Going overseas to live or work
At any time there’s around one million Australians living and working overseas. Whatever reason for moving overseas, properly preparing for a long stint will make the transition less stressful. Read this page as well as our guide for all travellers for a great start!
When you travel or live abroad, you leave behind Australia's support systems, emergency service capabilities and medical facilities. The Australian Government will do what it can to help Australians in difficulty overseas. There are legal and practical limits to what can be done to assist Australians in other countries. It’s important to have realistic expectations. Read the Consular Services Charter before you go.
Read this page to find out more about:
- what to do before you go
- preparing to stay healthy while you're away
- where to get help if you need it
Before you go
- Read and subscribe to the travel advice for your destination
- Make sure you have the right insurance
- Make sure your passport and visas are in order
- Check and make copies of other important documents
- Get an international driving permit set up
- Understand your voting responsibilities
- Find out if your welfare benefits will be affected
- Understand how taxation, super and student payments will work while you're overseas
- Look into local medical facilities
- Taking children, or expecting? Make sure you have everything your kids will need
- Going to study? Find out what exchange study involves
- Carefully assess job offers before you make the move
- Tell others where you're going and how to contact you
- Set up your banking and settling in expenses
- Understand the local laws and customs
- Understand how relationships work in your destination
- Prepare for the worst
Read the travel advice and research your destination
See the travel advice for your destination. This advice gives you information on risks you may face and some precautions to take.
Find out about the political, cultural and economic environment of your destination so you'll know what to expect on arrival. Consult the travel advisory, DFAT's country briefs, and other recent information. Talk with family or friends who are familiar with the countries you'll be visiting.
Subscribe to travel advice updates to stay across changes to safety and security, local laws and health issues.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. Check our travel insurance advice page.
If you have employment in the country you'll be living in, check whether you're insured by your employer before you leave. Confirm you're covered for medical expenses, theft of valuables, damage to baggage and cancellations or interruptions to flights.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care. Many people have been burdened financially paying these costs. If your employment agreement offers medical cover, make sure you clearly understand the terms of the policy.
You may need to consider local insurance to cover your needs instead of long-term travel insurance.
Once you know whether travel insurance or local insurance is more appropriate for you, compare insurance policies. Make sure the cover you choose suits your needs, and is valid for the whole time you'll live overseas.
Confirm the details of your coverage with your insurance provider and ensure you receive written confirmation of your policy.
If you extend your stay, remember to extend your insurance as well.
The Australian Government won't pay for your medical treatment overseas or medical evacuation to Australia or a third country. Expatriates and travellers without appropriate insurance are personally liable for covering medical and associated costs they incur.
Passports and visas
If you're planning to work overseas, early preparation is essential.
Find out the conditions, rules and regulations before you leave Australia to obtain a:
- residency permit
- work permit
- working visa
Some countries have specific entry and exit requirements, including vaccinations. Check the visa requirements of all the destinations you may live in or visit. Remember to also check those countries you transit through on your way to your final destination.
Contact the nearest embassy, high commission or consulate of the country where you want to work. Some countries need your prospective employer to sponsor you before you can get a work permit or visa.
Failing to get the right working visa or permit before you start your job may be a crime and could result in being arrested, jailed or deported. A tourist visa may not allow you to undertake any form of work, including voluntary or unpaid activities.
Immigration authorities may refuse entry if they assess you may violate local visa conditions.
If you plan to depart and re-enter the country you're working in, enquire about a multiple-entry visa.
The APEC Business Travel Card provides streamlined entry to several regional countries for Australians travelling frequently in the Asia-Pacific region for trade and investment. More information is available from the Department of Home Affairs.
Find more information on Australian passports on the Australian Passport Office website or by calling the Australian Passport Information Service on 13 12 32 in Australia.
Australia has reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries which allow Australians to work while on holiday there. Australians who want to participate in these programs must apply for a working holiday visa. Do this through the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you wish to work and holiday in before you travel. The Department of Home Affairs provides information on countries and regions participating in the Working Holiday Maker program with Australia.
Being a national or citizen of more than one country is dual nationality. If you plan to travel to a country where you may be considered a national, be aware of the implications of local laws. Inform yourself on issues such as military service, divorce and child custody. To avoid any surprises, read our advice for dual nationals.
Other important documents
Other than your passport and any visas or work permits, if you’re going to live overseas, take all your important documents. These include certificates relating to
- birth, name change and marriage
- divorce and custody arrangements
- police checks
- educational qualifications
Keep originals with you and leave copies with a friend or family member in Australia in case you lose them.
Some countries require translations and/or authentications of your original documents. Confirm requirements for your documents before you leave Australia. Some legalisation services can only be performed in Australia. Read about the notarial services we offer for more information.
International Driving Permit
When living or working in a foreign country, you may have to get an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is proof that you hold a valid driver's licence in your home country and you must carry it with a valid Australian driver's licence. State and territory IDP authorities issue IDPs in Australia. If you're living overseas for an extended period, check with local authorities on requirements for obtaining a locally issued licence. For more information see road safety.
When you go overseas you must meet requirements in order to remain on the electoral roll, and in some cases, to avoid a fine.
Voting is mandatory for Australians. However, being overseas is a valid reason for not voting.
Understand your electoral responsibilities by visiting the Australian Electoral Commission website.
If you live overseas permanently, you won't receive your Australian social security payment. There are exceptions for certain payments from Centrelink in countries with which Australia has an agreement. For more information visit the Department of Human Services.
The amount of tax you must pay if you earn money while overseas depends on your personal circumstances.
For example, if you earn an income overseas, you may have to pay tax on that income in the country it's earned and Australia. Australia has reciprocal agreements in place with only a few countries to prevent double taxation. Check the rules and regulations with the other country's embassy or consulate before you leave Australia. For further information, visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website or call the ATO on 13 28 61.
Repayment of study and training support loans
If you intend to or already live overseas you still have to repay your Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) or Trade Support Loan (TSL) debt.
If you intend to move overseas for six months (183 days) or more in any twelve month period, you must notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). From the date of leaving Australia you must do this within 7 days. Update your contact details via myGov. If you already live overseas, you must notify the ATO.
Since 1 July 2017, you must report your worldwide income to the ATO. If your income is above the minimum repayment threshold you must make repayments.
Australia has bilateral social security agreements with a number of countries. These agreements remove the issue of double superannuation. This occurs when employees are sent to work temporarily in another country and the employer or employee must make superannuation (or equivalent) contributions for both countries for the same work. For further information, visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website or call the ATO on 13 28 61.
Capital Gains Tax (CGT)
If you’re leaving Australia and your no longer an Australian resident for tax purposes, you need to be aware of recent changes to the capital gains tax (CGT) rules.
If you’re a foreign resident for tax purposes at the time you dispose of your Australian residential property, except in limited circumstances, you’ll no longer be able to claim the CGT main residence exemption.
To get more details about these new rules, see Foreign residents and main residence exemption.
Find out about current local health issues and standards of medical care by reading the health section of the travel advisory for your destination. Familiarise yourself with standards and conditions of facilities by talking to people who have worked in the country you're going to live in.
Children and infants
If you're travelling with children or you expect your child to be born while overseas, find out about the following before you go.
- Baby Products: If you're travelling with babies or very young children, research the availability of baby products at your destination before travelling. You may need to stock up on items.
- Childcare facilities: Australian regulations don’t apply to overseas childcare facilities, nannies and babysitters, including those on cruise ships. Standards can differ greatly from those in Australia. Make sure you're satisfied with the level of care provided before leaving your child in the care of others.
- Schooling: If you have school-age children and are planning to move overseas, arrange appropriate schooling for your children before leaving Australia. Take copies of your children's school records in case you need them. For children wanting to return to attend university in Australia, research the implications of completing their secondary education overseas.
If you're considering a student exchange program, be clear about the practices in place to protect you or your child. Be aware that standards of selection and screening of host families may vary.
Carefully assess job offers
Unfortunately, not every job overseas will be trouble-free. If you're offered employment overseas, research before you accept the offer. There is limited assistance the Australian Government can offer if your working conditions aren't as advised or expected.
- The conditions of employment offered to you are important. Check what currency your employer will pay you in. Is the local currency convertible and, if not, are there any restrictions on sending funds home? What arrangements will you need to make for contributions to your superannuation or pension scheme?
- Find out as much as you can about the organisation or company and relevant labour laws. Ask others who have worked for the organisation or speak to a current employee.
- Find out which visas and insurance you may need.
- Find out if your employer pays for your accommodation, insurance, utilities, telephone calls, and the daily cost of transport to and from work.
- Does the company offer different standards of accommodation for single and married members of staff? Find out if you'll have to share accommodation with other employees.
- Check if airfares, health and dental insurance coverage provided by the company extends to members of your family.
- Will the company pay for relocation costs, school fees, residency permits or language training?
- Find out if your employers pays sufficient salary and allowances to cover basic in-country costs of living.
- Be wary of employment opportunities with companies that offer quick and easy money for entertainment or hostess jobs. Many of these organisations are involved in prostitution.
- Examine the terms of your contract carefully and, if possible, have it reviewed by a lawyer before accepting the job offer. Find out what rights and restrictions govern your ability to terminate your employment contract. Make sure you fully understand the financial and other conditions of the job offer.
Before leaving Australia, notify people and organisations you deal with of your forwarding address. If you're unsure of where you'll be living overseas, it’s useful to have your mail forwarded to a friend or family member.
You can use the services of a commercial organisation to forward mail to you overseas. Check the Yellow Pages directory under 'Postal Services' for company details. Australian missions can't receive or store personal mail on your behalf.
Money and valuables
Before you leave Australia, make sure you have enough funds to get settled in your new country. Your employer may provide you with a settling-in allowance, but you may not receive this for a few weeks.
Living expenses vary in different parts of the world. There are many expenses to take into account when setting up a new home, such as connecting utilities. Find out what your obligations are up front so there are no surprises. If you run out of money and need to borrow from family or friends, it may take time for the funds to reach you.
Shipping your personal and household belongings overseas can be expensive. Decide what you need and find out what you can buy when you get there. If you know where you'll be working, ask your employer if they cover relocation of goods and what they provide on your arrival.
Speak to the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you're going to about import and customs regulations.
If you're staying in a country for an extended period of time, you may want to set up a bank account in that country. Your bank in Australia may be able to help with recommending banks overseas.
Before leaving Australia, check with your bank about the ease and cost of transferring money internationally between Australia and the country you’ll live in. Find out if your host country has any international transfer limits. Currency laws can be restrictive. Speak to an accountant or the Australian Taxation Office for more information.
Additional hints on banking
- Organise ways of accessing your money overseas, such as debit and credit cards, travellers cheques and cash.
- Check with your bank whether your ATM card will work overseas and if there are international transaction fees.
- Register with your bank the period you expect to be away.
- Protect your credit card.
- Make two copies of your credit and ATM cards, and other valuable documents, such as your travel insurance policy, passport and visa. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave the other copy with someone at home.
It's a crime under Australian law for an Australian resident, citizen or company to bribe, or attempt to bribe, a foreign public official. This applies whether in Australia or another country. An Australian in another country who bribes or attempts to bribe an official of that country can be prosecuted in an Australian court.
Australian law provides sentences of up to 10 years in prison and fines. These apply to people and companies found guilty of bribing or attempting to bribe foreign public officials. Visit the Attorney-General's Department website for more information.
Local laws and customs
Read the travel advice for your destination for practical information on local laws and customs. In some cultures conservative standards of dress and behaviour apply. For example, people may be offended by revealing clothing. Research your destination before you leave to find out about local laws, customs and sensitivities.
Local laws and penalties, including ones that may appear harsh by Australian standards, will apply to you. Age or health concerns are not valid excuses. Many countries apply capital punishment, including for drug related crimes. Every year, overseas authorities arrest Australians of all ages on drug charges.
Alcohol and Drugs
Check the legal drinking age of the country you're visiting before you leave.
Don’t drink to excess or take drugs that might make you more vulnerable or impair your decision making. Some countries have drugs laws that seem harsh by Australian standards. Penalties can include imprisonment or the death penalty.
Never leave your drink unattended or in the care of a stranger or new friend. Drink-spiking is common around the world.
Relationships and marriage
You’ve fallen in love and want to get married overseas – congratulations!
We can't tell you what you need to do for each destination. You must find out the foreign government's laws about getting married. There may be different laws locally and nationally.
Read our Getting married overseas advice.
Divorce law varies from country to country. Rules regarding child custody and asset splitting can also differ. If your spouse is a citizen of the overseas country, they may have more rights than you. Make sure you understand the local laws and procedures, and seek legal advice before making decisions. Check out our travelling with children page for more information.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in some countries and engaging in a same-sex act could incur severe punishment, even the death penalty. Consult the travel advice for your destination to find out if there are any country-specific local laws or sensitivities be aware of. Read our advice for LGBTI Travellers.
Loved ones face many challenges if you die overseas. It's much harder to organise a funeral in an unfamiliar country. They also have to navigate the local legal and administrative system.
They may also experience challenges bringing your remains home. Then there's the financial impact. It can be very expensive for your next of kin, unless you have travel insurance.
Before you go overseas, get your affairs in order. This will help reduce the impact on your family during an already difficult time.
- Update your last will and testament. Leave a copy with your next of kin or lawyer.
- Appoint someone as Power of Attorney.
Read our advice for when an Australian die overseas.
- Read our advice on how to stay healthy while travelling
- Make sure you have back-up prescription glasses
- Check if you need HIV/AIDS certification
- Look into reciprocal healthcare agreements
Read our health advice page before you go
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before volunteering overseas. You should see your doctor 6 to 8 weeks before you go. If you have a pre-existing condition ask if it's safe for you to travel. Travelling could put your health at risk as specialised care may be hard to find overseas.
Tell your doctor where you're going. Ask for preventative advice that suits your needs in that destination. Ask what vaccinations or boosters you need. Some require several courses over time.
Find out which infectious diseases are common in your destination. Learn what practical steps you can take to help reduce your risk of infection.
Ask for practical advice for while you're away. Your doctor can advise you how to reduce the risk of having health problems overseas.
If you wear glasses, take a spare pair and/or a copy of your prescription.
Medical certificate of proof of HIV/AIDS testing
Many countries require long-term foreign residents and students to prove that they are free of HIV. Consult the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you'll be living in to find out if you’ll need an HIV/AIDS test. Check if the country accepts test results from Australia.
If the country doesn’t accept Australian results, check the type of test you'll need to take overseas. Check also if you can supply your own disposable needle.
Reciprocal health care agreements
Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with some countries.
These enable Australians to access urgent or emergency treatment overseas. However, countries only provide medical services when it would be unreasonable to delay treatment until the person returns to Australia. Reciprocal health care agreements aren't a substitute for travel insurance. They won't cover medical evacuation back to Australia.
To find out more about health and vaccination issues visit
When you're overseas, you won't have access to the support systems you're accustomed to in Australia. You'll need to seek support locally there, and from friends, family and your travel insurer.
- Contact local emergency services. We publish local contact numbers in the travel advisory for each destination.
- Contact your friends and family. They may not be able to help you on the ground, however they may be able to help change your travel plans and talk to your insurer.
- Contact your travel insurer. Most travel insurers have 24-hour emergency hotlines you can call from overseas. If you're covered, they may provide logistical support, as well as financial.
In some circumstances, the Australian Government can help. In most cases, you must exhaust all other avenues before seeking consular assistance.
It's important to understand our limits. Know how and when we can help, read the Consular Services Charter.
There is an ongoing high threat of kidnapping in a number of locations globally, including areas in Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Read our advice on kidnapping and check the travel advice for your destinations to see if this is a risk where you’re going.
- Choose the right travel insurance that covers your health when things go wrong.
- Learn about vaccinations and preventative health measures you can take.
- See our advice on reducing the risk of sexual assault, muggings and scams.
- See our advice on what do if you're a victim of assault or sexual assault overseas.
- You may be subject to the death penalty if you're arrested or jailed.
- See our advice on what to do when things go wrong.
- Information on legalising documents in Australia and overseas.
- Read the travel insurance buyers guide and reviews (CHOICE).
- See travel health information and travel health advice (Department of Health).
- See information about getting married overseas (Attorney-General's Department).
This page provides general advice about getting legally married overseas.