What Is An Australian Expat: Everything You Need To Know



Are you considering moving abroad? Do you already live overseas but are unsure if you’re an expat? There are roughly a million Australians living and working abroad at any one time. Whether Australians start a life abroad for education purposes or travel overseas for a foreign spouse, there are many reasons why people leave Australia.

Whether you’re thinking of moving to another country or already living overseas, you must be aware of the legal and practical aspects of living abroad. This article will share everything from tax implications to employment opportunities and purchasing property in other countries.

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What Is Considered an Expat?

An expat, or expatriate, is generally considered to be an Australian citizen living in another country. Typically, Australian residents move to a foreign country for education, work or retirement. Unlike an immigrant, expatriates don’t look to move abroad permanently. So, if you decide to move to leave your home country for Singapore, for example, you would become an Australian expatriate.

Similarly, those moving from overseas to Australia are expatriates.

Is Australia Good for Expats?

Despite being one of the largest countries in the world, Australia is home to little more than 25 million people, growing by 0.1% annually. With such a relatively low population density, Australia is a great place to live. Not to mention its stunning landscapes and natural beauty.

It is no surprise that expatriates similarly see Australia as an excellent place to live. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost 30% of the Aussie population was born overseas. The majority of people moving to Australia come from England, India and China.

What Is It Like to Live in Australia as an Expat?

With so much space, the quality of life in Australia is pretty high. However, the costs are similarly higher than elsewhere on the globe. As of 2021, the cost of living in Australia is about $50,000 per year, spent on accommodation, healthcare, education, and other living expenses.

English is the most spoken language in Australia, so if you can speak English, you will be able to conduct business and daily life just fine.

As much as we envision it to have hot sun 24/7, the climate in Australia is actually quite varied. In such a large country, different weather patterns abound. For instance, if you live in the Northern Territory, the weather is reasonably tropical, with hot, humid weather and monsoon seasons. In the southern states, the temperature is relatively mild, and the seasons are distinctive.

If you’re looking to work in Australia, the good news is that unemployment is fairly low. However, it is increasingly challenging to find work permits and residency. Over the last decade, restrictions on immigration have tightened, and you will need to offer skills before acquiring a work permit. For retirees, visas are provided if you have enough personal wealth and bank account savings.

Children generally can receive visas if their parents and family are eligible to reside in Australia.

Life in Australia as an expat is great; however, ensure you research all the potential obstacles for a foreign resident.

What Is An Australian Expat Everything You Need To Know

Where Do Expats Live in Australia?

Australia is often thought of as the place to jet off to and spend your days surfing in the sun or backpacking through the bush. Many people indeed move to Australia, but it is mostly in city living that we see the population of foreign residents rise.

The state with the largest population of people born overseas was Western Australia, with Victoria and New South Wales coming in close behind. The fewest expatriates are moving to Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Buying property in Australia as a foreign national is a highly sought after prospect. However, the Australian government has implemented restrictions for foreigners investing in real estate. Lenders must follow stricter mortgage criteria, and you might need to apply for FIRB approval.

Although, it is not impossible for foreign nationals or temporary residents to purchase property. Speak to an expert at Odin Mortgage today to see what options are available to you.

How Do Australian Expats Work?

Most expatriates will need to secure employment before entering the country. Unless you are relocating for retirement, you will need a work visa. Many expatriates come to Australia with an employer-sponsored visa. The employer must prove that the position exists for the candidate and no local person can fill the position.

This can be fairly challenging when Australia’s local population has a high level of education and qualifications. However, there is a gap in industry jobs. With fewer Aussies taking on skilled jobs, your best bet is to look at industries such as healthcare, IT and marketing.

Finding a job for a few months is often easier than looking for a more permanent position.

Where Do Expats Live Outside Australia?

For Australians leaving to seek different prospects overseas, the most common destinations are the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand. Singapore, Hong Kong and the UAE are also popular destinations for Australian expats. Plus, in recent years, Thailand, Bali, and Portugal are becoming more attractive areas for the Australian community.

Most of those leaving Australia are between 25 to 30, with an almost even split between men and women. Most Australian expats go for opportunities working overseas.

Will I Lose My Australian Citizenship if I Move to Another Country?

If you are born in Australia to Australian parents, you automatically have Australian citizenship. If you move to Australia from abroad, you can apply for Australian citizenship if you meet one of the limited circumstances:

  • You have an Australian spouse
  • You have Australian ancestors but were born overseas
  • Some New Zealand citizens
  • Refugees or humanitarian migrants
  • You have resided in Australia for four years and are a permanent resident

If you move to Australia from another country and apply to become a citizen, you can have dual citizenship with the country you were born in.

However, you can also lose your citizenship. If you have dual citizenship and act in a way that is considered to be inconsistent with Australian loyalty, the citizenship can be revoked. Or, if you behave in certain criminal ways, your citizenship can be taken away.

Yet, for most expatriates, this is not an issue. You won’t lose your citizenship by simply living abroad for an indefinite number of years.

How Do Expats Work Abroad?

This largely depends on the country you are moving to. You should research the best industries and services in your desired destination, the working conditions and required visas. There are not the same work prospects available in every country. Let’s break it down by some of the most popular destinations for Australian expatriates.

In the UK, for example, you will need a visa to work. There is no specific job-seeking visa, but you cannot look for employment on a visitor’s visa. You need a permit before going to live and work in the UK; however, for this, you need a job offer. The most prominent job markets in the UK for expatriates are services such as business, banking and insurance.

In the US, expatriates can live and work with a non-immigrant visa while their immigrant visa is being processed. You need a green card for permanent residency. However, before you can apply for a green card, you need a US company to vouch for you or have a family member who is a US citizen or permanent citizen.

Luckily, Aussies moving to New Zealand do not need a visa or permit to reside and seek employment in the country. All you need to do is show a valid Australian passport upon arrival into the country.

All foreigners who wish to live and work in Singapore must obtain a valid work visa. There are different types of permits, including the Employment Pass for professional services and executives. There is the S pass for skilled workers and EntrePass for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the country.

To work in Hong Kong, you need a permit and a solid job offer before emigrating. The employment market is reasonably competitive, and the most plentiful jobs are in banking and finance. Although, there are also opportunities for teaching English and volunteer work.

To obtain a work visa, you need a job offer and proof that you can contribute to the economy in a way that a local cannot.

Finally, in the UAE, you need a residence visa and work permit to seek employment. It is illegal to work on a tourist visa. You will also need to undergo a mandatory medical examination upon arrival in the country. The job market is competitive; however, expatriates make up most of the working population.

As an expatriate working abroad, you might want to purchase investment property back home to top up your income. However, lenders are hesitant about foreign income. It is sensible to make sure you fully understand how to finance property in Australia while living overseas.

What Is An Australian Expat Everything You Need To Know

How Does the Australian Tax System Affect Expats?

As a non-resident, you are only required to pay tax on Australian-sourced income. Anything you earn while living abroad from that country (for example, your foreign salary) will only be taxed by that country’s taxation laws. The Australian Taxation Office only requires you to pay if you also earn money in Australia.

For instance, if you have an investment property in Australia while living in Hong Kong, the Australian tax system expects you to pay stamp duty, capital gains tax and land tax. If you move back to Australia and seek employment, you will then have to pay income tax on your Australian-earned salary too.

Also, living overseas, you will no longer be able to claim the CGT main residence exemption. Research the new changes in the CGT main residence exemption. Plus, you still have to repay your Higher Education Loan Program. You must notify the ATO for tax purposes if you plan to leave Australia for more than six months.

Can I Buy Property In Australia as an Expat?

An Australian resident is eligible to purchase an investment property while living overseas. If you are not residing in the country, there are several extra hurdles to jump over before obtaining your mortgage and buying a property.

Stamp Duty Surcharge

If you are an Australian national paying for the property on your own income, you are exempt from the surcharge. However, if you are using a foreign spouse’s income to help secure the loan, you will have to pay the stamp duty surcharge.

For Australians, stamp duty is usually between 4-5% of the property’s value; for foreigners, it can be up to 8% on top of the standard tax.

FIRB Approval

If you’re a temporary resident or a foreign national, you may be required to apply for approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board. At the moment, Australian born citizens, New Zealanders and permanent residents are exempt from applying to FIRB.

Difficulty Securing a Loan

Regulators have increased restrictions on lending home loans to people living abroad. While expatriates still have many of the same loan choices as those living in Australia, there are tighter criteria measures to meet. Plus, lenders will usually only consider 80% of your foreign income. 

On top of that, expatriates typically need a 20% deposit.

How to Prepare for Returning Home

You might decide to return to Oz, whether it’s after five years or after twenty-five. Moving back home after an extended period might be a strange experience. New rules and laws will likely have been put into place. Unfortunately, you should treat your move home as you would moving to any other overseas country and research, so you know what to expect.

Moving anywhere will require a lot of planning and preparation. If in doubt, speak to an expert to obtain professional services.

Just for A Visit

Maybe you’re just popping back to Australia for a visit or to see family and friends. While there are relatively few logistical and legal rules you need to navigate for a holiday, it might take an emotional toll.

Moving Back to Australia

If you are moving back to Australia permanently, you should start planning from six to twelve months ahead of the move.

Firstly, you should think about your self managed super fund. Managing your investments while abroad may have been challenging, and perhaps you suspended contributions or closed the fund. Many countries offer pension schemes. When you move back to Australia, you need to understand how to transfer your savings and any tax implications there might be.

Secondly, consider any foreign investments. Is it best to sell them off with an advantageous exchange rate before you leave the country?

Thirdly, if you set up a business overseas, you need to work out how to repatriate it to Australia with you. It is an intricate process and can require paying a lot of tax. The cost might be too high for some, and you may choose to leave the business overseas.

Finally, if you intend to live in your investment property and make it your permanent residence, you may have to refinance your home loan. You will also have to notify the taxation office for tax purposes as you will no longer earn an income on the property.

It is sensible to seek professional advice and further information ahead of your return to Australia.

What Is An Australian Expat: Everything You Need To Know

Final Thoughts: Australian Expat

The life of an expatriate can be fun and exciting. One of travelling and seeing the world, it might be the dream for many of us. However, all countries have different legal requirements that Australians moving overseas must understand. From working permits and visas to tax and buying property, there is a risk as well as reward.

The key is to research life overseas. Know the area you want to move to in detail. Similarly, take the same approach when moving to Australia after some time. Even if you lived in Sydney for twenty years prior to moving overseas, rules might change in the time you are gone. You don’t want to risk getting hit with unexpected tax upon return.

Get a free Australian mortgage assessment today.

Apply online to get a free recommendation with real rates and repayments.

Frequently Asked Questions

During the coronavirus pandemic with restrictive lockdowns imposed, many expatriates wished to leave Australia to return to their friends and family. However, the general trend suggests that expatriates are not leaving Australia. According to the ABS, the population of people born overseas in Australia still increased in 2020 despite the pandemic.

If Australians intend to live overseas, there is no limit for how long they can go. The length of time you live elsewhere depends largely on your visa. If you have a work-only visa, then, in most countries, when you leave this job, you are no longer eligible to stay. You might be able to apply for permanent residence or dual citizenship in some countries.

Yes. Anyone with Australian citizenship is able to move overseas. You should research visa requirements before moving abroad and your right to work in another country. Before leaving, you should inform friends and family (providing your new contact details) and the Australian Tax Office.

Australians only need to complete an Australian tax return if they earn income in Australia. For example, if you have shares in Australia or an investment property, then you need to pay tax on your capital gain. However, you don’t need to pay tax in Australia for your worldwide income; this depends on each individual country’s tax laws.

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