties, savings, shares and whatever earns you money within Australia will mean you fall into the foreign tax bracket.
The outcome of being a foreigner means if you earn more than $1 you will need to pay tax.
In the 2017/2018 tax year, I earnt $2 of interest and what an expense it was sorting this out. I have spent $90 sorting out 20 cents I owe the tax department for $2 of interest I earned. The ATO spent more on sending the letter to the UK than what I owed – ridiculous!
For savings accounts it’s easy and you have two choices that your bank can support you with by withholding taxes:
- Remove your TFN number (the bank will automatically withhold tax)
- Ask the bank to withhold tax
I can’t comment on the other areas as I’ve not had any investments and suggest talking to an accountant before making the move if your tax will be complicated.
To find out if you need to pay tax or what to lodge you can use the ATO calculator as a guide.
Accessing your money overseas is handy (how else would we get those plane tickets?) and one of the most important items on the to do list. Not only can you save money by making the right decision, but it creates a stress-free environment when relocating.
Most of this section is optional as it’s up to you how you want to manage your finances.
How Much Money Should I Save to Move to the UK?
Your savings might look big in Australia but then you exchange to pounds, next thing you’re your Aussie dollars are cut in half (depending on exchange rates at the time). Your poor savings account will take a hammering when moving to the UK. As a single person I recommend bringing over $10,000 to cover three months’ accommodation, travel, food, six weeks’ worth of bond money, being without a job and some money for fun activities. You will need to adjust your budget if you are moving as a couple or a family.
I breakdown the cost of moving to the UK here and the cost of living in London based on my experience here.
Tell Your Bank
As I mentioned in the tax section, ensure that you tell your bank that you are leaving the country so they can set you up as a foreigner and ensuring they don’t block your cards and anything else they may do whilst you are overseas.
Bank Fees (optional)
Investigate whether there are accounts you can move to without fees or have minimal fees. With my bank there are no accounts I can move to that didn’t have fees that came with debit cards and all the banking needs I have. I now pay $5 every month to keep my account open which is about £60 a year. There was no point having the online savings account because I can’t transfer any money in and out without a current account attached to it.
Setting up a HSBC UK Bank Account (optional)
Setting up a bank account in the UK can be a bit of a nightmare if you don’t have proof of address. One of the ways around this is a month before or earlier you plan on leaving for the UK set up a HBSC overseas account.
Simply get the below documents ready as evidence for your application and apply on online.
- Proof of income
- Source of income
- Other documentation such a visas may be required subject to qualifications, status and local country laws and regulations.
Once the application is completed one of their International Banking Specialists will get in touch with you to arrange a meeting to verify your documentation, alongside your application form.
Of course, there are more options available but without out proof of address in the
Don’t forget to read how to build a credit score as a new UK resident.
Apply for a Stop-gap Card (Optional)
If HSBC isn’t your preferred option, then you will be an overseas credit card or travel prepaid card before you leave. There are so many to choose from: NAB, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Qantas Card, Travelex, Australia Post, Velocity Frequent Flyer, St. George, Westpac, Travel Money O and many more!
I used the 28 degrees Master card as my travel credit card as you pay no foreign transaction fees on purchases when travelling or shopping online and it had no card fees. Plus, a credit card comes in handy for emergencies.
It gives you a convenient way of accessing money before you have all your finances set-up.
Cancel Credit Cards (Optional)
Cancel any credit cards that have a fee associated with them. You will need to remember to pay the yearly fees and spending money on your Australian cards means you will be hit with exchange rates. Instead look at getting a UK credit card when you are ready which will help with your credit score.
In 2018 the Australian population borrowed $2.54 billion in personal loans and therefore there is a chance that you could have a personal loan that you’ve not paid off. No judgement here, I moved over with a personal loan when moving to the UK. The biggest thing to factor in is:
- Can you afford to pay it whilst you are looking for a job?
- Can you fund it with your UK salary?
It’s also important to know when your loan ends and any details you need to know about your accounts.
For my loan I just made the repayments every week and then finally had enough funds to pay it off (only) to realise my loan company had changed! It wasn’t hard to get in touch and pay off the loan in the end, however it did require me to have a BPAY account, so I had to get my mum to step in.
p.s. BPAY doesn’t exist in the UK.
Transferring money with your bank can be a costly expense and I know very well from experience. Generally, banks will give you bad exchange rates and super high fees with the transfers. Look into companies that specialise in transferring money overseas like TransferWise, Western Union and World Remit. I still can’t believe today how much money I lost by using banks and not investigating the best way to transfer my money!
Personally, I now exclusively use TransferWise as I tend to find they give the best Aus to UK and UK to Aus rates. If you are interested in TransferWise here is my referral code.
As a citizen of Australia your superannuation is locked in place until you meet the conditions of release (i.e. reach preservation age and retire or satisfy another condition of release) – even if you have no intention of returning.
The one thing to be mindful of is if your super fund cannot contact you then they could transfer your superannuation to the ATO. You can read more about the ATO managing your funds here.
Notify your super fund that you are moving overseas so that they can continue managing your fund.
The UK has pensions which UK employers will pay into, so you won’t be receiving funds into your super unless you decide to self-contribute while living aboard.
Combining Your Superannuation (optional)
To save on fees and charges you should look at combining your superannuation and will make it easier to keep track of your super.
Before I really knew how to manage my funds, I had three super funds managing my money and two smaller funds which I basically just lost money with, plus I had no idea who was managing them. Your main super fund will be able to track your other accounts and once you give them permission, they will request for the money to be transferred. It was super easy, and I didn’t have to do any of the leg work.
Any government benefits you receive in Australia you will not receive if you move overseas with a few exceptions. To find out more check the Department of Human Services.
Australia still requires you to vote overseas if you plan on returning within 6 years. By registering as an overseas voter, you will be provided with an option to become a general postal voter so you will automatically receive a postal vote in the mail approximately 2–3 weeks after the announcement of the federal election.
The other way you can vote is by going to the Australian Consulate in London if you don’t wish to do postal votes.
If you plan on moving overseas indefinitely then you can unenroll to vote.
All information about voting overseas can be found here.
Driving in the UK
Can I Drive in the UK on an Australian License?
Australia and the UK have a reciprocal agreement which means you can drive and exchange your licence in the UK. For the first 12 months in the UK you won’t need to exchange your licence but after this you will if you wish to continue driving.
Planning on purchasing a car? Insurance will be super expensive with your Australian licence (i.e. 3 times the price). I suggest waiting until you qualify for a UK licence as it will save you a ton of money. To qualify for exchange, you need to have lived in the UK for 185 days.
Suggestion for Car Insurance Companies
Occasionally on the Aussies in London Facebook group car insurance question will pop up, there are two companies’ people normally recommend:
As a general rule, Third Party is often cheaper than comprehensive insurance. Being under the age of 25 will also increase your car insurance.
International Driving Permit (Optional)
When travelling, rental car companies and other countries may wish for you to have an International Drivers Permit (IDP). For ease of renting cars, you may wish to get one before leaving Australia. They don’t cost a lot of money and it’s just another thing you don’t need to worry about if you do decide to drive around.
You will also get cases where the car companies might not ask for the IDP but if you get pulled over by the police, they will be expecting to see this document.
IDP in Australia are state specific, here are the following authorities you will need to contract to get one in your state:
- New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory – NRMA Motoring and Services
- Queensland – RACQ Ltd.(Royal Automobile Club of Queensland Limited)
- Victoria – RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria)
- South Australia – RAA (Royal Automobile Association of South Australia, Inc) https://www.raa.com.au/documents/idp-app-form
- Western Australia – RAC (Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (Incorporated)
- Tasmania – RACT (Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania Limited)
- Northern Territory – AANT (Automobile Association of Northern Territory Inc)
Before we get into organising your health it’s important the note that your health may take a hit when moving to the UK. The strains of colds, flu and other bugs are different in the UK than Australia. A lot of expats complain about the levels of sickness they experience when they first arrive here. Once you have adjusted to the changes your body will get back to normal (at least that’s what happened to me).
Health Checks and Vaccinations
Consider seeing your doctor, specialist or medical professional before you depart, especially if you have an existing medical condition. Just a general health check, ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date and anything else you need to discuss.
If you take medication you should consider looking to:
- Ensuring that you have enough for 2-3 months to get you through the initial set-up in the UK. For ladies this includes your pill (even though it’s free in the UK it will save you stressing).
- Get a letter from your doctor supporting the medication you take, how much, why you take it and any medical documents to support this. Also, not all medication is the same in the UK so it might be worthwhile asking your doctor to investigate UK alternatives.
- Keep the original packaging when travelling.
- Check with your doctor that it’s legal in the UK or some medication in Australia might not be available over counter for example.
Vaccination Card (Tip for Travelling)
Bringing your vaccination card over with you is super handy when you need to travel. It’s one of those things I just added in with my documents I was bringing with me and came in handy when I was getting vaccinations for a trip to Vietnam. They knew exactly when I had my last jabs, so it was easy to determine the ones I needed to get for the trip, plus some countries require you to take the vaccination card with you to enter. Please note this is if you wish travelling whilst you are in the UK to countries like Africa or Asia, the UK doesn’t require you to have any vaccinations as a mandatory requirement for Australians.
Prescription Glasses or Contact Lenses
If you wear glasses take along a spare pair and/or a copy of the prescription so that they can be replaced if lost or broken.
Bring enough contacts to last you for a few months or if they get lost.
Reciprocal Health Care Agreements
Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with the UK and as a tax paying resident you will get access to the NHS.
Read more about the reciprocal health agreements here and who is eligible here.
There are a few questions I see popping up in expat forums whether NHS replaces travel
Cancelling Private Health Insurance (Optional)
Cancelling private health insurance is something to consider if you are moving over for a long time as it won’t provide you any benefit in the UK.
An important thing to note if you are still earning a taxable income in Australia is that you may be subjected to the Medicare levy surcharge even if you are living in the UK. So, if you cancel your private health insurance while travelling overseas, you may be liable for the Medicare levy surcharge if your income exceeds the relevant threshold.
Speak to your private health insurer about what it will mean to you if you cancel or suspend your cover.
One of the biggest reasons why us Aussies move overseas is to travel. I recommend that you get travel insurance to cover your first 6 months in the UK. Generally, travel insurance companies in the UK will not cover you in the UK until you have been living here for 6 months but you can always review the policies to see if the insurer has different rules.
The other thing to consider with travel insurance is if you are insured in the UK the treatment will be in the UK. If you wish during an emergency to be sent back to Australia, then you need Australian Travel Insurance.
Very generic but insurance is normally determined on if you are citizen or resident:
A citizen is described as passport holder with:
- a permanent residential address
- with unrestricted right of entry to the country.
A resident is a holder of a residency visa with:
- unrestricted right of entry into the country
- access to long-term medical care
- a permanent residential address in the country.
Packing your passport and credit cards is great but if you intend to stay overseas for an extended period then you should consider bringing those important documents with you like:
- birth certificate
- marriage certificate
- citizenship certificate
- divorce and custody arrangements
- tax documents (tax assessment etc)
- educational qualifications.
Scan all your important documentation along with your passport and visa.
Packing for the UK
Minimising your belongings is scary and exciting. It is the one and only time I would consider myself being a minimalist! At the end of the day, the UK has plenty of shops so whatever you miss you will be able to buy here. There are a few items that I think need an honourable mention, they are:
- Australian power board- if you have a few devices this will make your life easier when charging devices.
- Comfortable shoes – you will be walking a lot!
- Interview outfit – got to look good for those interviews.
- And stock up on your favourite things! There are some things that you can get in the UK like vegemite but if you are a chicken salt lover this won’t be available in the shops. Same goes with beauty products as some brands may not be available in the UK.
Other Things to Organise
An epic amount of organising was covered in this article and it’s not the end of the list of things to do before moving to the UK. Here another pre-departure article and checklist covering all the other areas not mentioned in the article.