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.
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Oh, and btw ‘bulk billing’ is just an outdated term meaning you don’t pay the doctor anything if you’re with Medicare as the doc bills Medicare directly.
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.
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 (email@example.com) if you’re thinking of joining them and I’ll hook you up!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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