Now we’re here…
(Still in process... last update 26/5/01)
What are the priorities and how do you do them?
Of the priorities, treat Tax File Number, Medicare and Centrelink as absolute and urgent. The following are not necessarily in any order.
Type some text.
Tax File Number(you will need to satisfy the 100 points identification test)
Your tax file number is your tax identity. In many ways it acts like a social security number. I have heard it said that at one point Australia was considering introducing an ID card but it was knocked back by the human rights movement or something. So they came up with the Tax File Number as a sort of back door ID. Without a Tax File number (or TFN as it is usually referred to) your Australian bank will have to deduct 48.5% tax from any interest you earn and you will be unlikely to get a job as your prospective employer will need your TFN to establish that you are allowed to work in Australia. You can probably overcome the problem short-term by showing him your visa but he will probably still have to deduct 48.5% tax. It is a fairly painless exercise involving a trip to your local tax office. For Adelaide residents that usually means a trip to Waymouth Street in the city but you should find the address in the phone book. You fill in a form and show youridentification documents. Allow about 28 days for your TFN papers to come through. I cannot understate how important it is to get this sorted ASAP. Please link to the ATO at http://www.ato.gov.au for more information.
Medicare(I don't recall that we had to satisfy the ID test but be prepared in case)
Medicare is analogous to the British NHS but in order to use it you must have a Medicare card. You probably won't recall your NHS number and you rarely would have needed it. But in Australia it is part of everyday medical life. A trip to the doctors will require them to swipe your Medicare card like a credit card. If you are charged for medical services you will make a claim against Medicare and your card number is the key to that. Nobody expects to need medical services but its all too easy to trip over, walk into a door, get the lurgy, or whatever. You do not want the added aggravation of not having your Medicare card.
Again, the process is easy enough. There are Medicare centres all over the place. In Adelaide I have come across dozens of them, in most major shopping centres. I would expect the same thing to apply in other major towns and cities. You fill our a form and probably, although I cannot honestly recall this now, provide proof of ID. You will then receive cards through the post. The card has the names of all the family members on it and will generally only be issued to adults. There is no cost of getting the card. Again, this is really important to do. I don't suppose the local hospital will leave you bleeding all over the pavement until your Medicare card comes through but it won't help, and you will certainly have to pay for your treatment. Mark it down as an ASAP to be done within the first week. Their enquiry line is 13 20 11: I've not come across a web site yet.
Centrelink(Australia's Social Security system)
Get yourself registered with Centrelink ASAP too. They have offices all over the place and can be found in the phone book. We were surprised to find that we were entitled to rent rebate and family tax benefit (that is like the married person's tax allowance in the UK but can be paid directly to you via Centrelink) and I think we also got some family allowance. As I recall this was the most painful of these priorities only in that there was a lot of boring waiting around. Forms were filled in and I daresay we had to provideproof of ID. I don't think that there are any major nasties if you don't register with Centrelink, but you won't get any benefits so that is motivation in itself. Have a look at the Centrelink web site for more info. You will find that you will not qualify for any other benefits until you have been here for two years, but you will probably be well aware of that already.
House renting.(Link to our story)
The accepted wisdom is to rent for a year. I endorse this wisdom. We rented in the southern suburbs and then got a job an hour away. We have since move to the northern suburbs. Buying and selling is far more expensive in Australia than in England (see house buying below) so a mistake will be costly.
Usually renting is for a period of 12 months although occasionally you can get a 6 month lease. You pay a bond to the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (Tenancies Branch) which you should get back at the end of the lease. This will probably be organised by the letting agency. Be prepared for this to be a month's rent but it might well be less but should not be more. It is a regulated market. As a guide to prices, we paid $220 per week (payable fortnightly in advance) throughout 2000, which is fairly expensive, but gave us a nice 4 bedroom home in a pleasant area.
The best way to find a place is to go to the estate agents in the area you are looking for (in my experience the various branches of the same estate agent don't really communicate with each other effectively) and look in the local papers. For Adelaide this means the Advertiser.
Housing - buying
There is a fundamental difference to buying a house in Australia versus buying in England: viewing. Look for little pavement noticeboards as you drive around the area you want to look at and these will lead you to a house that has an "open inspection". Alternatively look in the estate agents (realtor, as they say here) or the local papers for notifications of open inspections. They usually last for no more than an hour or so. Just turn up, no appointment expected, and walk in to the house and have a "sticky beak" (i.e. nosey around) The realtor is usually the person taking care of things and will answer questions and give you all the details. Throughout the whole process of buying your house you may not actually meat the vendors. The vendors usually go out for a couple of hours whilst the realtor conducts the viewing. If you want to see the property again you can make arrangements through the realtor and, again, it will usually be him or her that shows you around. We found this most peculiar but once you get used to it, it is fun. You could even make a hobby of it if you were that way inclined. We also did a lot of digging on the internet, looking at the realtors' web pages. Try these for example:www.propertypage.com www.barriemagain.com.au www.brockpartners.com.au www.ljhooker.com (that's who we brought this house from) sa.professionals.com.au www.century21.com.au There are loads of others but there are just a taster.
You don't normally use a solicitor to do your conveyencing although you can. Most people tend to use a licensed conveyencer as they are generally significantly cheaper. Make your own enquiries. You will probably need a mortgage which tends to be the bank's domain although there are specialist home loan (as they call a mortgage over here) companies. If you can get a provisional acceptance of a mortgage this can make the difference between getting your dream house or not, as you will be in a position to buy as soon as you make an offer. You will not need to get a survey carried out like you did in England but it is probably a good idea. We had one done and it was only a couple of hundred dollars. One thing that strikes you is that you are much more on your own throughout the process. In England you would have been at the beck and call of the building society, your solicitor, and the estate agent: they were pulling all the strings. Here you pull the strings. Its a bit scary to be honest, but we survived.
Costs.The biggest cost is stamp duty. We paid nearly $12,000 in stamp duty. Other costs were probably well under $1000 in total. The stamp duty is on a sliding scale and linked to the price of the property. This is why you don't want to make a mistake. I believe estate agent's fees are very expensive when selling too. Our vendor probably paid something like $5,000. I'm surprised there is a real estate market at all! Currently there is a grant available to first time (in Australia) home buyers. Right now this is $14,000 but I think that stops after this year (2001).
Banks don't require life insurance but they will insist on house insurance. Endowment linked mortgages seem almost unheard of here. There will be more responsibility on you to ensure that you can meet the payments than in England but the banks do have certain legal obligations not to let you bite off more than you can chew.
We did not have any difficulty getting a mortgage even though I had only been working here for less than a year. All in all it was not a too painful experience and now we have our own Ozzie home.
Getting a bank account set up before you leave England is highly recommended. If nothing else, how are you going to send the proceeds from selling your home to Australia if you don't have a bank account here? We found the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (
When you first go to the bank in Australia you will need similar proof of identity (see below). You should be given a key card (hole-in-the-wall card to you and me!) and you will set your PIN to operate it. You can use this at virtually every shop, from supermarkets to the post office or newsagent, but you probably won't be able to buy a pint with it! This is known as EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale). Generally you would not use the hole-in-the wall to draw out money as they have a cost (even from your own bank). When you go to most shops the checkout operator will ask if you want any cash out. They will add that to your bill and give you the cash. There are limits and some smaller shops won't do it. But this is the normal Australian way of drawing cash. It's convenient and saves a transaction, which means it saves you money. (Free banking, unlike England, is not available in Australia, thus every transaction has a cost although you may get a few free.) Whenever you use your key card you will swipe it through a reader and key in your PIN. You can also have your accounts - savings, cheque, credit - all linked to one card so you need to choose which account to use at the checkout. This can be a little confusing because it is not necessarily obvious whether your bank account is savings or cheque. (The bank puts something in the system to determine which and the same account could be either, and has nothing to do with the existence or not of a cheque book.) Make a point of asking when you pick up your card.
You don't really need a cheque book over here. Apart from which, if you have a cheque book, every single payment you make (not just the cheques issued) will be taxed by the debits tax at up to $4 per payment. In my first year I only needed two cheques, one each for our cars (his 'n hers!). We used a bankers cheque costing about $5 each (plus the squillions of dollars for the goods of course!).
Since then we have opened a separate account with a cheque book for those rare occasions when there is no alternative, and use Internet Banking to shuffle money between accounts. (There is also stamp duty at 10 cents per cheque when you get an actual cheque book.)
The sort code over here is called BSB and is 6 digits long. Account numbers tend to be 8 or so digits in length depending on the institution.
There is a system over here called Bpay. It allows you to pay most of your bills, e.g. gas, electric, phone, insurances, etc etc by phone or by the internet. It is very convenient, easy and streets ahead of the UK of 1999.
Credit Cards:are widely used in Australia like in England. Over the years I had built up a strong credit rating but here in Australia, fresh off the 'plane, no job, rented accommodation, I was truely "not worthy". However, I applied for and got a CBA Visa card but with a low credit limit. (Once I got a job, things improved substantially and a year later I have pretty much restored my standing.) You can, of course, continue to use your UK credit card but you will need to be able to pay the bill from Australia (e.g. internet banking, such as First Direct). There will be a delay in getting your Access Bill delivered to Australia such that it is touch and go whether you get it in sufficient time to make the payment. I've also found that the exchange rate is not particularly good either.
I found that it was almost impossible to get even an interview lined up from England. You might have better luck. The normal way is to scour the papers, Saturday and Thursday tend to be the best, and register with relevant agencies (see my useful contacts page) Interviews are exactly the same as they are in England, including dress protocol. A CV here is called a resumé. You cannot simply use the exchange rate to work out what rate of pay you would be on. In South Australia the pay rates tend to be a bit on the low side but that's OK since cost of living is also low. I reckon two dollars to the pound would be a reasonable guide although that will progressively get out of date. Other areas of Australia are more highly paid (Sydney and Melbourne) but have much higher costs of living, especially housing in Sydney. Western Australia (simply known as WA) I believe has a slightly lower pay rate than SA. I have not heard of any Poms not being able to get a job but I have heard of a couple of instances where the locals are playing silly buggers with UK qualifications,. i.e. not recognising it even though the immigration authorities accept it as equivalent. Sparkies beware that they will need further training even though they are every bit as capable as their Australian counterpart.
Add a list item.
The 100 points test.
There is quite an extensive list of items attached to the TFN application (which can be downloaded as a pdf or zipClick here to go to ATO download site). The list is divided into category A items and category B items and documents must be unaltered originals. You must provide either two different category A documents or an A plus a B, or three B items. For us newly arrived Poms that probably means a UK passport with your visa as your category A item, plus any one of the following: UK birth certificate; house, life or car insurance with an Australian company showing your Aussie address; International drivers license with photo; an Australian issued bank statement or similar showing your Aussie address. There are plenty of other items to choose from but the passport and birth certificate would be the most convenient. (I notice that the ATO form no longer refers to it as a 100 points test - merely "Proof of Identity documents".)