Moving to the Other Side of the World, Part 2: Relocating to Australia

As I mentioned earlier this week, moving to Australia seems to be much easier than moving to France. However, I moved to France to work temporarily through the Teaching Assistant Program in 2006 and I am going to Australia as a PhD student, so the comparisons aren’t exact. Nevertheless, here are my experiences:

France France

Visa: Luckily I was able to mail my application and passport to the consulate in Chicago; however, shortly afterwards they changed the procedure and now require you to go there in person to apply. Depending on how far away you live from your consulate (poor Alaskans & Hawaiians have to fly to San Francisco), it can be quite expensive. Receiving my visa by mail probably took 2-3 weeks. Within three months of arriving in France, I had to go to the préfecture to apply for my residency card (carte de séjour), which I had to renew every year with the same stack of paperwork, for 70€, then 110€, then 85€ (the price keeps changing!) Nowadays, most long-stay visas for France don’t expire for a year, but after that you still need to go to the préfecture to ask for a carte de séjour and renew it every year. Depending on what type of visa you have, you could end up paying anything from nothing to 340€ for your first carte de séjour, and the yearly renewal for most types currently costs 85€.

Housing: I had a string of bad luck trying to contact my school, so I had no idea if they had housing available or would help me find a place to live or not. I ended up arriving in France homeless and spent the first 5 nights sleeping on a couch. It was a very stressful time. I assumed that the program would try to help the assistants find housing, especially since many of us had never lived abroad before and did not speak French all that well, but I was wrong. Even our three day orientation in the mountains was completely useless to me (they did not help us with regards to housing, bank accounts, cell phones, etc.) and I was still homeless at the end of it. Plus I did not know how I could pay rent or the security deposit without a bank account, except for carrying around large amounts of cash, which I was not ok with. But opening an account took more time than I thought because…

Bank account: France does not allow you to open a bank account without proof of a French address. I had to make an appointment (for three days later) to open an account because it was not possible to do it immediately, and provide several justificatifs of my identity and address in France. Luckily by the day of the appointment, I had started renting a room in a woman’s apartment and she provided the documents for the proof of address.

I did finally get in touch with the people at my school and they helped me buy a cell phone (which in itself was another long, slow process even though I just wanted a cheap pay as you go phone), and after the first few stressful weeks, everything else was fine. The housing and bank issues were the worst, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Australia would not be the same.

Australia Australia

Visa: I applied online and received it in three days. No need to visit a consulate or mail my passport anywhere. Everything was electronic. It is good until late 2015 provided that I continue to do my PhD. The fee was $550 AUD but I do not need to renew it every year or change it into a residency card.

Housing: I contacted student living and asked if they had apartments on/near campus available in July. Within a few days, I had a furnished 2 bedroom apartment reserved. (FYI: you don’t always have to be a student to live in an apartment managed by student living.) I had to transfer the first two weeks’ rent as a deposit to reserve (I used XE Trade), and I just need to sign the lease and give them a bank check for the security deposit when I arrive (sorry, cheque for the bond), which I will be able to get easily because…

Bank account: Many Australian banks allow you to open an account online with your current address and transfer money into it up to an entire year before you are scheduled to move to Australia. Then you just need to show them your passport and give them your new Australian address (even a temporary one will work) when you arrive and you can set up telephone/online banking and withdraw money immediately.

So yes, I am very happy with Australia already. Everything just seems so easy, which is often what I didn’t like about France since most things here seem unnecessarily difficult. I’ve noticed that some Americans in Australia complain about the same things that I complained about in France: stores not open long enough, everything is too expensive, the pace of life is a bit too slow, etc. Yet Australia does seem less frustrating than France (see housing and bank account above!) and hey, at least the stores are open on Sundays.

Next week I’ll update with part 3 on arriving in Australia and finishing up the banking stuff as well as buying a cell/mobile phone. Later in July I’ll post about the cost of living and how much I’ll be paying for everything (my lease doesn’t start until July 15 so I’ll be staying with a friend until then), to compare it with my situation in France that I posted about last November.

  • Emily

    This does seem much easier. I wonder if the Australian government/culture makes such an effort to keep things easier for those immigrating for school/work as a way to attract new residents? A few years ago I read an article about Australia and New Zealand hoping to attract foreign professionals to their workforce, so maybe it’s interrelated? Getting settled in France was very frustrating for me also, but I was very fortunate to have use of your “Assistants Guide.” It made the stress tolerable. Thanks and good luck with your move!

    • I can’t speak for Australians, but while I usually find it a horrible cliché that NZers and Australians are ‘laid-back’, it is true in a lot of ways, especially compared to the sort of bureaucratic hoops France has. I think banks and universities are really keen to attract immigrants, as they often have more money (and in the case of unis, usually pay higher fees, although I know Jennie’s on a scholarship) than the locals! The general immigration scheme (for NZ) is quite complicated, but it does aim at attracting “quality” immigrants, i.e. you have to meet certain requirements as to how much money you have, education levels, whether you work in certain professions where there’s a need for more workers etc.

  • Glad everything’s going so smoothly so far! Yeah, I also couldn’t get through to my school before I turned up, and had to arrange everything myself. It just seems such a lottery whether a) you get housing provided or b) you end up with any assistance whatsoever from people. I remember reading blogs of people who turned up, were met at the station, taken to their teachers’ place for a home-cooked meal and then installed in their free accommodation (or perhaps something slightly less idyllic but still pretty good) and just being sooo jealous!

  • Mjerrim

    You are going to work on getting me a gig at that school, too, right… I mean, I would be happy to work on a PhD if they want to pay me to do so!

  • Good luck with your move! Yes I find moving to a new country emotionally quite stressful, especially if you are doing it alone.

    Regarding the phone, I’m confused as to why you need a new phone for each country? I’ve had the same basic Nokia for over 6 years in 4 different countries and each time I just get a new SIM card for that country. Is it because US phones are different? They don’t take SIM cards or something?

  • Soleil

    Best of luck with the upcoming move and getting settled in Australia.  Can’t wait to hear more about the differences between the three countries you’ve lived in!

  • Soleil

    Best of luck with the upcoming move and getting settled in Australia.  Can’t wait to hear more about the differences between the three countries you’ve lived in!

  • Esstwobee

    Having immigrated from the US to Australia half my life ago 😉 without cell phones, internet (well, I had company email) or online blogs, it will be fun to ‘read’ (odd to say ‘hear’ or ‘see’) of your adventures in my beloved, adopted country…

  • Katebrantley

    Wow, I am so jealous of how easy it sounds to move to Australia. I am working on moving from Spain back to France, and it’s incredibly difficult! But you deserve a break after so many years in France. I wish you the best of luck!

  • Katebrantley

    Wow, I’m so jealous of how easy it sounds moving to Australia! I’m moving from Spain to France, and it’s incredibly difficult! But you deserve a break after so many years in France. Best of luck in your new adventure!

  • Melinda

    Very interesting! Even though I’m from Australia, when we moved back here after years in France I also found myself making comparisons. Will be keen to read more about your new adventures!

  • N

    I suppose you’ll have to change the name of your blog! 🙂

  • Kelsy Wilson

    Gosh, why the heck am I trying to stay in France…Australia sounds awesome ! I’m doing visa renewal for my student visa right now, and like you said it is unnecessarily difficult (i.e. arriving at 6:30 am to get a ticket, then waiting til they open at 8:30 and then finally meeting with someone hoping they will give me a récépissé, Whoo hoo!). Hope you have a fabulous time !