28 Questions You Might Want to Ask Before Migrating to Australia

Despite the pro or anti migration factions waging war around you, the truth is simply this: you ONLY need concern yourself with migrating to Australia if you have an “in-demand skill” recognised by an Australian professional body or have AUD2m or thereabout to invest in Australian government bonds or have proven business acumen and are able to replicate that success in Australia or the majority of your immediate family is domiciled in this country. Otherwise there is no point even agonising your poor brain cells over the matter because Australia just will not have you.

A friend of mine, who met none of these criteria but wanted to move here so badly asked what could he do. I told him to find himself a local wife. I wish I was kidding but I wasn’t. You might have heard of people being offered permanent residence visas at customs, but those days haven’t existed since the 70s. Since then, Australia has had to turn away thousands from her beleaguered gates. Moving on to those 28 questions  in the order in which they appear in my head. Thank me later. A pair of brothers want to charge RM25 for what I’m about to tell you for free.

Permanent Residence Visas

1) Must I have studied in Australia?

No, but your qualifications have to be recognised by a professional body in Australia.

2) What is on that so-called “in-demand list”?

People Australia wants delineated by profession. Click here to take a look for yourself. Generally you have to be no older than 45 at the time your application is processed.

3) Should I get myself a migration agent then, since this seems all so complicated?

You may if you’d like but I’d advice against it. All info you need to fill in the forms yourself are available in booklets; PDF copies are available online.

4) How much would it cost me to hire a migration agent though?

Excluding disbursements, which can easily add another AUD4k, expect to pay around AUD8k for representation.

5) What is the time-frame for processing my permanent residence visa?

It depends on the category. For skilled migration it generally takes 6 to 9 months, family migration (meaning sponsored by a family member) between 3 and 4 years. As always, there are exceptions to this: those sponsored by an employer generally only wait around 4 to 5 months, by a husband or wife, roughly 2 years (although a bridging visa allows them to remain in the country), by children, 3 or 4 years – however with a payment of nearly $43k for each parent this wait can be shortened to a matter of months.

6) What does a permanent residence visa entitle me to?

An indefinite stay in Australia, although you need to chock up a minimum of 3 years in every 5 for the powers that be to grant you a residence return visa (RRV) at the end of each 5 year block. Fail to do this and they might not be so forthcoming with the RRV. You’re also entitled to Medicare, delivered through the public healthcare system. Medicines are not included.

7) Do I get free education?

Yes, but only in public primary and secondary schools. PR visa holders are not entitled to government-funded study loans. These are only available to Australian citizens. As a PR visa holder, you are still a citizen of your country of origin.

8) How about welfare payments?

Apart from Family Tax Benefit, which is paid to families, none is available for new PR visa holders. Since you’ve been welcomed into the country, you’re supposed to contributing to Australia, instead of Australia contributing to you.

Finding a Job

9) How hard is it to find a job?

It depends on your area of specialty and where you are willing to relocate to in order to secure work. Junior doctors can find work instantly, as can accountants and engineers.

10) Where do most Asians find work?

Apart from nail bars and restaurants, as suggested jokingly by a lady I met this morning, we’re most often seen in square, sterile settings as doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, various allied health professionals…outside of the health sciences in engineering, accounting, cleaning companies, milk bars, Asian grocery stores.

11) Where is it hardest for Asians to find work?

Law – but as I mentioned in a previous post, this affects white Australians too. Finance, marketing, public speaking, event management, media, arts, coaching sport…

12) But shouldn’t they give us jobs if we studied here?

Show me 1 country that guarantees graduates jobs and I will show you 10 that don’t.

13) Is it true that Asian job seekers are discriminated against?

A Sydney study suggests there is discrimination and there have been reported instances where employers refuse to hire a certain type of jobseeker but I don’t see that to be true on the whole. My brother for instance, was head-hunted by several firms upon graduation; but I should warn you that metaphorically-speaking, his CV sold itself.

14) What if I come with work experience?

It would count for something if this work experience is from Australia or some mecca of civilisation like London or New York. Otherwise, expect to lose a couple of years “seniority” from your carefully tended resume.

15) Why do Australian employers not recognise my qualifications or work experience?

It’s not that they don’t; it depends on what area you work in. HRH’s cousin easily found one professorship, then another, at 2 of Australia’s top universities, even without Australian qualifications because the area he specialises in has nothing to do with Australia. Everyone else has to prove qualifications and prior experience are equivalent to that of locally-trained professionals in a similar capacity.

16) What if I want to add to my training?

You can get your new employer to sponsor you or you can fund your own continued education. The latter is tax deductible.

Making friends

17) Will I be wandering the streets friendless for 5 years?

Are you a mangey stray dog? If the answer is no, I think you’ll make friends pretty soon, provided you put yourself out there. Australians are generally curious about people of other lands; titillate them with tales of mind-boggling, yet-unseen sights and you’ll have yourself very captive listeners, if not friends.

18) What do Australians like to talk about most?

Australian Rules Football, fondly referred to as “Footy” in winter and the Australian Open in summer. At other times, the weather is a safe bet, as is weekend getaway plans, shopping or if a parent like me, your kids.

19) Are all Aussies lazy?

Aussies are laid back, however I’ve known a fair few to put Asian workhorses to shame. My friend who owns a laundromat in Townsville, to cite but one, worked right up until she went into labour. 3 days after the delivery of her 4th child, she was at work once more; putting in 12-hour-days at her business and going home to cater to her family after that. And the woman had neither family nor maids to help her at either.

20) Sum up the typical Aussie in 5 words.

Fun-loving, jocular, adventuress, inquisitive, fair-minded.

21) What are Aussie get-togethers like?

When eating out, unless stated otherwise beforehand, it is presumed that each person will pay for his or her own self. If dining in a nice restaurant, each person will chip in a couple of dollars extra towards a tip for the waiter or waitress. If you get invited to tea, feel free to bring along a small gift for your host. However, do not expect there to be anything more than tea, coffee and biscuits. Adult-only events precludes the provision of food or entertainment for children, just as children-only events, like birthday parties, precludes the provision of food or entertainment for adults.

22) What do most Aussies do on the weekends in place of family dinners and extended gossip sessions?

They play or watch sport, have BBQ lunches and picnics with friends in the park, trawl shopping malls just like most Asians in Asia do. The only difference is that activities 1 and 2 are generally preferred as most enjoy the outdoors. Many reserve family shindigs for that long stretch between Christmas Eve and a couple of days after the New Year.

23) Is that why I can’t go back during Chinese New Year or Ramadhan or Deepavali?

Businesses here don’t close during any of those holidays – Chinese, Malay or Indian restaurants included – but that doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate our ethnic holidays. Some of us save our leave to go back during this time, to our countries of origin to be with family. Others celebrate in Australia with friends in place of family.

Comforts of home

24) Do I have to be a master chef to satisfy my own taste buds?

It would help but if you don’t know a chopstick from a cleaver, then you can always get yourself a good feed in either Sydney or Melbourne. To a lesser extent, Brisbane, Darwin and Adelaide have good Asian cuisine too.

25) What can I get  over there?

What can you not get? With enough dollar bills, you can get anything your stomach desires in Sydney or Melbourne. I’ve bought all manner of exotic fruit in Melbourne – rambutans, mangosteens, dragon fruit, longans, lychees… and countless servings of well-made, delectable kueh. If you visit one of the Asian enclaves, you can lay your hands on just about any spice, any pre-packaged food, any ready-made food, you can get back home.

26) Can I get Asian movies or newspapers?

Yes and yes.

27) How about Chinese herbs and our many esoteric health treatments?

We have Chinese “medicine halls” where you can have your pulse read and herbs prescribed. We have Chinese massage centres, Indian massage centres, Thai massage centres. You name it, we have it.

28) How about Chinese language schools?

Again, yes. In Melbourne we have a school with thousands of students. Where I live in Perth, Chinese language instruction is carried out through smaller institutions. You didn’t ask, but we also have Greek language schools, French language schools, Thai language schools etc etc…

Okay, last questions. They are not part of the other 28 but I think it summarises my opinion on migration. Would I recommend Australia as a place to migrate to? Yes. Compared to many other places? Bloody yes.