Mon 19 Mar 2018 — Wed 23 May 2018

Australian Immigration

Documenting my process of migrating from the United Kingdom (UK) to Australia, in the hope that it will be helpful to others considering the same path.

This process has not yet completed. So far, it has taken around 10 months, and a total cost of around $LOTS.

Choice of VISA

I applied for a skilled independent migration VISA (189) as a software engineer. I've also included my de-facto partner, whom I have been living with for some years.

This cost $5500 AUD, although about a third of that was for the additional applicant.

Having chosen your VISA, your next task is to calculate how many points you would get. If you don't have enough (60 is the minimum, although in practice you need at least 65), then you need to find a way to get more.

Document Preparation

Once you know how many points you can get, you need to organise your documentation. This inlcudes documents to prove that you have the points you say you do, along with other documents which meet a general entrance criteria.

You should prepare all of the documents, even the ones they say are optional and might not be necessary (police certificate and health check). If they do request these during your application time (and you haven't already uploaded them), then your VISA application goes to the back of the queue.

Collecting all these documents took me around 3 months.

The skills assessment is the bottleneck, so you should focus on getting your degree transcripts and employer references for that first.

Document Where to get Cost Delay
Degree Transcripts University shop Cheap 2 weeks
Degree Certificates University shop Cheap 2 weeks
Employment references Employer    
Skill Assessment Australian Computer Society $500 AUD 12 weeks
Birth certificate £9.25 3 weeks
Passport £72.50 + photos 6 weeks
Payslips (P60 end of year) Employer    
Police clearance £50 2 weeks
Language test IELTS £160  
Health Check Panel physician £310  
Form 1221    
Form 80    
Curriculum Vitae Yourself    
Relationship evidence Yourself    

Skills Assessment (Software Engineering)

Provided by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), and costs $500 AUD.

It took about 6 weeks. It doesn't involve any actual tests or demonstration of skill, but simply adds up your relevant work experience and your degree.

There is a minimum requirement of work experience for each degree. You subtract this from your total amount of work experience to work out how many years you have to qualify for extra points. Helpful summary of the requirements.

I took a BA History (3 years, 360 credit points) and an MSc in Computer Science (12 months, 180 credit points). The ACS treated this as a "Bachelors degree or higher with major in ICT".

The University of Bristol shop provided copies of my degree transcripts. I had kept my certificates.

They ask for certified copies of your documents, which can be in black & white. This was unfamiliar to me, but the process is as follows:

  • Get the original documents. If you only have electronic copies, print them in colour.
  • Photocopy them (print them in black and white). These are the ones you want certified.
  • Take them to the Post Office (this seems to be the cheapest option — I paid about £20 GBP), who offer a document certification service. They will stamp and sign the black and white versions.
  • Scan and upload the result.

It seems pretty clear that the document certification process provides no real security. I think it may be leftover from the times before good scanners and easy image forgery.

The rest of the immigration procedure doesn't mention document certification. Ironically, the ACS is just a bit stuck in the past.

Health check

The health check involves finding a clinic which has a specialist called a panel physician who can provide the VISA health check service. In the UK there are only 10 of these.

From Bristol, the nearest locations were on the edge of Cardiff and in London, each about 2 hours travel by train.

We paid £310 per person for these checks.

Language Test

I took the IELTS English Language test. This costs £160 GBP. You need to go the General stream, not the academic one.

As a native English speaker, I did a few hours of preparation and found that the test was not difficult.

It is important to score highly here, as a good score on the test can earn you up to 20 points on your VISA application.

Expression of Interest

The expression of interest is a simple online form where you claim your points. You do not need your documents yet — but I'd advise having them ready because you will need them quickly during the next phase.

A fixed number of the people who have sent in an expression of interest are invited to make their final application each month. This is based on:

  1. How many points you have.
  2. The skill you are applying under.
  3. How long you've been waiting.

I claimed 75 points, and was invited in the first round after submitting my expression of interest.


The final step is to pay your money, upload all of your documents, and then wait.

During this period, they will provide little feedback and no way to contact them. You just have to wait and be patient.

The immigration service provides some general estimates of time scales per type of visa. When I applied in late 2017, they estimated that they processed 75% of people within 5 months and 90% within 8 months. These estimated went up and down quite substantially while I was waiting for the visa grant — they do not appear to have suffered from a bottleneck over Christmas.

A website called provides some statistics based on self-reported visa status. You can use this to see when the people who are currently being granted VISAs originally applied, and guess based on that where you might be in the queue. This was reasonably accurate for me.

My visa was finally granted 5 months and 20 days after I applied. I can enter Australia immediately, but must do

After visa

Having done this, there are some chores to do.

Task After Notes
MyVEVO visa grant This is a phone app where you put in your VISA grant number — I never actually had to use it
Transfer pension visa grant Transferring a UK pension to Australia is a pain
Australian bank account visa grant You can do this online, then go into a branch in Australia to activate it. I used NAB.
Book flights departure date decided We used China air for £350 per person one-way. 2 free suitcases per person. 2 days travel.
Rent a house departure date decided We started with AirBnB. Getting a long-term rent before a job is difficult.
Cancel UK bills departure date decided  
Australian money departure date decided It took me a few minutes to set up a Transferwise account. Their debit card is flaky though.
Inform local council of address change departure date decided  
UK electoral register start of month of departure Register to vote overseas — repeat each year
Inform UK bank of address change new address known  
Inform HMRC of address change new address known Form 85
Australian immiigration address change new address known  
Contact student loan company job contract signed Overseas Income Assesment Form. You pay 9% of your gross income over £30,000 ($54,000 AUD).
Transfer mobile number arrival in Australia You can't use your UK number in Australia, but you can associate it with a VOIP service.
Australian mobile sim arrival in Australia There's a SIM kiosk in the airport. I got a $10 Amaysim SIM, which you renew each month.
Link accounts arrival in Australia Register for and, and link the relevant service accounts to them.
Australian bank account activation arrival in Australia  
Australian tax code arrival in Australia TFN Application
Australian driving license arrival in Australia In New South Wales, you have three months to do this. I pair $139 for a 3-year license and a photocard.
Opal card arrival in Australia In Sydney, this is used for transportation.
Australian medicare number arrival in Australia This took about two hours, including filling out a short form.
Transfer recurring payments setting up bank account If you pay for online services

Technically you're supposed to inform some of these companies earlier than I have, but I couldn't face filling out the forms twice.

For a lot of the tasks in Australia, you'll need to take some id:

  • immigration grant letter
  • passport
  • boarding passes from your flight

I suggest activating your bank account as soon as possible, because then you can use your bank card as id as well.

Sydney Job Hunting

As a software engineer, I found Stackoverflow Jobs to be the best source of job adverts.

There's also Seek, but this seemed to be mostly full of fake jobs posted by recruiters, where you can't see the company involved. The recruiters themselves are reasonably helpful.

The other major option seems to be LinkedIn. I didn't use this, so can't vouch for it. I deleted my LinkedIn account years ago, because of all the recruiter spam. I'm told you can just disable your account temporarily instead.

A good salary for an experienced software engineer in Sydney in 2018 seems to be around $120,000.

There's a lot of finance and targetted advertising work, and a fair amount of blockchain nonsense. Filtering these out is the main difficulty.