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Emigrating to Australia – the legal hurdles

Australia is a dream destination for many Brits thinking about upping sticks. But despite the language and cultural similarities, the paperwork and regulations faced by emigrants to Australia are as complicated as anywhere else. Here we look at some of the legal and bureaucratic issues you’ll tackle if you decide to make the move.


British citizens can visit Australia as tourists without a visa, but when it comes to living and working there it’s a different story. Australia has one of the toughest immigration systems in the world and getting the right visa is absolutely key.
If your partner is an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you’ll normally get a two-year visa with the option to make it permanent after this if the relationship is continuing. Get ready to dig out your wedding photos and joint memberships cards, as you’ll need to prove that your relationship is genuine.

Otherwise, you might be eligible for a visa if you have one of the following: a job offer in Australia; enough “points” for things like age, work experience and qualifications; or a proposed business or investment in Australia. The visa application involves submitting an online “expression of interest” which is reviewed by the Australian government, who may or may not invite you to continue with the application. You’ll need to pay a hefty application fee and wait up to a year or more for a decision, so make sure you understand the requirements before you apply.

Buying property

With a sluggish housing market, now may be a great time to snap up your own little piece of Australia. Unless your partner is Australian or you have a permanent visa, you’ll need to apply for permission from the Foreign Investments Review Board (FIRB). You can only buy one property, which must be for your own residence unless you are buying new-build. Getting an FIRB decision normally takes 40 days but if you’re in a real hurry you can start the purchase process while this is pending. Just make sure it is conditional on getting FIRB approval.

Accessing healthcare

Helpfully, Australia and the UK have a reciprocal arrangement whereby immediately necessary treatment is provided free of charge. However, if you’re applying for a temporary visa (eg. student or work permit) you are required to take out health insurance regardless of this. If you have a permanent visa you can enrol in Medicare, the Australian equivalent of the NHS, which is a hybrid public and private service funded by salary deductions. Under Medicare, most treatment is free but there are some major exceptions (ambulance trips, dentistry) and it’s very common for people to buy private health insurance as well.

There’s no denying that moving to Australia involves a few legal headaches. But you won’t have to look far to find people in the same boat for advice and encouragement. Stick to it, get help from a qualified and reputable adviser where necessary, and there’s no reason to be put off by the legal hurdles.

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