Moving down under: The ultimate planning checklist

Think of the most complex domestic project you’ve ever been involved with – moving house, planning a wedding, organising a round-the-world trip of a lifetime. Whatever it is, migrating to Australia will make any one of them seem simple by comparison.

To give you some idea of what’s involved, and a taster of what I’ll be writing about over the coming months, I thought I’d share with you the task list that I’ve put together to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. If you’re planning a move yourself, it might prove a useful starting point for you too.

This list assumes two things—that you have a visa allowing you to go and live in Australia and, if appropriate, that you have agreed the sale of your house/apartment in your country of origin, or given notice to your landlord that you will be leaving your rented accommodation on a given date.

Are you ready? Great, because there’s plenty to do…

July: Four months to go

  • Tell close family members that it’s really happening
  • Keep a notepad and pen close to the letterbox and each time you get post, make a note of who has written to you – it’ll save you hours when you come to draw up a ‘change of address’ mailing list
  • Confirm your moving out date with the estate agent or landlord
  • If you have a car, write an ad to sell it and decide when you’ll put it on the market
  • If you have kids, make a decision about which school you’d like them to go to in Australia as this will affect which areas you search for property in
  • If you have pets, ensure they have the necessary vaccinations and look into travel, quarantine and any extended kennelling/cattery requirements – the quarantine period can be as little as 10 days now, so you may have to think about where they’ll stay while you find somewhere permanent to live
  • Open bank accounts in Australia and transfer some initial funds
  • Ask for reference letters from bosses and senior colleagues – even if you are going to a guaranteed job in Australia, these may prove useful later on
  • If your visa was sponsored by a state or territory, make contact to let them know your plans and expected date of arrival
  • Start decluttering – everything you sell or give away now will reduce your shipping costs later on. Ask yourself: do I love this vase/DVD box set/Christmas ornament/etc enough to spend £20 on shipping it to Australia. If the answer is no, find a new home for it
  • Check the rules around things you aren’t allowed to bring – Aussie rules are very strict and you may be surprised at what’s on their banned list
  • Start gathering references for your accommodation in Australia – if you’ll be renting, you’ll need a renter’s dossier full of evidence that you are a desirable tenant; if buying, you’ll need plenty of financial evidence that you can afford the mortgage
  • Consider booking a final research trip so that you can hit the ground running when you arrive permanently

August: Three months to go

  • Consider how much packing you want to do yourself. Australian customs rules require a full inventory of your belongings and it might be better to box things up yourself and make a list gradually over the next few months
  • Get quotes for removals and shipping, and make sure you ask about insurance for your belongings
  • Agree the removals and insurance contracts
  • Make sure you have travel insurance to cover your trip – standard holiday policies may not cover you for a one-way trip to Woolloomooloo
  • Shop around and book your travel to Australia. Bear in mind that ‘one-way’ tickets are often no cheaper than return tickets, so you might want to book a long-dated return and be guaranteed a first visit home to see friends and relatives. On the other hand, one-way tickets often come with a bumper baggage allowance to help you make the move
  • Book temporary accommodation for any gap between your moving out date in your home country and your travel date to Australia
  • Book temporary accommodation for your destination to bridge until you find something more permanent
  • If necessary, book a hired car for your first few weeks until you can buy a car of your own
  • Hand in your notice at work and start telling friends and family about your move. If you are self-employed, start telling your customers
  • If you want to have a leaving party, arrange it now
  • Tell your kids’ schools about your plans and when you expect their last day at school to be
  • If you have files and mementoes that can be digitised, start scanning them now – important documents, family photos, camcorder footage – that type of thing. Destroy anything that you don’t need the originals of
  • Set up a currency trading account with a broker so that you get the best exchange rates when converting your money to Aussie dollars
  • If you have a pension, arrange a meeting with your broker or provider to discuss your options

September: Two months to go

  • Get credit references from your bank, mortgage and credit card companies
  • Request proof of any no claims bonuses from insurance companies
  • Get scrubbing on bikes and any outdoor/garden equipment or furniture – signs of dirt or woodworm could see them impounded on arrival
  • Make sure you have evidence that your kids’ vaccinations are up to date
  • Create a file of essential documents that you’ll keep with you, containing things like evidence of your visa, passport ID pages, driving licences and so on
  • Organise any ‘thank you’ card for teachers, friends etc

October: One month to go

  • Get a summary of your family’s files from your doctor and dentist
  • Get a handover file from the kids’ schools, or request an interim school report which you can share with the new school in Australia
  • Start notifying service providers and arranging to close accounts with your utility firms
  • Consider arrangements that you might like to handover to the people moving in to your house – window cleaner, cable TV, house alarm/security contract
  • Inform the local authority and tax authority that you will be leaving the country
  • Cancel your direct debits and close credit card accounts. If you need a payment card for the interim and don’t yet have one from your Australian bank, consider loading funds onto a pre-paid MasterCard or similar
  • If you are self-employed, send out your final bills and make arrangements to pay your final tax and VAT bills, then close down your business bank accounts etc
  • Before you pack up your computer, back it up. Upload essential files to cloud-based storage so you can retrieve them no matter what happens
  • Separate out the documents that you will need for your travel to Australia – passports, visa documentation, evidence of any vaccinations, driving licences, details of where you will be staying etc
  • Order currency for your trip (including money for any stopovers en route)
  • Take final meter readings before you hand over the house/apartment keys to the estate agent
  • Donate any remaining unwanted items to charity

November: The big move

Removals lorry with boxes

Our move to Denmark went pretty smoothly, but the move down under requires much more planning.

  • Organise transport to the airport
  • Find somewhere to live
  • Once you have secured a more permanent place to live, start sending out change of address cards or emails
  • Register the kids for their new school
  • Cancel your old mobile phone contracts and take out new ones in Australia
  • Register with the Centerlink, the Australian tax authorities and your local authority
  • If your visa was sponsored by a state or territory, let them know you have arrived and where you will be living
  • Register at your country’s embassy as being resident in Australia
  • If you need to, research the best deals and buy a car
  • Register for a doctor, dentist and for Medicare
  • Arrange any necessary insurances – house and contents, car, travel

Phew. That’s the list so far, but I’m sure there’s plenty more we’ll find out about along the way. And we haven’t really touched the surface of what we’ll need to do when we arrive in Canberra. But it’s a start, and it gives us some confidence that we’ve thought of most of what will need to be done.

If this list can help you, please feel free to use it too. I can’t guarantee that it’s exhaustive, but it might provide a good starting point and include a few things that you may not have already thought of.

If you have suggestions for what could be added to the list, please submit them as comments to this posting — it’ll help future readers of this, and it’ll help me too.

I should reference two sources that were helpful in putting this list together:

  • Australia & New Zealand magazine is a great source of information, and includes its own checklist towards the back of every issue. You can find out more at www.getmedownunder.com
  • A very kind lady called Dolly posted her own list here on the extremely useful ExpatForum.com

3 thoughts on “Moving down under: The ultimate planning checklist

  1. Caroline Cole says:

    Mark, from my experience moving between the UK and Australia, I have kept a UK bank account permanently with a 500 pounds in it – helps when returning to the UK for visits etc. Or if you own property there etc. Might just be worth keeping your bank accounts in foreign countries open for 12 months or so (as they are very difficult to re-open). Cheers, Caroline (Duell)

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    • Thanks Caroline, that’s a great tip. We’ve kept our UK bank accounts throughout our nearly 10 years in Denmark and, yes, we’re glad we did because we’d be unable to open them now. We were even unable to open a child saver’s account for our youngest when he was born because we were already resident in Denmark by then. I think we’ll take the same approach for our Danish bank accounts too. Not least because I imagine they’ll be useful when it comes to having our various pensions paid out (although that’s a way off yet).

      Like

  2. I moved from Australia to Kentucky and the reverse process is a true nightmare. This is a very helpful post for everyone researching for the opportunity of moving to Australia, I think I’ll forward it to a friend of mine. I want to be sure he know what he’s getting into! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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