How to retire to Australia from the UK

Zorica Lončar
28.05.21
9 minute read

Thinking of retiring to Australia? It’s a popular destination for UK expats, with around 1.3 million of them living there¹. And Australia has a lot to offer UK retirees, including a hot climate, beautiful beaches and a laid-back, outdoorsy lifestyle.

If you’re starting to make plans to retire to Australia from the UK, read on. We’ve put together an essential guide covering everything you need to know, from visas and pensions to the most popular Aussie destinations for British expats.

We’ll even throw in a handy tip to help you manage your money across international borders, both before and after your move. Open a Wise multi-currency account and you can send money to Australia, the UK and all over the world for tiny fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate.

Learn more

But more on this later. Let’s start with some of the main reasons to consider spending your post-work years Down Under.

Pros and cons of retiring in Australia

There are many reasons British people find Australia so attractive as a retirement destination. For example:

  • A fantastic climate and beautiful beaches. If you’re looking to escape cold British winters, Australia is the place to go. Depending where in the country you are, you can expect hot weather, a tropical climate and plenty of sunshine. And of course, the best way to enjoy the sunny weather is on one of Australia’s gorgeous beaches.

  • Shared language and culture. It’s much easier for expats from the UK to settle in Australia than in other parts of the world, mainly because Australia is an English-speaking country with strong ties to the UK.

  • Plenty of sporting events and outdoor activities. This is a very sporty part of the world, with plenty of cycling, hiking and watersports activities either to participate in or watch.

  • Welcoming people. Australia is home to expats from all over the world, as well as native people. This makes its cities very diverse, friendly and accommodating. The country’s outdoorsy lifestyle also encourages people to come together - after all, a barbecue or local sports event is a great way to meet your new neighbours.

  • Good quality public healthcare. The healthcare system in Australia is highly regarded, with its mix of public and private facilities delivering excellent standards of medical care.

But there are also a few potential drawbacks to consider, such as:

  • Higher living costs than the UK, especially when it comes to property and groceries (which we’ll take a look at next). You may also have to shell out for private health insurance as an expat, which can be expensive.

  • The distance between cities. Australia’s cities and towns are quite spread out, so you may face long journey times if you want to travel between them. This can also make you feel quite isolated, especially if you settle in a smaller community outside of one of the main cities.

  • Difficulty getting a visa. Australia has pretty tough border control policies, so it can take a lot of time, effort and paperwork to get a visa - if of course you’re even eligible for one. We’ll look at Australian retirement visa options later in this guide.

How much does it cost to retire in Australia?

The cost of living in Australia is broadly the same as in the UK, so you should be on track for a comfortable retirement if you have enough savings.

However, there are a few key differences to know about. For example, prices for groceries are around 40% higher than in the UK, while rent is around 18% more expensive.²

If you plan to buy a property rather than rent, you can expect to pay up to 7-10% more per square metre than back in the UK.²

Where to retire in Australia from the UK

If you’re thinking of moving to Australia, you have a whole continent to choose from. So, where do you want to start your new life in Oz? Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular destinations in Australia for UK retirees:

Sydney

retire-to-australia-from-uk-sydney

It’s easy to see why newcomers to Australia make a beeline for its biggest city. There are so many iconic sights to see here, from the magnificent harbour and beautiful Bondi beach to the world-famous Opera House. Sydney is a vibrant, exciting place to live, but it can also be very expensive, especially if you’re looking to buy property using retirement savings.

Melbourne

retire-to-australia-from-uk-melbourne

Melbourne is the place to retire to if you’re looking for culture, arts, food, drink and festivals. It’s slightly cheaper to live here than in Sydney, but still more expensive than other parts of Australia. But retirement savings permitting, it could be worth it - as this thriving multi-cultural city offers fantastic quality of life. Just watch out for Melbourne’s notoriously changeable weather.

Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast

retire-to-australia-from-uk-brisbane

If you’re looking for year-round sunshine, gorgeous beaches and stunning natural scenery, head to Australia’s Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

A good spot for retirees is just outside of Brisbane, where you can pop into Australia’s third-largest city when you like, but still enjoy the beautiful landscapes surrounding the city.

Brisbane offers a warm climate year-round, and has a thriving urban centre. But it’s also within easy reach of Australia’s best rural paradises, such as the Gold Coast and Great Barrier Reef.

Hobart

retire-to-australia-from-uk-hobart

Australia’s second oldest city is a popular choice for UK retirees, as it offers cooler, more manageable temperatures and plenty of affordable property. Hobart is also family-friendly, with a lively arts scene and easy access to beautiful surrounding countryside - including Mount Wellington.

Adelaide

retire-to-australia-from-uk-adelaide

The South Australia capital is renowned for fabulous food and drink, along with its affordable property and friendly community feel. If you’re a wine fan, you’ll love having the Barossa Valley vineyards nearby. Adelaide also has fabulous beaches and easy access to green spaces, and it’s a little quieter than the big cities.

Perth

retire-to-australia-from-uk-perth

The cosmopolitan city of Perth is famous for its laid-back lifestyle and many outdoor activities. You can spend your time strolling through its many city parks or relaxing on one of its pristine beaches, or taking in an opera at the Perth cultural centre.

Perth is also known for having the most sunshine in Australia, along with easy access to nature reserves. But it is quite a distance from other major cities, with Adelaide the closest at a three-hour flight away.

Retiring in Australia - facts and key info you need to know

Here are just a few of the key things to look into before you can retire to Australia from the UK:

  • Pensions. You can receive your UK state pension in Australia, by applying to the International Pension Centre. Plus, you may be able to transfer private pensions over to Australia. Seek expert pensions advice before you do this, and avoid a huge tax bill by making sure you choose an Australian scheme that is on the Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) list from HMRC.

  • Taxes. When you move to Australia, you’re likely to need to register with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and get yourself a Tax File Number³. You may also need to complete a tax return each year, depending on your circumstances.

  • Healthcare⁴. As a retiree, access to healthcare will be at the top of your priorities list wherever you move to. In Australia, expats have access to the state healthcare system Medicare through paying a form of income tax, once they become permanent residents. Medicare provides some free and reduced cost health services and medications. As a retiree, you may be able to pay the Medicare levy (a rate of 2% for most people) if you’re eligible for cover. Otherwise, it could be a good idea to take out private health insurance.

  • Property. You can buy property in Australia as a UK expat, but you will need to follow certain rules and conditions. Plus, property prices in Australia are likely to be higher than you’re used to. Find out more in our handy guide.

How to get a retirement visa for Australia

One of the major hurdles faced by UK retirees planning a retirement in Australia is getting a visa. Australia has notoriously strict border controls, so it can be hard to find a route in unless you meet certain requirements.

Retirees from the UK have a few Australian visa options:

Family-stream permanent residence visa

Have a partner, spouse, parent, child or dependent who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident? If so, you may be able to apply for a permanent residence visa through the family-stream route.

Business or investment-stream permanent residence visa

If you don’t have any family connections, but have money to invest - you could be eligible for a business or investment-stream permanent residence visa. This is for entrepreneurs able to start a new business or invest in an existing one, where applications require sponsorship by an approved government agency.

Retirement visa pathway⁵

The Australian government has created a dedicated pathway for people looking to retire in Australia, but the conditions for entry are quite narrow.

To qualify for the retirement visa pathway for permanent residence, you must have previously held a retirement visa or investment visa before 8th May 2018.

Alternatively, you can access the pathway through family connections. If you have a child who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to apply for a Parent Visa.

However, at present, the Australian government is advising that it won’t have any Parent Visa places available for retirees until 2022. Waiting times are also quite long.

Find out more about Australian retirement visas for UK citizens, including fees and processing times, here in our handy guide.

Applying for your Australian visa

The first thing to do is check the full list of Australian visa types to see if you’re eligible to apply. It’s also a good idea to take a look at the list of supporting documents required, to make sure you have everything.

Examples of the kind of things you’ll need include:

  • Proof of identity
  • Recent photos of yourself
  • Proof of sponsorship form (if applicable)
  • Balance of family documents - evidence of your relationship to a sponsoring family member (if applicable)
  • Proof of Assurance of Support
  • Proof of health insurance.

When you’re ready to apply for your visa, you may be able to do it online. The way to do this is by creating an ImmiAccount at the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs website.

Otherwise, you should check the requirements for your chosen visa to see if and how you need to apply in person (usually at an Australian Embassy or Consulate in the UK) or by post.

Save on your relocation to Australia with Wise

You’re likely to have a long list of things to do before your big move, but there’s one last detail to cover. This is how you’ll manage your money between the UK and Australia, both before you move and once you’re there.

Open a multi-currency account with Wise and you’ll have a secure, convenient and low-cost way to cover your initial relocation expenses. Need to send money to Australia for rental deposits or visa fees? Do it with Wise and you’ll only pay tiny fees, and you’re guaranteed the real, mid-market exchange rate.

Another handy, money-saving way to use Wise is when receiving your pension from the UK. Use your bank and you could lose some of your hard-earned savings to high fees and terrible exchange rates. But use Wise to receive pension payments in GBP, then you can convert to AUD using the real, mid-market exchange rate and just a tiny conversion fee.

Alternatively, you can spend it using your Wise debit card, which automatically converts currency at the mid-market exchange rate. This means you can spend like a local from the moment you land, without any need to change money or carry cash around.

Join Wise and start saving today


So, there you have it - everything you need to know to retire to Australia from the UK. We’ve covered it all, from the cost of living and popular spots for UK expats, right through to visas, pensions and healthcare.

You should be all set to start your preparations and get excited about your big move. Good luck, and enjoy your well-earned retirement!


Sources used for this article:

  1. International Investment - top destinations for UK expats
  2. Numbeo - cost of living in Australia compared to the UK
  3. Gov.uk - living in Australia
  4. Move Hub - healthcare for expats in Australia
  5. Home Affairs - retirement visa pathway

Sources checked on 13th-May-2021.

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