At any time, there are around one million Australians living and working overseas. Whatever the reason for moving overseas, properly preparing for a long stint will make the transition less stressful. Read this page along with our guide for all travellers for a great start!
Read this page to find out more about:
Deciding whether to live or work overseas
Relocating overseas long-term is a big decision. 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.
Before you make your final choice to go, there are some important things to consider:
- Is the destination safe?
- Is the job offer genuine?
- Can you afford to support yourself overseas?
- Are you travelling with children?
- Relationships and marriage
Is the destination safe?
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 your destination's political, cultural and economic environment 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 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.
Local laws and customs
In some cultures, conservative standards of dress and behaviour apply. Research your destination before you leave to learn about local laws, customs and sensitivities. Read the travel advice for your destination for practical information on local laws and customs.
Check the legal drinking age of the country you're visiting before you leave.
Local laws and penalties will apply to you, including ones that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Age or health concerns are not valid excuses. Many countries use capital punishment, including for drug-related crimes. Every year, overseas authorities arrest Australians of all ages on drug charges.
If our advice level is 3 or 4
Level 3: Reconsider your need to travel
Avoid non-essential travel. If you do travel, take extra precautions to protect yourself from security and health risks. At level 3, there are serious and potentially life-threatening risks.
Level 4: Do not travel
At level 4, your health and safety are at extreme risk. This may be because of a high threat of terrorist attack, conflict, violent social unrest or critical levels of violent crime.
If you're travelling to a higher-risk destination, there's more you must do to be prepared. As well as the tips above, consider the following advice.
- Get security advice. If you're travelling for work or volunteering, ensure your workplace has suitable security arrangements. If travelling independently, you may need to engage a private personal security firm.
- Get specialised insurance. Most standard travel insurance policies won't cover you. Make sure your employer provides adequate cover and that it covers kidnapping and death. If travelling independently, shop around. Cover is likely to be very expensive.
- Get a security plan. Ask your security provider to undertake a formal risk assessment.
- Establish security procedures. Ask your security provider about their security procedures.
- Know what to do when there's a situation. Know the emergency actions in your destination. In 'do not travel' destinations, local authorities may not be able to help. You may have to rely on your private security provider.
Is the job offer genuine?
Unfortunately, not every job overseas will be trouble-free. If you're offered employment overseas, research before you accept the offer. The conditions of employment offered to you are important. There's limited assistance the Australian Government can provide if your working conditions are different from what is advised or expected.
- Find out as much as possible about the organisation or company and relevant labour laws. Ask others who have worked for the organisation or speak to a current employee. 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 human trafficking.
- 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?
- Research whether the pay is sufficient to cover basic in-country living costs.
- 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 staff members? Find out if you'll have to share accommodation with other employees.
- Will the company pay relocation costs, school fees, residency permits or language training?
- Check if airfares, health and dental insurance coverage provided by the company extend to members of your family.
Scrutinise the terms of your contract. Have it reviewed by a lawyer before accepting the job offer, if necessary. 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.
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.
Can you support yourself financially?
Setting up in a new country is expensive. Before leaving Australia, ensure you have enough funds. Particularly if you don't have a job secured. If you're moving for work, 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 consider when setting up a new home, such as connecting utilities. Find out what your obligations are upfront 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 the relocation of goods and what they provide upon arrival.
Speak to the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you're going to about import and customs regulations.
You won't receive Australian social security payments if you live overseas permanently. 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.
Are you travelling with children?
If you're travelling with children or expect your child to be born overseas, find out about:
- what baby products are available, including formula
- whether childcare is available and regulated
- what schooling is available.
Relationships and marriage
Attitudes to relationships and marriage vary greatly around the world. It’s important to be mindful of the local laws and attitudes around relationships when deciding to relocate long-term.
Each destination will have its rules around marriage, and there may be different local and national laws. Find out the foreign government's laws before making any arrangements.
Read the Attorney-General's advice on getting married overseas.
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.
Relationships outside of marriage
It’s illegal for couples to live together or have sex before marriage in some countries. There may be severe penalties if you’re reported to the local authorities and found to have broken the law.
In other countries, while it isn’t illegal it is culturally offensive and may threaten your safety. Check the local laws and attitudes around unmarried couples before you decide to travel.
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 to be aware of. Read our advice for LGBTI Travellers.
What to do before you go
- Make sure you have the right insurance
- Make sure your passport and visas are in order
- Check and make copies of other important documents
- Tell others where you're going and how to contact you
- Get an international driving permit set up
- Understand your voting responsibilities
- Find out how taxation, super and loan repayments will work while you're overseas
- Set up your banking
- Plan to stay healthy
If you can't afford insurance, you can't afford to travel. Check our travel insurance advice page.
If you have a job in the country you'll be living in, check whether your employer covers insurance for you before you leave. Confirm that you're covered for medical expenses, theft of valuables, baggage damage, cancellations, or flight interruptions.
If your employment agreement offers medical cover, make sure you clearly understand the terms of the policy.
Consider local insurance to cover your needs instead of long-term travel insurance. Make sure the cover you choose suits your needs and is valid for the whole time you 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.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care. Expatriates and travellers without appropriate insurance are personally liable for covering medical and associated costs they incur. Many people have found themselves financially burdened paying these costs. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical treatment or evacuation overseas.
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 check the countries you transit through 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 starting your job may be a crime and result in being arrested, jailed or deported. A tourist visa may not allow you to undertake any 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 frequently travelling 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 that 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 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 about 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 if you lose them.
Some countries require translations or authentications of your original documents. Confirm the requirements for your papers before you leave Australia. Some legalisation services can only be performed in Australia. Read about the notarial services we offer for more information.
Before leaving Australia, notify people and organisations you deal with of your forwarding address. If you're unsure where you'll live overseas, you can 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.
International Driving Permits
You may have to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) when living or working in a foreign country. An IDP proves that you hold a valid driver's licence in your home country. 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 the requirements for obtaining a locally issued licence. For more information, see road safety.
When you go overseas, you must meet requirements to remain on the electoral roll and, in some cases, 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.
The tax you must pay if you earn money while overseas depends on your 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 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
You still have to repay your Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) or Trade Support Loan (TSL) debt if you intend to or already live overseas.
You must notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) if you plan to move overseas for six months (183 days) or more in a twelve-month period. You must do this within 7 days from the date of leaving Australia. 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. You must make repayments if your income is above the minimum repayment threshold.
For more information, visit the Australian Taxation Office website.
If you're working overseas temporarily for an Australian employer, check if Australia has bilateral social security agreements with the country you're working in. These agreements remove the issue of having to pay double superannuation. For further information, visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website or call the ATO on 13 28 61.
Capital Gains Tax (CGT)
Will you be selling an Australian property after you move overseas? Be aware of capital gains tax (CGT) rules if you're no longer an Australian resident for tax purposes. For more details about these rules, see foreign residents and main residence exemption.
Money and banking
If you're staying in a country for an extended period, consider setting up a bank account there. 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, traveller's 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 for 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 separate from 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.
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 on reducing the risk of health problems overseas.
Medical facilities and medication
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 the standards and conditions of facilities by talking to people who have worked in the country you're going to live.
If you take prescription medication, ensure that it’s legal and available where you’re going.
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 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 healthcare agreements
Australia has reciprocal healthcare 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.
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 costly 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 dies overseas.
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, but 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 and financial support.
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. To know how and when we can help, read the Consular Services Charter.
- 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 to 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 buying guide and reviews (CHOICE).
- See travel health information and travel health advice (Department of Health).
- See details on getting married overseas (Attorney-General's Department).