Now that you have a visa on your passport, it is time to start planning your move. The first big decision that will face you here is which city to move in. This decision will be largely driven by your chances to find employment in the city. In our move to Australia, the decision was between Sydney & Melbourne. Both cities have a very large IT sector presence, both have a very vibrant culture and are in top 10 most liveable(or livable) cities in the world. We looked at their official websites, wikipedia pages, spoke to friends who lived there and finally decided that Sydney will be our destination of choice. This decision will take some time, but you are better off making this decision only after you have got your visa. You don’t want the crushing disappointment such decisions cause in case your visa gets declined. Another important point to note here is that your visa might have a condition that limits you to settle only in a particular state, if so, prefer to settle in the capital of the state. Big cities are normally much more multi-cultural when compared to their rural counterparts, and the last thing you want to experience when you land is the feeling of being an outsider.
Now that you have decided which city you want to move to, book your flights. All visas come with a first entry date, which if missed, will render your visa useless. Now you can have different strategies here, you might wish to pack up and move out in one move or you may want to test the waters first, make a short term trip(few weeks perhaps) and then wrap up afterwards. These will be primarily driven by your financial situation. Travel to/from Australia is quite expensive, with a one person round trip cost being anywhere from INR 60,000 – 100,000. In addition to this, cost of living is not very cheap in the big cities. A couple of weeks in Sydney/Melbourne can put you back by $2000 upwards. Remember that short term trips will cost you more than a longer term, because your accommodation arrangements will be cheaper if you rent long term, your public transport costs will be lower if you buy longer term travel tickets & so on. When booking your flight tickets, make sure to enquire with the airline about baggage limits, extra baggage allowance for one way travel(most airlines have these) and excess baggage charges. You do not want to be hit with a Rs. 50,000 charge for excess baggage at the airport!
At this stage, your priority is also to find a job. This can be made easier if your employer has a presence in Australia and is willing to send you here. Be watchful, however, a lot of employers will promise to send you but may not fulfil that promise in time, leaving you in the lurch. Be realistic with your managers about your personal schedules for moving out and hopefully they will be decent enough to give you a clear picture. I know of several people whose companies agreed to give them a role in Australia and this made their move significantly easier. If you are like me, and are not being helped by your current employer, then your only option is to resign and find another job when you land in Australia. Even though it is possible for you to start looking online on job sites, it is a rare occurrence these days to get a job while not being available for in-person interviews. The most tech-savvy employers want to meet you face to face and not have interviews over skype, so be prepared to land without a job. Be ready to start looking for a job as soon as you land! More on job hunting in the next part.
Once your flight tickets are booked, you need to start searching for short term accommodation. Once again, this is driven entirely by your financial situation and your willingness to spend. The preferred way is to find an accommodation that is close to public transport(buses/trains) and not too far out from the business centres in your preferred city. We booked our first month stay with Airbnb, as our choice was to pay as little as we could for a room with basic amenities. Airbnb does charge a significant booking fee, so you may want to adjust your booking accordingly, or find a willing friend who is happy to have you stay over for a month/two. Regardless, make your stay arrangements as quickly as possible as you will have a lot of other things to worry about as your departure date closes in.
Your next decision will be how much currency to carry. Since you are moving as a resident, you don’t need to take a travel card as you will be opening a bank account as soon as your land. You must carry some cash and the rest in traveller’s cheques. As per RBI guideline, you are only allowed $10000 cash/traveller’s cheques with you as you move out of India. Towards achieving this, you need to take receipts from anyone you are getting currency converted from. These receipts are helpful if any questions get asked at the airport later. In my opinion, have a 30-70 split between cash & cheques, i.e. if you are carrying 100$, carry 30$ cash and 70$ cheque. You will be depositing most of this cash & all of the cheques as soon as you open the account. Once you decide how much money you want to convert to dollars, lock it up in a short term fixed deposit or in a separate account to prevent yourself from accidentally spending it out in your last few days. Also talk to money conversion agents about trends in the currency markets, the last thing you want to happen is losing money because the value of AUD goes up/down on the day when you want to convert.
While you are making these decisions, you would have already resigned from your job and waiting out the notice period. Since you are moving out of the country, you may want to liquidate your worldly belongings to get some cash. Start doing it as soon as comfortable. Make plans to spend time with family after you have left your job, but before you leave the country. Once you’ve travelled out, you wouldn’t be travelling back for at least 2 years.
One significant action is to make checklists. Clearly listed items will help you during the entire move process as there are too many things to do. If you miss even one of them, you may be left running around in circles later. Do not leave anything for the last 3 days before you travel. Make sure to include local holidays in your planning, they will come out of nowhere and throw all your plans in the bin! We were in trouble for not accounting for the fact that Makar Sankranti is a 3 day holiday in Gujarat, which was our last port of call before leaving towards Sydney and almost had to leave without getting all our currency converted successfully!
During all of this, remember that even your best laid plans will not work out perfectly. Leave some contingency days in case you need them, if not, catch up on your sleep in those days. Try to be as tense as possible, being as relaxed and clear headed as you can. Don’t leave anything to chance, understand all processes clearly, make no assumptions about banks transferring money in time, or airlines being understanding.
When you are packing, make sure you are inside of the baggage allowance. Most international airlines charge ridiculous amounts for excess baggage fees. Australia also have some of the strictest import policies in the world, so you are better off reading the customs website and other related links to understand what is allowed and what is not. The general rule is that if its anything living, organic or germinating (even soil on boots), don’t bring it in. Spices etc are easily available in most major cities so you don’t need to burden yourself with them. Pack for the season you are travelling in. Most importantly, bring all your original documentation(degrees, tax statements, certificates, job related documents etc) with you, and carry them in your hand baggage. Don’t check them in, check-in baggage gets lost all the time!
Mark your bags properly, with contact details of someone back home who can be contacted if the bags are lost. Keep your travel documents close, make multiple copies and have one set in each bag. Get travel adapters for Australia, make sure you have an international calling card for at least a month, or buy a sim card as soon as you land. Keep printed out instructions to reach your accommodation from the airport. Plan for being tired after 15+ hours on an airplane, don’t do anything that will reduce your awareness when you land(includes drinking all that free booze). Keep basic medication with you while you travel.
I believe most of this is general advise to plan long distance travel. It is most important to understand that there are crooks everywhere in the world, so be careful and if you are ever in doubt, approach the police or customs or anyone in uniform. They will be your most reliable source of information.
That’s all for the preparation. In the next part, I will talk about things to do after you land and how to find a job!