Jason Heppenstall

How to live and work in Australia

5 min read


Opening an account with Currency Solutions is completely free and you’ll be able to make currency transfers anytime at our excellent exchange rates.

Hopping on a plane and heading off to a new life Down Under is a dream for many. We all know that life is more relaxed in Australia, with its long sandy beaches, its immense outback and its thriving and cosmopolitan cities like Sydney and Melbourne. But how do we actually turn the dream of moving to Australia into a reality?

There are plenty of job opportunities in Australia, but immigration can be tricky. You might have heard that getting a work visa for Australia can be expensive and frustrating. But don’t despair, if working in Australia is your dream, here’s how it can be achieved.


First off, if you’re aged between 18 and 30, your easiest option will be to simply apply for a 12-month Australian Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417). Most nationalities can apply, and if you’re a citizen of Ireland, Canada or France you’re allowed to be up to 35.

There are a couple of caveats to consider before you apply for your working holiday visa. For a start, the focus of your trip should be a holiday rather than employment. Any work that you undertake in Australia should be considered as part of your holiday experience, and you must not have any dependents with you when you travel. Many people who obtain this visa travel around Australia, working in cafes or on fruit farms to add to their experience and supplement their travel funds. It’s a fun way to visit the continent - perhaps picking bananas in Queensland and then getting a bar job in Perth - and earn some money while you’re there. It goes without saying that you should have a valid passport.

To get an Australia Working Holiday Visa (technically, a Subclass 462 visa) you’ll need to apply in your home country and must meet certain health criteria. There’s an electronic visa scheme, meaning you can apply online, as long as you are in your home country. You’ll need to prove that you have sufficient funds for your trip – the Australian Department of Home Affairs says AU$ 5,000 (approx. £2,500) is the minimum – and a return ticket.

Normally, the Australia Working Holiday Visa is a one-off shot, meaning you can only get it once. However, you may be able to extend it by a further 12 months and get a 'second year visa' if you end up working in a key sector – generally plant and animal cultivation, fishing, mining or construction – while you are in Australia.


If you’re over 30 or are looking for a more permanent move to Australia – potentially leading to permanent residency – you will need to look at other working visa options. In this case the Australia Skilled Visa is likely to be more relevant from an immigration point of view. This is actually the most popular type of working visa for people thinking of moving to Australia, and it seeks to match workers with qualifications with parts of the economy suffering a skills shortage. The most flexible of these visa subclasses is the Skilled Independent Visa (Subclass 189), which is geared to workers with particular skills or experience who do not need a state or family sponsor in Australia.

There are several other types of Skilled Visas that allow you to live and work in Australia depending on whether you have a nomination by a state or by family (Skilled Nominated Visa – Subclass 190), whether you are willing to settle in a particular region (Skilled Regional Visa) or under the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme. The Australian Government continually assesses which occupations are needed.

To be granted an Australian Skilled Visa (Subclass 189) you’ll need to have a skilled occupation and score a certain number of points based on your experience, skills and other factors, such as age and qualification. In general, you will score more highly if you have skills in sectors that have a shortage of qualified workers – and these roles range from nurses and chefs to plasterers and psychologists. You'll need to undergo a skills assessment (a set number of positions are filled by migrants each year, depending on demand) and which you’ll need to score 65 points or higher on the Points Test. Furthermore, you need to be under 45 years of age, have good English skills and a clean bill of health.

The requirements for the Australian Skilled Nominated Visa are similar, but in addition you need to be nominated by an Australian state or territory. In both the Skilled Independent and the Skilled Nominated visas, certain family members of skilled workers can also be included in the application to come and live with you in Australia.

In addition to these two types of Australian Skilled visas, there is a whole host of other similar types, including provisional visas where you may apply while in Australia.


But what if you work for a company and want to move to Australia within that company? If this is your situation you might want to look at the Australian Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS). Under this, your employer must be able to prove that the position cannot be filled by an Australian – perhaps you have a unique skill relating to the job. These types of vacancies are normally filled by high-ranking managers or directors, allowing them to work and live in Australia.

Perhaps, instead, none of the above applies to you and you want to move to Australia to set up a business as an entrepreneur. If this is you then you’ll need to apply for an Australian Business Visa. To apply for this type of immigration you’ll need to get a provisional visa, which lasts four years, and allows you to become a permanent resident visa if the business and investment is deemed to be sustainable and a success.

The second type of business visa is open to highly skilled immigrants who are sponsored by an individual state or territory via the Business Skills Program. Migration under this scheme is popular as visa holders can live in Australia as entrepreneurs.

If you have a sum of money you want to invest in Australia you might consider the Australian Investor Visa (Subclass 162), which allows you to stay there permanently and apply for citizenship. There’s no age limit for this kind of visa, but you do need to have a lumpsum of at least AU$ 1.5 million (approx. £750,000) to invest.

All of the above are considered to be working visas, but what if you’ve finished your working life and want to simply retire to Australia and enjoy the balmy weather and laid-back lifestyle? Well, there’s a visa for that too – with a big caveat: the Australian Retirement Visa (Subclass 410) is unfortunately no longer open to new applicants, although you can apply for it if you are the partner of a retiree in Australia.


In all cases, if you work in Australia you will need to open a local bank account for your wages to be paid into. Should you end up doing this, it is wise to keep your UK bank account open and in credit so that you can easily transfer sums of money between the two using a currency provider such as Currency Solutions. This way you will save on bank transfer fees and get a competitive exchange rate.

There is one final thing to note about applying for an Australian work visa: with the exception of the Working Holiday Visa, the application process can be complex and there is a not insignificant non-refundable fee applied to each application. For this reason you should consider using a professional migration agent, who will advise you of any mistakes in your application and ensure your chances of working in Australia are the best they can be.

So, if your dream is to head Down Under to pursue a better life in Australia, we hope our introduction to the types of visa available has been useful and wish you the best of luck in your application.

Final thoughts

Moving abroad is exciting but it can be pretty overwhelming, too. We’d love to help you transfer your funds – with excellent exchange rates and minimal fees. Below are three services you might find useful. Get in touch if you have any questions.

  1. Forward contracts Planning ahead, you can book a forward contract locking in a great rate for up to 12 months.
  2. Spot contracts A simple, buy-now currency contract. Ideal if you need foreign currency quickly.
  3. Online trading platform Our easy to use secure online platform is great for regular transfers.
  4. Faster payments We can get your money to its destination faster using Faster Payments, SEPA (Europe only) or SWIFT.
Talk to an expert