Moving To Australia? Here’s How To Get Set Up & Settled Quickly

It’s been 3 years since I moved to Australia but only now do I feel like I know my ‘TFN’ from my ‘bulk billing’. Moving to a new country, with all the logistics, lingo & unfamiliar tax & health systems, can be daunting, so for anyone thinking of moving to Australia I’ve had a big brain dump of everything I wish I’d known about before coming. I hope this list doesn’t look too intimidating – you’ll see that I’ve only just signed up to the some of the services myself – but I hope it becomes a handy check list for expats to work throw as they get settled here in Oz.

Hopefully this post isn’t too daunting!

Sign up for Medicare

If you hold a permanent residency visa for Australia or are in the process of applying for one you can enrol for Medicare to access free or low-cost medical, optometrical and hospital care. You need to enrol in person at the Medicare office and it is advised you wait 1 week after your arrival in the country to allow time for Medicare to receive your visa details from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. If you’re on a bridging visa (like I was while waiting for the temporary partner visa to be approved) you’ll need to take all related documents plus a copy of your passport to the Medicare office.

Note that Medicare does not cover specialist services, dental or ambulance so most residents take out private health cover. If you have private health cover for the full tax year you won’t have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge, and depending on your income you may be eligible for the private health insurance rebate. (We took out couples cover with Bupa this year and I got a $230 rebate.)

For those coming from the UK as a tourist you are entitled to some subsidised health services under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement but if you’re on a Working Holiday Visa you will need to apply for a Medicare card.

Oh, and btw ‘bulk billing’ is just an outdated term meaning you don’t pay the doctor anything if you’re with Medicare as the doc bills Medicare directly.

Things you need to know before moving to Australia
Get health insurance before jumping into Aussie living!

Apply for a TFN (Tax File Number)

You’ll need a TFN (tax file number) if you plan to work in Australia. You can apply online but they send the documents to your home so you might want to wait until you have a permanent address.

If you’re self-employed or planning to run a business in Oz you will need an ABN (Australian business number). You can also apply for this online once you have a TFN.

Get a mygov account

If you sign up for a mygov account you can link your Medicare and ATO details and update things like your address all in one place. You’ll also need a mygov account if you plan to file your tax return online. My husband files his return online himself but for me (a sole trader) I find the system wildly confusing so have used ITP for the last few years who charge a flat rate of $150 and make tax time bearable. I’ve also recently discovered the ATO app, which has a handy little tool that logs your business expenses/deductions when you upload a photo of the receipt.

Just think where that tax rebate can take you!

Open a bank account

Most major Australian banks allow you to open an account online before you move here. (I went with Westpac but Commbank and ANZ offer a similar service.) However, once you’ve got a house sorted I recommend moving to ING for free ATM withdrawals across Australia. (Aussie banks charge you $2-$2.50 to withdraw cash if you use an ATM that isn’t theirs. This means you often have to walk for miles to find your own bank or, more likely, suck up unnecessary charges every time you want a coffee.) With ING the ATM charges you the fee and then they refund it to your account. I’m not associated with ING by the way, just a very happy customer. They do sometimes hold sign up bonuses where both myself and the person I refer gets $100 for signing up so email me ( if you’re thinking of joining them and I’ll hook you up!

How To Travel While Waiting For Australia Partner Visa – My Experience Of Bridging Visa B

A heads up on renting

If you’re planning to rent in Sydney or Melbourne, just a little heads up that the market is seriously competitive. Between the open inspections, agents that ghost you and landlords who have multiple applications to pick from, I’m not a massive fan of the system. My tip would be to view and apply for as many properties that fit your needs as you can. Familiarise yourself with the standard application form and come with one already filled out if you’re going to an inspection for somewhere you really like. Many (but not all) agents use an online system called 1 Form where you can log all your details once then ping off the application for different houses. Get yourself an account to save a lot of time and effort.

Waiting for all our worldly possessions to arrive in Sydney

In terms of searching for properties I’m a fan of Domain as you can save the properties to lists and pop the open inspections in your calendar with one click. does a similar thing.

Change your Apple store to Australia

This is something I’ve only just figured out how to do but you’ll need to update your address & credit card details on the Apple store in order to download Aussie version of apps like gumtree, ebay and ING online banking.

Palm Beach Sydney
Gratuitous shot of me and my sister as visits from family are the best thing

Join Rewardle

If you want to feel fully integrated then get yourself this app and start earning points on coffee purchased from your local café. Not all cafes have this system, my favourites in Sydney used stamps on a card and my locals in Melbourne don’t reward loyalty at all, but this is a handy app to have ready when you spot the Rewardle iPad on a cafe counter.

30 Things You Learn When You Move To Australia

Notifying companies of your move overseas

Don’t forget to let all the important people back home know that you’ve moved. I learned that a couple of old-fashioned services only let you do this by mail (looking at you Student Loans Company and UK tax office) so you may want to start that process as soon as you have a permanent address in order to avoid default charges.

I hope you found this brain dump helpful. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my inexpert best to answer them!

Read next: The best things about being an expat in Australia

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About the author

I’m Jayne, a travel blogger, content creator and mum to a 4-year-old son. I’ve been blogging since 2010, travelled to 65 countries and share travel guides and tips to help you plan stylish, stress-free trips.

9 thoughts on “Moving To Australia? Here’s How To Get Set Up & Settled Quickly”

  1. If you’re on a Working Holiday Visa from the UK, you still *have* to get a Medicare card to qualify for the reciprocal healthcare! Doctors won’t see you without one. Instead of the full green Medicare card though you get a green and yellow one marked ‘Reciprocal’. If you’re from the UK and you arrive and don’t bother to get a Medicare card, they get really angry with you (even when I went to apply for one two weeks after I arrived, the lady in the office still questioned why I hadn’t done it the first week I arrived). Then if you transfer to a 457 you have to go back to Medicare and inform them of your visa change and take a hard copy of your visa with you. It’s all very confusing and complicated!

    C x

  2. Oh good lord the bureaucracy kills me sometimes! The rules must have changed since I arrived as I only had to show my passport – or maybe I just got someone nice! Thanks for letting me know 😀

  3. I moved to Sydney in January and I would have loved to know about all these things beforehand. Moving to a new country is not necessarily easy. When I got here I knew about a few of the things you have listed, but it would have been so much easier if I knew about all of them. Love the post!

    • I also wished I’d read all this info in one place when I moved instead of piecing it together over many months. Hopefully it helps expats like us in future! Thanks so much for leaving your feedback.

  4. Hi, A friend of mine was accepted to film school in Sydney and she will be living there for a year. She has never been to Sydney and unfamiliar with neighborhoods and housing. Would you happen to know where I can gather some intel for her. Thank you for reading. Cheers, Tom


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