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Moving to Australia? Here’s how to make your finances work

Irish migration to Australia is surging once again, but your wallet could be in for a shock if you’re on the move

These days it feels like our social media feeds are full of pictures of Australia and it’s not just the World Cup. It seems almost all of us know or know of someone who has headed Down Under since the border officially reopened for most visa classes in early 2022.

During a stay in Coogee Beach earlier this year, I played a game with a friend to see how long we could go without hearing another Irish accent and striking up the inevitable conversation about where are you from and how long are you here for. We got to just under half an hour.

While our methods were highly unscientific and inaccurate, Australia’s net migration numbers, predicted by 2023’s budget documents, are much more official and have the country in the middle of an overseas immigration boom.

It’s estimated 400,000 people from abroad will call Australia home (at least temporarily) between 2022 and 2023. That’s almost double the average in pre-Covid years. The “one-off catch-up” post-Covid is set to address skills and labour shortages in the country that has historically relied on immigration to power its economy. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, net Irish migration – the difference between people arriving there and leaving – peaked in the recession with 12,710 people migrating in one year alone (2011-2012). The flow reversed between 2013 and 2018 with more Irish-born people leaving than arriving. The last pre-Covid year saw net emigration of 1,260 Irish into Australia and that amount is set to double for 2022-2023.


Australia is on a recruitment drive for Irish workers. From the Western Australian Police Force targeting Garda to join their ranks, the Victorian government putting up billboards near Irish hospitals advertising healthcare jobs, to private construction companies offering signing bonuses of more than €1,000 to tradesmen to make the move.

But not all that glitters is gold. Australia can be expensive. Jobs fall through and the rental system works differently. While it is very Australian to think “she’ll be right mate”, in reality, landing without enough cash to set yourself up in a new country can spell disaster and will have you as mad as a cut snake.

Here is a brief guide to money and moving to Australia so you don’t do yourself a mischief Down Under.

Visa costs

First up you have to budget enough money to get yourself into the country. For all their talk of attracting migrants, the Australian government hiked up the price of visa application fees on July 1st, adding an extra 6-40 per cent depending on the subclass. The popular Working Holiday subclass for 18-35 year olds is now A$635 (€389) a year.

Applications for visa classes or the processes to convert to permanent residency can go well into the thousands depending on sponsorship, according to Aubrey O’Connor, founder of Kelly & O’Connor Migration, a firm specialising in Australian migration. “Depending on the skills assessment required, you could be looking at anywhere between €200 and €2,000,” she says.

By the time English language assessments, police checks for every country the applicant has lived in and medicals are completed, O’Connor says “a family of four could be looking at $11,000” for certain visas.

O’Connor says the eye-watering application prices have yet to deter applicants coming through her service. “It’s expensive but people are finding Ireland hard, the cost of living is crazy but they go with the view that they can make their money back, especially the nurses,” she says.

Aside from the cost of the actual visa, Irish immigrants coming to Australia may have to show proof of funds or income again depending on their visa subclass. Offshore skilled applicants have to show at least A$30,000 in certain states as proof of “settlement funds”, essentially the ability to show they can support themselves financially.

For the Working Holiday subclass, applicants must have A$5,000 in the bank when they land in Australia.

“This is not a requirement for a visa, however customs may require proof of funds [a bank statement] at the airport when you arrive in Australia. They require A$5,000 in your bank account so you can support yourself initially,” explains Kenny Feeney, company director of the recruitment and relocation service NexVenture.

However, according to Feeney, “there isn’t a follow-up after arrival, so many people who haven’t been able to save the money before they leave borrow it from a family member, then return it once they are settled”.

But this may mean taking a risk, not only with Australian Immigration who are not known for leniency but also by not giving yourself enough of an emergency fund in case of unexpected expenses.

Scams to avoid

Australia has the usual rental scams we see in Ireland. Ads on social media showing beautiful photos of brand new apartments with reasonable rent which could be yours except you need to send bond/rent/passport photos before you actually see the place. As always, exercise caution. If something seems too good to be true, it might be. Double check information on Google maps, use reputable websites and agencies and always insist on a viewing in person.

But before you even start the house hunt, be wary of visa scams, warns O’Connor.

“I’ve seen people who have been guaranteed a job with a company abroad for the cost of €10,000 and then the applicant has never heard from them again, it’s now been over a year,” she says.

“What people need to be aware of is that no genuine migration consultant will ask for €1,000 and say the visa will definitely be approved; we are not allowed to say that.”

Be careful in particular of migration services that ask payment via credit card over the phone for large amounts without a detailed consultation while promising approval.

O’Connor says her service charges €130-€150 for an initial consultation to ascertain the details of each applicant’s case before moving forward with the appropriate course of action

NexVenture charges €535 total for its services submitting a Working Holiday Visa and €610 for a package that includes a set-up bank account, SIM card, tax file number and visa.


There’s no way around it. Australia is about as far away from Ireland as you can get before you fall off the map and airfares often reflect that.

There are cheaper, longer routes through America and Asia but personally flying for over 35 hours is a greater cost to my sanity than the few hundred euro I might save. But you do you, especially if you can work in a stopover to explore places like Thailand or Indonesia from Singapore or Hong Kong via a cheap AirAsia flight on the way.

The biggest savings are found by booking ahead, using One World/Qantas points to scoop up reward seats (70,000 points plus £300 (€350) would have got you from London to Sydney in the last sale) and timing.

While traditionally flying Christmas Day or St Stephen’s Day was the favourite choice for backpackers due to lower fares, these days the entire Christmas period from early December to late January is expensive. Flights from Dublin to Sydney see fares rise €900-€1,500 around this time for a one-way economy seat with a quick Middle Eastern stopover (total flight time just over 24 hours). European summer also sees prices jump with the hoards of Aussies coming over here to escape their winter. Flights in the shoulder season are the cheapest with similar fares in September dropping to the €550-€700 mark.


This will arguably be one of the biggest costs and sources of headaches for any emigrant tasked with finding a place to live during a global housing crisis.

Australia’s capital cities are no different when it comes to post-Covid rental price hikes and inflation-driven interest rate spikes all increasing the cost of housing.

If you are thinking about buying, be aware of lending restrictions on non-citizens, the requirement of most banks for a 20 per cent deposit (you can get exemptions), and a hefty stamp duty that needs to be paid almost straight away in some states.

There is no hard and fast rule like Ireland which determines you can borrow only 4-4½ times your salary. Loans approval is calculated on the basis of your ability to service them monthly. That extra amount is needed when you consider Sydney’s median house price was $1.46 million (€896,63) in May 2023 but that is the most expensive location in the country.

When it comes to rentals, the Australian capital cities have seen a surge in demand post-Covid. According to data from, the mean average Sydney rental is about the A$700-a-week mark with Melbourne coming in at A$520 and Brisbane at A$580 respectively.

Individual rooms in share houses can range from A$400 to A$500 a week in some of Sydney’s most sought-after beach locations to the A$300 mark for other city suburbs depending on amenities and number of people living in the house.

Renters will usually have to pay a bond or a security deposit of four weeks rent upfront plus that week’s rent.

Presenter, radio host and former RTÉ star Stephen Byrne left Ireland to take up opportunities in the Lucky Country last year. He pays €1,200 a month for a room with balcony in a heritage terrace in Sydney’s upmarket Paddington.

“If you’re headed to Sydney and want to live near the Irish communities in Randwick or Bondi, anticipate 20 per cent more than what you spend in Ireland.”

The fact Australians pay rent weekly rather than monthly he says ‘is something to be mindful of”. “A month’s rent is not four times weekly rent, it will be 4½ or so times weekly rent because they count those extra days,” says Byrne.

Another rental market shock to Irish emigrants is the fact most Australian rentals don’t come with furniture which is something Byrne cautions people to factor in. “You will have to buy a bed and a mattress but Facebook Marketplace is your friend.”

Byrne’s last money management advice is to “get your money into Australian dollars immediately” to prevent giving yourself “a fright” when paying $10 for something that would cost €6 at home. “It helps to forget the exchange rate from the get-go,” he says.

Finally, if you do decide to make the move, our last money tip is to invest in a good insect spray.

You’ll thank us later.