Kieran O'Brien outlines the pros and cons involved in a move to Australia, and gives advice on what you should be researching, if you're planning on making the move.

Australia - Time for a Reality Check?

“We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil” and “boundless plains to share” in the first stanza of Australia’s national anthem is a bit of a siren song that thousands of Irish people have listened to as they packed their bags in the past year. Australia’s current migration regulations, though, are not quite as welcoming as the lyrics suggest. Relocation down under on a long term basis can be more complicated than popular mythology would have you believe.

Recent statistics released by the Australian Immigration Department reveal that over 21,000 working holiday visas were granted to young Irish people last year - an increase of almost 50% on the previous year. The number of Irish in Australia on working holiday visas actually increased to almost 15,000 and that number is certainly set to grow over the coming months.

The problem is that the working holiday visa is just that - a short-term visa that allows you to stay for up to a year. It can be extended for two years if you are prepared to spend up to 3 months working in specified industries in regional Australia. A working holiday is not, as many would like to think, an automatic pathway to permanent residence in Australia as many have now found out.

Yes - Australia does have opportunities if you have the right mix of skills, qualifications and experience but you will need to prove it. There are quite a few temporary and permanent visa options available – each with its own set of qualification and experience criteria. It is confusing and requires a fair bit of research and pre-planning to determine the right visa for your particular circumstances.

If you are under 30 and have decided that Australia is where you want to be longer term then you really do need to do a bit of reality checking of your own.

• Do you have formal qualifications - degree or trade papers?

• Have you had recent experience in your occupation - preferably at least 12 months? A few dodgy references won’t cut the mustard anymore - especially as Australia strengthens its compliance regime.

• Do you know whether your occupation is on any of the various lists of preferred occupations in Australia? Unfortunately, not all occupations are regarded as equal for immigration purposes? For example, if you are a heath professional, engineer or IT guru you should have few problems.

• Are you prepared to live and work in regional Australia? These are a long way from the bright lights of Sydney and Melbourne but are often where the real opportunities lie.

• Have you thought about training or studying in Australia? It might look expensive but could well be the answer for some – especially if you are thinking about a postgraduate degree

Getting a working holiday visa is easy if you are under 30 and have not previously been to Australia. You can get the visa on-line, normally within 48 hours, by answering a few questions and paying an application fee of $270. Converting that to one that will let you, and any family members, remain in Australia will take a bit of time and effort. It is not something you can leave to the last minute or when you only have a few weeks left on your current visa. Have you found an employer who is willing, and eligible, to sponsor you? Have you got all the paperwork and references you might need? If yours is a licensed trade or profession have you managed to get your qualifications and skills assessed by the relevant professional body in Australia?

It looks straight forward but it can turn into a nightmare when you have a visa expiry hanging over your head like a sword of Damocles and no immediate prospect of a sponsor.

And so the lesson in all of this is to think and plan ahead and don’t leave it all until the last minute. Don’t listen to pub or internet chatter or the Australian adage - “she’ll be right mate!” If you do want to make your home down under for the next few years then it is wise to invest in some professional and well qualified advice at the beginning. You do need to make sure that any advice you get is accurate and up to date. The rules are constantly changing as Australia responds to its labour market shortages and the demands from regions that are experiencing growth. Just make sure that the person you are talking to is registered with the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority or check them out on the following website - www.mara.gov.au

There are a number of registered migration agents in Ireland and quite a few in the UK. You can just as easily use an Australia based agent who may have his/her finger on the pulse of the local economy. Like any professional service you can expect to pay for good advice but it will pay dividends in the longer term and could save you from some very expensive mistakes.

About the author: 

Kieran O’Brien migrated to Australia from Ireland in 1986. He is now a Registered Migration Agent and the owner of IMSVISA Services - a specialist visa advisory service based in Brisbane. He travels regularly to Ireland and the UK. For further information see www.imsvisa.com

Kieran will be undertaking a number of seminars and presentations in Ireland in late March. He will be in Dublin form 20th – 24th March and in Belfast from 26th – 29th March, For further information visit www.imsvisa.com