Documents You Might Need to Establish Yourself in Australia

I recently came across a blog called “Waggadventure” written by a Canadian couple documenting their adventures relocating to country Australia. Today I read a post entitled “Permanent Residency” (Click here for full post) which inspired me to write my own experiences of trying to get myself set up in Oz and perhaps give you some pointers as well.

One of the first things you need when you move is access to money. I was fortunate when I moved that I had savings in my US bank account and the exchange rate was US$1.00 to AU$.50 so I could use my US money and get double value here using my US credit cards, even with the transaction fees it was still cost-effective. Today I wouldn’t be so lucky as the exchange rate is roughly dollar for dollar, so this would be an expensive option.

Stacks of Money Courtesy Wikipedia

As I started earning Australia Dollar, I needed to set up a bank account. I couldn’t get a credit or debit card, despite the fact I had US credit reports, an employer who had sponsored my Visa to work here, I had money in the bank in two countries and I was considered a resident for tax purposes. Because I wasn’t a permanent resident it was risky to allow me to have this sort of debt object. Given the GFC, perhaps a wise choice, albeit inconvenient for me.

However, I went to a party with my partner at the time who was on the Partner track at one of the big accounting firms and was sharing my woes with one of the Partners there. He thought he could help me. The next day he marched me to the bank manager where I banked and said he would vouch for me and I got a credit card on the spot! No additional paperwork needed. Obviously a case of who you know!

Another must-have modern convenience is the mobile/cell phone. I went into the mobile phone provider’s shop to get one of these coveted devices and was told that I could not get a mobile phone and/or plan because once again I wasn’t a permanent resident. However if I could fax a letter to them on company letterhead with “permission” for me to get a phone from the company who was sponsoring me, I could then get the phone. Problem sorted.

I could go on for pages about funny stories about getting settled, but I wanted to provide some broad advice for those of you who might be considering living here.

1. Get letters before you leave. Any documentation such as proof of good driving signed by your insurance company, letters from your bank stating that you have been a good customer and have a good credit rating and/or proof that you’ve owned a house previously or letters from previous landlords stating you’ve been a good tenant, especially if you’ve had pets in their property beforehand. Letters go a long way to show someone is willing to vouch for you.

2. Have original birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, driver’s licenses and other important documents with you when you move. Think about what you’ll need to show you are who you say you are and share your history with others.

Courtesy Wikipedia

3. Research to find out what proof of identity you’ll need before you go to the organisation. Each company/governmental agency, etc will ask you for different items to prove that you’re living here. Get on the web or call them BEFORE you waste your valuable time queuing to understand exactly what they require. Also find out if they need originals such as birth certificates or will they take either photocopies or notarised copies.

4. Give notarised copies of your important documents to a trusted family member or friend in the country you moved from with a letter that you give them permission to act on your behalf. As much as you try to plan ahead, there will be something you forgot and/or didn’t know you’d need. This person can typically go into the organisation in your “home country” and get the necessary documentation and mail it to you when the organisation won’t take something from you via email/fax/snail mail.

5. Get the organisation to write you a letter documenting that you’re working for or studying with to document that you’re in the country for a stated period of time and that they will take responsibility for you while you’re in the country.

6. Be a creative problem solver, ask questions to better understand what the person/organisation needs from you and look for solutions to get a good end result. Oftentimes the person is simply doing their job and cannot give you alternatives. However, being resourceful, patient and looking for ways to solve the problem can be a way forward for everyone.

If you have some helpful suggestions or stories to share, please do so…

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4 Responses to Documents You Might Need to Establish Yourself in Australia

  1. Very helpful tips. We tried to get our mobile phones the afternoon we landed. We ended up having to buy new iPhones outright and go on pay as you go plan. Oddly, it turned out best because we don’t use them that much anyway and it is less expensive to recharge every 30 days than go on any of the plans!

    Regarding banking, we were able to establish an account from Canada. We just had to wire some money into the new account. And with the job offer, they also let us apply for a credit card from offshore; we just had to then show up at the bank and prove we were really who we said we were, and we had the cards within a couple of days of arrival. But for anyone doing this type of move, I would recommend not closing your accounts at home. We still have Canadian credit cards, Canadian accounts, and a Canadian line of credit. These are there as something to fall back on. We actually used the line of credit to buy a car, because the interest rate on it is lower than what any Aussie bank would give us with no history! We just wire huge sums of money back to Canadian bank every couple of months to make payments with.

    The funny thing about your blog, and what we document in ours, is that we actually bought a book about how to move, live and work in Australia, and though it was sort of useful it didn’t help with a lot of these little (well, not so little!) things that you actually need to know.

  2. Amazing how the internet has changed things to dramatically! Thanks again for your suggestions.

  3. We were lucky to have brought with us all the important documents. We never thought our marriage certificate would be needed when we were trying to get my husband’s work permit and my and my children’s residency permit. Well, when you think about it, they need proof that I AM his wife, not some crazy woman he found on the street.

  4. Good to know 🙂 …yes sometimes the most obvious things are the things we forget.

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