Sunday, June 14, 2015

Moving to Australia: A Pre-Departure Checklist for Freelancers

There's only six weeks left until I move to Australia. It seems crazy to write those words, but this move has been a long time coming. (In fact, it's been roughly two years in the making, if we're going to include the first time I floated the idea aloud.)

Every day, someone asks me if I'm "excited" to go. And while I am, unfortunately any excitement at this point is being overshadowed by the stress and the sadness associated with moving. I've lived in Toronto for 11 years. Every single year I've threatened to move, but now that I'm finally doing it, the reality that I'm leaving behind my friends, my dog and my community is finally sinking in.

That, and there's the administrative burden associated with moving. Everyone knows that moving is a pain in the ass—but moving to another country, for an indefinite period of time, as a self-employed individual? Yeah, it's just a little overwhelming.

To give you an idea of the process, here are just some of the departure tasks necessary before you move to Australia:

Get your Australia Working Holiday Visa. 

If, like me, you’re worry that you’re way too old to be doing the whole “working holiday visa thing," I have good news—you’re not. Well, not exactly.

While the visa is for applicants age 18 to 30, you just have to apply (and be approved) for your visa before your 31st birthday. Once approved (which can happen in a matter of hours), you have 12 months to enter the country. This means that even though I turned 31 in May, I can still enter the country on a working holiday visa.

However, be forewarned that you still might too old in the context that the visa is designed for 21-year-old backpackers who want to spend a year getting shitfaced in Surfer’s Paradise. (Far enough—it’s a tourism initiative, after all.) Since you can only work for an employer for a maximum of six months, it’s not necessarily ideal for a young professional who wants to further their career with a full-time gig. However, you can continue freelancing for Canadian clients from abroad. The other good news, if you're self-employed? You can also register for an Australian business number.

Renew your passport, get backups of your birth certificate and secure any other necessary identification. 

Apparently it’s somewhat standard to have a birth certificate with both your parents’ names listed on it in Australia. This may also be requested when you apply for your visa.

Get health and travel insurance.

Standard traveller’s insurance won’t be enough coverage for a year abroad—you’ll need to find a provider who covers working holiday visas. Sam Clarke, who is currently working abroad in Australia, recommends Iman Australia Health Plans, which costs about $100/month. Ingle International also specializes in insurance for Canadians who are working or studying abroad.

See your doctor. 

Unless you want to pay extra, many basic insurance packages only cover emergency medical care and don’t provide for pre-existing conditions. Book an appointment with your eye doctor, dentist, family doctor and any other specialists before you leave town—and while it’s still covered by OHIP or your provincial health care.

Lock down a storage spot and get rid of unnecessary "stuff."

Driving all of my worldly belongings back to Cold Lake, Alberta, wasn’t a particularly attractive or practical option—nor was shelling out $120+ per month for storage in Toronto. Instead, I’m taking advantage of this rare opportunity to pare my possessions down the bare essentials. (My friend Sasha, who moved to Rwanda for several years and is now back in Toronto, recently confessed that nearly everything she packed into storage before her move remains in boxes, untouched.)

I’m aiming to give away or sell at least 50 per cent of my possessions. The remaining necessities (winter clothes, key items of sentimentality and stuff that I truly love—like my KitchenAid and record player) are being boxed up and stored in the basement of my lovely friends Monique and Craig in Ottawa.

Unlock your phone and call your cell phone provider. 

I’m cursing myself. For years, I refused to sign a contract because I was convinced that I could move overseas “at any time.” When that time didn’t come, I finally cave and signed a contract—which of course means that now I’m finally moving overseas.

With about 10 months left in my contract, I can either buy it out or suspend my service. However, since I want to keep my Toronto number for tax, administration and business purposes, I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do. Basically, I predict some unpleasantly long times sitting on hold with Rogers in the near future.

Change your address.

For tax and business reasons, I’m maintaining an address in Ontario. Since my parents live in Alberta, my dear friends Carla and Jesse have kindly offered to collect my paycheques and all my other mail in Toronto.

Don’t forget to change your address with the bank, Service Ontario and the Canadian Revenue Agency. Finally, if you’re self-employed, be sure to change the address on your invoice two to three months before you leave the country—someone is bound to be late with payment, after all.

Give your landlord notice, and cancel any accounts or subscriptions. 

Be sure to ask for reference letters when cancelling your accounts. (Enbridge, for example, will offer this service if you have good credit history.)

Apart from cancelling my Internet and electricity, all I’ve got to worry about is my car-sharing membership. Australia also finally got Netflix, so that’s something else I can cross off the list.

Save money, pay off debts and get a line of credit. 

You need to have $5000 in the bank to enter Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. While you’re already in the mindset of being frugal, it doesn’t hurt to pay off any debts and secure a line of credit—just in case.

Update your online portfolio, LinkedIn and professional contacts. 

I’m being purposefully ambiguous about my move, and with good reason. I’ve been telecommuting and working remotely from various countries for the last three years without my employers knowing—so there’s really no reason for them to know now. Apart from obvious time zone conflicts (from experience, I can tell you that it’s not exact ideal conducting telephone interviews at 4 a.m.), I don’t want my location to exclude me from any potential work.

On the other hand, I also want to ensure that I’m available for new work opportunities in Australia. For this reason, I’ve updated my LinkedIn profile to indicate that I “split my time between Sydney, Australia and Toronto, Canada.”

Start researching job and networking opportunities. 

Although I already have friends and a boyfriend in Sydney, I’m eager to get involved in the professional community and make new friends. I’ve joined a listserv in Australia (Freeline) that’s relevant to journalism. I’ve also connected with networking groups, including the sister organizations to the ones that I belong to in Toronto, such as Travel Massive.

Finally, although I currently work from home, I’m investigating co-working spaces—the upfront cost may be worth it for the professional networking (and friendship) opportunities.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like that a lot of paperwork have to be done in order to have a smooth moving abroad. When I have to do something with great importance I always talk to myself that proper preparation prevents failure! Thanks for sharing your experience and tips! You never know when someone may be in need of such information.


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